Thursday, June 3, 2010


At school, we never got to celebrate many festivals. Christmas consisted of breaking the decorations in the lobby and trying to guess who the 'Santa' was. Diwali consisted of throwing a lit sparkler in the air and screaming "Rocket! Rocket!" as it came down. But we did celebrate Holi. Not on the day when the rest of the country did, and not just once a year. It happened once a month, on Hair Cut day. I always felt it was some sort of retribution for the chimpanzee style hair cuts that we were given.

Preparation for the day began 3-4 days in advance. In the darshan line, we would take 2-3 sweets and save them in our shelves. We would exchange our ink pens for 'cricket stickers' and save them for the day. One of the first words of Telugu I learnt was 'Koncham', again, used heavily on this day. As we learnt early in life, bribery is not the way to get things done.

Hair cut day was always looked forward to. Nearly all the classes of the day would be missed, and I always made it a point to do everything in slow motion on that day so that I was one of the last persons in the lines. We sat in lines in the dormitory, waiting to be sent to the barbers.

There were two of them, 'Old barber' and 'Young barber'. It was assumed that the 'Young barber' was more contemporary and thus, more open towards new hairstyles. He was the more coveted among the two barbers, and we made sure that we were sent to him, so that we could have some hair left on our heads. Any PS student reading this, please note that its all crap. But we dint know it back then. Hope, like Morgan Freeman said in 'The Shawshank Redemption', keeps us alive.

When it was our turn to go, we entered the bathroom. In the passage between the toilets and the bathrooms, were the two thrones. A bucket upside down on a wooden chair.

Now, having hair was important to us. As a 5th grader, you needed to look different from the kiddos who still wrote with pencils. Having more hair meant a lesser portion of your scalp came off during the painful 'boochie checking'. Cap style was the coolest thing in the world and every guy's dream. Moreover, how would the 12th standard girl fall for you if you did not have hair on your head? We lived on hope.

So you gingerly entered the bathrooms. The first step was to fold hands, give a warm Oprah-like smile and say "Sai Ram". Then, you gave the bribe. Anand sweet that you had saved in your shelf, Swami's 'red robe photo' with the Vysya Bank calendar behind it, or a cricket sticker. The barber never denied anything, and happily pocketed the goodies. You were made to sit on the bucket, a white shawl (that had as much hair on it as Anil Kapoor's back) was wrapped around you.

Your regular pleas of 'Sai Ram, Koncham Koncham' fell to deaf ears. The barbers, embodiments of Sweeney Todd themselves, were cruel and heartless. Tearfully, you watched your hair fall on the shawl, another dream biting the dust.

Once you came out, the first few minutes would be spent looking at each other and laughing. You swore never to save another sweet for the damn barbers, and made a mental calculation of all the things you could have exchanged for the cricket stickers. But the day was not over yet. The fun began now.

In 5th standard, hair cut days were the only days when you were allowed to have 'own bath', instead of the embarrasing 'amma bath'. It was awesome! Two guys, generally 'Spiru-gurus', were made to guard the bathrooms in case a ma'am or amma was coming. Inside, it was absolute cacophony. We threw water at each other, formed teams and tried to make the other team fall on the ground, ambushed people coming into the bathrooms with buckets of water. Of course, if it was Bull Amma's dormitory, the guards needed to be more vigilant and if you were caught, she made you clean the toilets with your shirt or something. But otherwise, it was great fun.

After about an hour, a teacher came and drove us out. There were hardly two classes left in the day. After finishing bath, we went to Bull Amma's dormitory to look in the mirror dejectedly, secretly hoping that the 12th standard girl gave more emphasis to true love than good looks. The more desperate of us put our palms in front of our faces and blew with all our might, to see if any of our hair was 'flying'.

In a few days, we got over it. In another few weeks, and a series of painful 'boochie checking' sessions, when there was some semblance of hair on our heads, it was time again...

We would hide the sweet under our lap, raise our hand and say, "Brother, I didn't get."