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.
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
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
Bharat Chintapalli I am an engineer-cum-MBA from the
city of Visakhapatnam, interested in creative writing. [email protected]