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Bad Hair Day

It was a rainy day. For me, it was also a bad hair day. No sunlight filtered through my room’s windows. I had woken up with my hair standing on one end and no matter how much gel or water I applied to it, my hair stood on one side awkwardly. I looked like an unkempt bird with fuzzy feathers weathering a storm, like a nomadic lion with a porcupine’s mane, like a half plucked chicken that was still alive. Ideally, a shower would have done my hair good, softened it up a little and put it back where it belonged, but unfortunately, I could not spend more time tending to my hair as I had to rush to my class. I looked at the mirror, pushed down my hair with undying optimism one last time. Same result.

I cursed my luck and hoped that nobody in the class would notice my hair; especially not my girl friend. I started running towards the class two minutes before it began. Ideally, if I ran the fastest I could, I took around 90 seconds to reach the class, give or take a few. I ran. I ran feeling the growing pain in my stagnant thighs, hating the slow drizzle, and the gooey humidity in the air. My heavy floaters squelched in the green grass, slipping at every nook and corner that they thought appropriate. The flowers dangled languidly from their stems, taking every droplet of drizzle with inactive apathy. It was a dull day to go to class.
 

As I entered the class, laughter broke out when my classmates noticed my hair. Comments flew from either side mocking my hair. Had I seen a person with such hair, I myself would have remembered his hair for a long time and ridiculed it every chance I got. Here, I was on the receiving side. It was unquestionably the worst bad hair day of my life. Of anyone’s life. I cannot fathom how dirty, awkward, ridiculously funny my hair looked that day. I must have bunked the class and taken a shower. My mistake. My bad.

When the professor entered the class, the laughter muted down and the comments subsided. However, before subsiding, a comment or two about my hair, made their way into the professor’s ears. He noticed me and let out a hearty chuckle. The entire class joined him again and laughed to its hearts content. Never in my life did I see a whole class laughing the way it did.

I looked at my girlfriend to see that she was laughing too, shades of red rising in her face. I finally gave into it and laughed with them half-heartedly and tried to placate the guy sitting next to me who was laughing so hard that his empty morning stomach knotted up as he groaned in pain still laughing at my hair.

After the laughter subsided, the professor took the attendance and announced to the class the names of the students who would go to the seminar that day and give a presentation. The presentations-in-seminars charade was started four years ago by an ex-president of the college. Two random students from a class would go to a relevant seminar being conducted in the city every week and give a presentation. Some seminar or the other is conducted almost every day in Lucknow. But we had to go to the seminars that were relevant to our subjects. In this case, finance, marketing, operations, human resources or information technology. On the rainy day, when the professor announced the names randomly, the class started hooting and banging the desks till they were restored back to order by the professor’s shouts. My girlfriend, Veda and I were randomly selected to go to the IT seminar that was being conducted in a function hall in the Old City. I looked at Veda and she smiled at me coyly. I did not know much about information technology but I thanked God for the little pleasures in life.

 

The drizzle continued into the evening. Not a ray of sunlight touched the ground. The streets leading into the old city were becoming muddier and dirtier by the mile. Veda and I were sitting in an auto trying to save our business suits from splashes of mud water whenever a car drove by or a bike whizzed past. The auto driver was shouting orders into a mobile phone, directing his subordinates to different destinations to pick people up. Outside, the drizzle thickened into a light rainfall. Honks blared at each other, bulls stood stubbornly in the middle of the road, kebabs were roasted under make shift tents and sold, everybody outside were carrying on with their business normally, only with a slight frustration towards the endless drizzle.

While Veda talked about the presentation we were going to give, I kept wondering if she was indeed my girlfriend. Our story was not a classic love story. We had eaten pizzas together, but not been on any real dates. We had started meeting each other more often than usual since only a month, but never talked on phone at nights. I had told her that I liked her, but I just got a smile back in return.

We exchanged glances in the class, but we had not kissed each other yet. We were not exactly a smoldering hot love story. I wondered if I should take the initiative and kiss her. But the auto and the drizzle and the sounds of squelching mud did not motivate me.


After the auto lumbered towards the old city for two hours, we reached the middle of the Old City. It was a few minutes to 7 o clock and we had to rush to the hotel where the seminar was being conducted. The hotel was actually an ancient, run-down building in the middle of the Old City. It was a palace of a Nawab 200 years back and it was being renovated into a hotel. Most of the hotel was still very old and broken down. The corridors were replete with pigeons’ droppings and the ceilings were crammed with their nests. Different sections of the hotel were being used as lodges. Groups of bachelors lived in the run down section paying a nominal amount to the owner every month. Looking into some open windows, one could see dim yellow lights, flakes of paint peeling away from the walls, clothes strewn across the room, and a bunch of guys wearing loose vests smoking cigarettes staring into the lights of a small sized TV. Only one side of the hotel was apparently well lit and furnished and that was where we headed. It was a small banquet hall with a podium, a projector, steel chairs cushioned with black leather and a large brown carpet. The hall was on the terrace on top of the 7th floor like a giant penthouse and it was a long climb up the stairs.

The seminar started and I was still thinking about Veda. I was wondering if I could indeed be her boyfriend. If I could, I wanted to start off by giving her a kiss she would never forget. She told me to look towards the stage when I stared at her a bit too often. I asked her if she would be okay giving the presentation on her own to which she happily agreed. It was her subject, after all. I sat back, ready to get bored, and wait for our turn when the next speaker went up to the podium to deliver his presentation. He looked like a student too, but he was not from our college. He wore a grey suit that accentuated his broad shoulders and burly arms. He was one of the most handsome guys I had ever seen. He had a unique style about him and he instantly gripped the audience with his charisma. The audience was no longer bored. They listened to him talk about cloud computing like he was showing them an action flick. Though I was impressed with his presentation and the way he spoke, I noticed that he was looking towards Veda, my girlfriend, one too many times. I checked and rechecked. He was indeed eyeing her. I felt a pang of jealousy. My heart broke when I noticed Veda eyeing the stranger with an “I-am-very-impressed” look. She was smiling at him with raised, curvy eyelashes and blushing cheeks and I felt a knot tightening up in my gut. I had always wished that she looked with those eyes at me. When the stranger finished his presentation, the small banquet hall reverberated with thunderous applause. Veda also clapped enthusiastically while the stranger gave her once last look before settling down in his place.

When Veda went up to the podium to give the presentation, I followed and set up the presentation slides for her. After introducing the topic to the audience I gave the stage to Veda to delve deeper into the topic. All the time, I noticed the stranger looking at my partner, flashing smiles with flirtatious eyebrows. When our presentation was over, I sat back in my chair calmly waiting for the charade to end. At last, the keynote speaker delivered a final speech and the audience walked outside and were bidding farewell to each other.

Veda and I were talking to some professors and gathering feedback while the stranger appeared from nowhere. He ushered Veda aside and started talking to her very animatedly while I was listening to old professors talking about how I could improve on my knowledge base. Another professor was adamant that I refer to his papers on ERP and get back to him. I patiently noted down their email addresses, took their phone numbers and promised them that we would get back to them after studying the material. I shook their hands, wished them a very good night and turned back to see the stranger talking to Veda. She seemed to be giving him her number which he was punching down on his smart phone with gusto. I started walking towards them to introduce myself to the stranger, but mostly to make him get the hell away from Veda.

As I was walked towards them, what the stranger did knocked the living daylights out of me. He leaned closer to Veda, said something to her, took her face in his hands and kissed her on the lips softly. She gave him a demure smile, when he waved at her and disappeared into the crowd. She was waving back and still looking at the place where he disappeared into the crowd. I felt the terrible knot in my gut wrenching the life out of me and I did not know what to do. I stood there still trying to fathom what went on a few seconds ago and take it all in. Veda looked smitten. She did not notice me standing there. Just when I made up my mind to go after the stranger and bash him up, I heard my professor calling my name. I turned back to see our professor walk towards me and he started giving me a lecture about how I should stop introducing the topic and start talking more about the actual topic. Every word he uttered felt like a lecture. Time lumbered in slow motion. I could not feel anything but agony and jealousy. How the hell could a stranger have kissed my girlfriend, before me, and walked away with it?

I excused myself from the professor and ran into the crowd. I nudged and pushed everyone on the way. I ran down damp steps, jumped over rats scuttling around the corridors and ran across the bachelors rooms. I went down into the street to see people everywhere. They were all over the street selling meat, spitting on the road, dodging scooters, blaring their horns, crossing narrow roads with their children, bargaining with vendors and buying meat. Pandemonium. I ran along the street, passive to the screams of anyone I dashed against. Just when I lost all hope of finding the stranger, I spotted him near a row of vendors. He was eating mutton kebabs, the bastard. I walked up to him, patted his shoulder and gave him the hardest punch I could on his cheek. I wished that I punched him on the nose. For a moment, the vendors stopped selling meat and the bargainers were left with nothing else but to see what was going on.

The stranger quietly placed the kebabs on the makeshift table and said to me, “The best fighter is the one who never fights.” I told him that he deserved more for kissing my girlfriend and raised my hand to deliver another punch when he clasped my hand with a steel grip. I noticed then that he was bulkier than me and much stronger too. With a sly smile on his face, he told me that Veda liked him.

“I noticed you there in the seminar”, he said. “It would have made a better impact had you punched me before Veda. I am afraid you have lost your chance, brother.” My phone rang and I picked up Veda’s call, confused and angry on how fate could take such a wild U-turn. “We need to talk”, said Veda. “I am standing in the rain waiting for you. Come soon.” When the call ended, the stranger told me that she was not my girlfriend anymore and showed me her number on his smart phone. Everything spiraled downwards. I fell into an endless void.

When I opened my eyes and woke up with a start, sunlight fell on me through the windows. Tiny specks of dust floated in the sun beams when I realized that all of it was a dream. I rushed to the wash basin, splashed handfuls of water on my face and let out a huge sigh of relief. Had I known before that I was having a dream, I would not have worried so much. I looked into the mirror to see my hair standing up on one end at a weird angle. I pushed it down with undying optimism but it stood up again making an awkward patch.

It was indeed, a bad hair day. I bunked class. -

Contributing Story Teller Bharat Chintapalli I am an engineer-cum-MBA from the city of Visakhapatnam, interested in creative writing. bharat.chintapalli@gmail.com

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