Saturday, September 24, 2005

5 Rs to 12 $ - A hair cut tale

I was sitting in ‘Kathy’s Nails & Hairs’ near to my apartment and letting hair-specialist to work on my hair. As that barber went about his work, my mind began running few years back….

I think its name was ‘Mamata Hair Saloon’, which was few doors away from our house in Harihar. But popularly it was known as ‘Chinnappana Cutting Shop’ after its owner’s name.It was the ‘official’ saloon for me for more than 20 years. Till I finished my Engineering and moved out of Harihar, each of my haircuts was done in that Saloon!

Chinnappa na cutting shop was always crowded on Sunday and that’s when I used to go for hair cut. There used to be ‘Prajaa Vaani’ and ‘Nagara Vaani’ newspapers for waiting customers. By the time, my turn came, I would have finished each & every letter in the newspapers from sports page to reader’s letters!

Then hair cut would start. As they knew exactly what hair cut to do (Why don’t they know about their long-standing elite customer!).They would start hair cut as soon as I sat on the chair without asking what to do. I always had ‘Pilewan Cut’ which in other words meant very short hair.

Initially in the school, I used to be taunted and was made fun of because of this ‘Pilewan Cut’.So I did got ideas to change the hair styles. But that taunting soon died out after I became all teachers’s ‘darling’ in the school and after same taunters had to get some help from me in class!

Strangely enough, I never visited any saloon in entire 2 years when I was in Dharwad for PU and instead used to get haircut whenever I visited Harihar, of course in Chinnappa’s shop! I had seen the hair cut price growing over years starting from 5 Rs to 15 Rs in that shop.

Once I was in Bangalore, the hair saloons became like web sites. Go to whichever you feel like!!

In Laksmipuram, CMH road where I stayed for more than year, there was this hair saloon which I went couple of times.That barber was a full fan of Kamal Hasaan and whatever Kamal tried on scene with his hair, this guy would have tried it himself. Then I moved to Domlur and visited couple of saloons there.The average hair cut cost was 25 Rs.

There was no personal touch to hair cuts anymore, no cinema gossips, and no big political discussions.

When in Chennai for 2 months, had to go for a hair cut and that was one of the funniest hair cutting sessions I had. Barber didn’t know anything other than Tamil & I have to use sign language and only word he understood was ‘short’.The barber was happily watching some songs in some Tamil channel and doing hair cut.I was praying that he would spare my ears !!!

So all those hair-cut experiences had left a typical picture in my mind about saloons.’Hair Saloon’ immediately brought images of some (usually small) shop with lots of mirrors,some fancy chairs,scissors-blades-combs,heavily-talking barbers,radio-tv-newspapers-magazines,hair across the floor...

Hair and time wait for none!

So after coming to Torrance I went in search of a hair saloon.My previous image of barber shop was about to change.Near my apartment there were at least some 6 saloons.I visited each of those saloons find out more about them.I have to hop from saloon to saloon because of hair cut costs and also as few saloons required ‘appointments’!

There were saloons offering hair cut starting from 10$ to 25$ and a price left for anybody's imagination. After doing survey of saloons, finally I choose a saloon which I thought was decent where ‘basic’ hair cut was 12$.

This whole saloon looked very high-tech with plethora of gadgets all across.People were sitting and waiting on a nice couch ,watching TV and going through those cine-magazines.There were people getting done variety of hair-operations.There were people who were getting hair colored. People were getting their nails polished & trimmed. There was a lady who was sitting on a chair with a bowl on her head (I came to know later she is trying to get a curly hair!)

My turn came & barber asked me what I want to go for.
I asked for a basic hair cut. It almost sounded like telling to Dell that I want a PC with a basic configuration !!

The barber shoot his next question ‘What stage 2 or 3? “
Stage?? I was puzzled and asked him to show how stage 3 looks like.He smiled & showed his head.Now that I had a bench mark I opted for stage 2!!!

Next question ‘any shades you want try?’ and pointed to the chart.It was looking like an Asian Paints Color chart with different range of shades for hair.I said no but could not stop cross checking the color, guy next-chair had chosen for his hair. It was rose pink shade!

During haircut session, many gadgets were brought out which I had never seen before.It looked barber hardly used scissors but instead used these gadgets. After working on my hair for a while, he declared that hair cut is done.It wasn’t bad at all..

That was my first cut with saloons in US.
I later came to know that there is a ‘Barber College’ where there are courses for budding barbers.

I was brought back to present when barber told me ‘Is this fine with you?’ I nodded my head, paid 12$ and started walking back to apartment, thinking how nice it would have been if those saloons with those 'Prajaa Vaani-Nagara Vaani' and talking barbers were here. How nice it would be if barbers here would talk like there anything about politics & Cinema??

A hairy wish ???!!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Four days of Phoenix..

You will be planning to go to some place and at that same time your office sends you to the same place where you were planning to go. How do you feel?

Thatz exactly what happened when our client told me that they are sending me for a 4-day training to Phoenix. I always love to travel, exploring new places and meeting new people.Added to that, this time there was also an old Bangalore buddy whom I was to meet in Phoenix.

Day 1:
Sep 13,2005
Day started very early. The pretty airhostess who was checking our boarding pass was able to shrug my sleep to an extent. South West Airlines took off from LAX finally at 6am.The journey was a very short one for one & half hours. But I never saw that pretty looking airhostess in the plane again. May be she was there in Business class. It was again the case of ‘what you see is what you not get’!!! Before I finished Orange juice and bunch of songs in my iPod, plane landed in Phoenix.

From airport directly we went to Toyota office. Let me now introduce my colleague Jeanne Chu who is a Vietnamese-Chinese. In Phoenix office, we met our another classmate Clarice. The morning training session was very live with our instructor Dan in full form.

Lunch was at Mexican restaurant. Half my stomach got filled by seeing the waitresses and pretty crowd there. After lot of research, I was successful in customizing Burrito suiting my veggie taste. Indeed the Burrito was yummy. Rest of my gang had their own pleasure grabbing variety of Burritos.

Phoenix is lot hot compared to Torrance or Los Angeles.There are cactus all around the place.Some of them were huge and few were looking very catchy.

Afternoon session was little sleepy, but was made live again by Dan. As we had flown that morning itself we were feeling very sleepy. We returned to hotel and slept immediately. I got woken up by Chu for dinner.We decided to explore Italian food.

Olive Gardens was that Italian restaurant we went.The ambience was pleasing and even more pleasing was the service. Warm greetings, nice smiles & feeling that make you feel you are being taken special care. I opted for Pasta and Chu ordered for some Shrimp dish.Garlic bread was a nice appetizer.We sat & chatted for a while before food came.Pasta was tomoto based one with onion & pepper blend.The Pasta was tasty.

Pasta brought memories of those wonderful days of having Pasta in Brigade’s Barista. I was lost for a while somewhere before Chu asked what the matter was. I didn’t tell anything to her and just smiled. Meanwhile, in the next table there was a birthday bash and all hotel staff came & sung birthday song. In a matter of next half an hour so there were 6 birthday celebrations in the surrounding tables!!!I think hotel staff got tired singing b’day songs!

It is always good to see celebrations..I remembered those celebration times when we used to make our friends to stand on top of table in Pizza hut and almost used to embarrass them.

Back in the hotel and retired to our room.I had a nap before dinner,So I sat & watched a movie in the room.I don’t know if you have seen this movie ‘Ali G’.Total timepass movie where a good-for- nothing idiot becomes British MP accidently & then minister.(So you can call that a British movie version of Laloo!).

Day 2:
Class started early at 8:30 and went pretty well till lunch. Now big question was ‘where to go’? After much debate, we decided to go to Indian restaurant. We had an amazing session in ‘Priya’ Indian restaurant. Our menu read something like Chicken Kabab, Sheikh Kabab, Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan, and Navratna Kurma. The last two exclusively for me.We pepped the lunch with Mango lassi.Our team was so overwhelmed with the Indian food that they took some food back as parcel!

Afternoon session was a typical one with sleepy faces all around.Then we got a message that they are having ice-cream party in the office.So we quickly took a break and munched the amazing icecreams.

In the evening, my colleague Clarice took me in her Lexus so that she could drop me at 19th Avenue.It was almost a 30 mile drive.On way we talked plethora of topics.She couldn’t understand how Indian youth still (prefer to) stay with their parents even after being independent, how arranged marriages are possible, how people can manage to live together for decades.I was also little curious to know the social fabric of American society.

After a quite a long drive, she dropped me in front of Palm Courts. I waited there for a while before Archana finally appeared. The office she works is right in front of her apartments. It was so nice to see a known friend in an unknown place.

We went to her apartment and sat there for a long time talking about Bangalore, about Nagapatnam trip and of course our favorite Sakleshpur trip.We were both remembering Bangalore gang so much.We had almost forgotten Achhu’s colleagues who had come with her.After orange squash, Achhu took me out on a tour of her apartment.Showed gym, pool & her friends house.We had a good session of photography in her apartment.

Time was quickly running.So we cooked rice-sambar and finished the dinner.I took the cab back to hotel, which was a lengthy 30 miles.Again time to go back to my iPod, listening to Kannada songs I recently downloaded to my iPod. By 11:30 was back in hotel and tuned into the movie ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.

Motorcycle Diaries is a movie about…I think I’ve to come up with a separate blog for that.

Day 3:
Things were getting heated up in class.Today also class had started early.For lunch,we went to one more Mexican restaurant.I had Black Pea Burrito with hot Salsa.Back to office and things really got rolling.Also it happened that our client manager visited the office and met all of us.

By the time we left class it was 8:30 pm and directly we went in search of a new restaurant.But our search of Thai food was unsuccessful and finally we landed up in Subway.Got the Veggie Paddy Sub to room and enjoyed it with watching the movie,‘Around the world in 80 days’ starring Jackie Chan. Jackie’s movies are always good to watch and I being his fan for a long while, watched the movie with pleasure. I had memory of reading that Julius Varner book ‘Around the world in 80 days’ when I was in 9th Standard.I was curious to see how it is picturised and though movie greatly deviated from the original book, it was a good movie.

Day 4:
One more hectic session in class. Now we were totally into the thing.
Lunch we went to ‘Minni’s Kitchen’, an American Shoppe where I ordered Veggie Stack. Veggie Stack was seriously a stack with layers of vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, and sauces.Topped it with Strawberry lemonade.

Evening flight to LAX was at 6 pm.We decided to check-in early and ‘stand by’ so that we could get into any earlier flights.We somehow managed to got into 5’o clock flight. Flight of one & half hour was over before I finished my bunch of songs.It was good to see Air hostess men in shorts & T-Shirts against that typical suit they always wore.

So it was a good time in Phoenix with most of the free time being spent in restaurants exploring new food. Having people who also wants to explore with me was a plus point.Though there are less choices for Veggies like me, few of the dishes I tried were amazing.

And best part is that I’m going back to Phoenix again soon for one more training!!!

Friday, September 02, 2005

When Nature Chides...

We had just found that boy’s dead body....

If alive, probably he would have been 5-6 years old. The face was completely eaten by worms and the whole body was swollen as it was in water for almost 7 days. We poured a bag of bleaching powder on that decayed and highly smelling body and somehow managed to pull the body out from that debris. We carried it to the shore and the earth mover dug the grave in few minutes.

Don’t know how many graves the earth mover has been digging for that past week?

After showing the body to that boy’s father (who was the only survivor in that house), I & another friend lowered that dead body into the grave. Earth mover pulled the sand on the body and in no time leveled the ground.

There was a graveyard at each step we kept on the sand there. There were some huge sand mounds which were nothing but mass graves which had 25-30 bodies.

That was January 1,2005 in Nagapattanam, a place in Tamil Nadu one week after Tsunami.

All those heart-drenching scenes started rolling like a movie before my eyes when I read that bodies are being found under debris in US East coast after the recent ‘Katrina’, the killer hurricane.

These natural disasters are like this…
They bring with them so much havoc, so much pain and take away so many lives. Be it the tsunami struck India or hurricane damaged US, there is one language spoken at that time…..’pain’.

Victims of these disasters desperately will be needing help in terms of food, cloths and shelter .More than that they need some emotional consoling.That is what I found when I sat talking with those people in those Tsunami relief camps. The mental trauma and psychological after-affects of these disasters are traumatic.

It may be true that victims if they don’t get enough of supplies can get into acts of looting or something unruly because they want to survive.But there will be few useless-human beings who makes the disaster as an opportunity to loot,to grab whatever they can...shameless human beings..

It will be a challenge to any country to handle these natural disaster. Real strength of a country is proved in that situation.

The way people of India responded when Tsunami struck is really heartening.They did whatever little they can do. They donoted funds, they voluntaried in the relief activities, they consoled the grief-struck ones.

It made one thing clear that there is still something called ‘humanity’.

On another note, when nature regularly chides us with such doses of disasters, why do we want to make things still worse? Why do they still go for all those destructive things like Wars,N-bombs, H-bombs?

Is it not enough pain & stress with these tsunamis, hurricanes, rains??..