Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A month or so ago, I had my worst haircut in a decade or so. Supercuts was the culprit. Ever since I have moved to the US, I have always gone to these generic chain-type haircut places to get my hair cut. Mostly Supercuts since they seem to be everywhere. Every time I come back home from Supercuts with a sheepish grin on my face, my wife just shakes her head in disbelief that I keep going there again and again inspite of all the disasters they have wrought upon my hair in the last several years. Her theory is that people who come fresh out of hair-cutting school (or whatever they call it) go to work at places like Supercuts to gain experience. My counter-argument to this theory is that if people like me don't go to Supercuts, the people working there will never get enough practice to improve at their jobs and will never get out of there to work at a better place. My sacrifices and the sacrifices of people like me go a long way to ensure good haircuts for the rest of the population.

I must say though that one thing that I fail to understand is how the same instructions can be subject to different interpretations at different locations of the same chain and even different barbers at the same location. 'Number 3 on the sides and Number 4 on the top' is as easy as instructions go. 50% of the time I have walked out of the salon with my dignity intact but the rest of the time, the results have been catastrophic. But thankfully my hair, resilient that it is, grows out in a few days and masks the injustice borne upon it by the butchers masquerading as hair-stylists. This is also one of the reasons why I keep going to Supercuts, because no matter how bad the hair-cut, the results are only temporary. But paying $14 plus a $3 tip for a bad haircut somehow seems wrong on many fronts. It especially becomes a moral issue when you have paid that much for the worst haircut of your life in the past decade. No matter what anyone says, it is the principle of the matter and the bad haircut is just a secondary issue. Why would you want to pay someone a lot of money for doing a bad job ?

This mood of defiance led me to defect from Supercuts to a small independent hair salon which boasted a $8 haircut in bold green letters outside its window. I figured that even if they messed up my hair, I would only be paying almost half the money which I usually pay for the same service. My gamble paid off. The $8 haircut (plus $3 tip) was one of the best haircuts I have had in the US in a long time.

But don't always believe everything you hear when someone is singing praises about a hair salon. In fact don't believe everything you see either. I recall a particularly unpleasant experience in Bombay at a barber shop. My friend MP and I went to a barber's shop at the same time and he had a haircut before me and he also got a head massage. Over a period of time, I have seen a lot of people getting head massages and they looked liked they enjoyed it. But I had never tried it because the 'massage' techniques that the barbers followed did not look so pleasant. One of the moves involved squeezing your head with their palms as if it was a giant lemon. They also had this move of cupping their palms and hitting the back of your head lightly so that it made a clapping sound. This was standard procedure across barber shops in India. Some of them even used fists and lightly drummed your head. Our barber had done all three moves and more on MP and MP actually looked refreshed. So when it was my turn, I asked for a head massage as well. After all I had to know what I was missing. But the next 5 minutes or so can be termed as the only time in my life when I have paid somebody to hit me. I remember gripping the arms of the chair under the cloak so tight because I was afraid I would lose my self-control and attack the barber for the physical abuse he was subjecting my head to. And the irony or comedy, however you look at it, was that I was paying him for it. Never again have I had a head massage. I have been scarred for life because even when the Supercuts people offer something as harmless as a shampoo, I refuse. No thank you, I just want a simple haircut, nothing more.

Every month or so, I face the dilemma of choosing which barber shop to go to, although 90% of the time, it does not seem to matter because the results are not what I expect. But I must count my blessings; at least I have still retained a full head of hair which causes this pesky dilemma. As I grow older, I do hope I will still have the option of discovering the worst barber shops of the world.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Stupidity and Invincibility

A few years ago, a friend declared that the most confident people in the world as a group are young children, because they don't know what failure is. Even if they have tasted failure, they may not be able to comprehend it as failure. Approaching a task without fear of failure is by definition, confidence and so younger children are the most confident amongst all human beings, he concluded. My friend was quite drunk when he said this and so was I and even though he promptly threw up after mouthing these words (thereby slightly jarring the wisdom of his observations), I think there may be some amount of truth in what he said.

My corollary to this theory, based purely on non-scientific methods, chief amongst them being wild guesses, is that alcohol dulls the failure-recording part of the brain giving you the feeling of invincibility and supreme confidence. Which is why people, when drunk, do stupid things doomed for failure. It is also the reason why a couple of years ago, when my old classmates NB, SB and I formed a plan of running in 3 different directions on Juhu beach (in Bombay) to confuse a police jeep headed in our direction, the plan seemed perfect. As the jeep came in our direction slowly, we had realised that the police could potentially detain us for
(a) drinking in a public place at 3 am
(b) Having bought alcohol illegally from a shady side-alley after the bar we were in had shutdown for the night and we were kicked out.
(c) loitering in a public place at unearthly hours

Anyway, the plan to not open our mouths thereby betraying any smell of alcohol and to start running in 3 different directions at the first sign of trouble seemed so flawless that we failed to notice that
(i) even though our mouths were shut tight to safeguard our little secret ,we were holding bottles of liquor in our hands.
(ii) we could barely stand up let alone run
(iii) any vehicle can catch up with a drunk running man especially on sand
(iv) the jeep was not a police jeep - it was just a bunch of people who had come to the beach for a late night drive.

However doomed for failure our plan was, at that moment it gave us a sense of invincibility only the completely plastered can feel. I am sure many of you understand what I am talking about because many of you have experienced that feeling before. Many of you have also experienced the very familiar feeling of incredible stupidity that follows after the effects of the alcohol have worn off.

We should all be thankful that most of us can depend on this feeling of stupidity to eventually wash over the temporary feeling of invincibility, otherwise we would believe all the time that wearing a towel over your neck like a cape gave you abilities to fly and fight crime. And if you were like some friends of mine, you would even believe that you could attract women by your animal magnetism - all you had to do to make them swoon was go stand near them and stare.

I also have a theory as to why there is a legal age set for drinking in every country (or atleast every country where drinking is legal). As children grow older, they slowly start to understand the concept of failure, but they still have not grasped it at the same level as adults. Which means their confidence levels are still high and their sense of stupidity is still low. So if they were to consume alcohol before attaining the legal age, the results of the imbalance generated between invincibility and stupidity would be catastrophic. So for the sake of the children, hide away the alcohol so that you don't disturb the balance of the universe and also so that there is more left for us adults to consume and eventually regale ourselves and others with tales of invincibility and stupidity.