Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Long Hair Day

Me wearing my hair long has aroused the curiosity of quite a few people. 'But, why?' is the inevitable question that I am asked every time I am introduced to somebody , or renew acquaintances. Quite a few of my colleagues rib me about it too. Am sick of answering questions about my hair.

I rather feel like Agastya Sen in Upamanyu Chatterjee's classic book, 'English August: An Indian Tale'. The protagonist is Agastya Sen, a yuppie nicknamed English August for his anglophilia, who's posted to a remote town called Madna for 'IAS training'. The book is hilarious - I still remember laughing aloud in school, and the book being confiscated by the Physics teacher (who used to pronounce 'blue' as 'bleeyu', for some reason).

In the book, everybody in Madna asks Agastya why his name is English August. Agastya makes up some really wierd reasons (excerpts below):

'Agastya? What kind of a name is Agastya?' asked the engineer, almost irritably. He was a large unpleasant man, the owner of a trunk that wouldn't fit below the lower berths, but on which he wouldn't allow anyone to place his feet.

'He's a saint of the forest in Ramayana, very ascetic. He gives Ram a bow and arrow. He's there in Mahabharata too. He crosses the Vindhyas and stops them from growing.'

The engineer looked dissatisfied, almost suspicious, as though Agastya had just sold him an aphrodisiac.

Srivastav smiled at Agastya. His sideburns were like right-angled triangles, the hypotenuses of which looked like the shadows of his cheekbones. 'So? Agastya, what kind of a name is Agastya, bhai?'

When you were in your mother's lap, you ignoramus, he said silently, drooling and piddling, didn't she make your head spin into sleep with the verses of some venerable Hindu epic? 'Agastya' is Sanskrit he wanted to say, for one who shits only one turd every morning. But the Collector didn't really want any answer. Staccato conversation, while he rushed through his files.

'Yes, I've heard about you. But I can't call you Sen, that's for my husband' Here a half smile at Srivastav. Agastya was reminded of Joshi's room on the first day, and Ahmed's voice dropping to a hush to pronounce 'Mrs'; to all the admission of conjugality seemed a cause for embarrassment. 'What's your full name?' Mrs Srivastav was wearing a black bra beneath a yellow blouse. Agastya sneered at Menon (startling him a little), that would be a hilarious dress sense in Trinity, but it's OK in Madna, no?

'Agastya', half-ready to answer the next question with, 'It's Sanskrit for one who turns the flush just before he starts pissing, and then tries to finish pissing before the water disappears'.

'That's even worse. Most Bengalis have such difficult names.' Mrs Srivastav had a nice smile. 'I'm sure your parents or friends don't call you that. What do they say?'

'Ogu and August.' He thought of lying but couldn't immediately think of anything but obscenities.

She laughed. 'August. That's nice.'

'August?' asked Srivastav, abandoning his children who scrambled off the divan and crowded around Agastya. Perhaps you would prefer another month? asked Agastya silently.

I wish I had the audacity to make up such far-fetched reasons. For now, the reasons I give to the inquisitive are:

a. that I am growing my hair until the day of my marriage, since despite my advancing age, I am not experiencing 'marital bliss' yet, or

b. that I am growing my hair in protest because my boss isn't granting me a vacation, and that I will cut it only on the day I go to India (this is the version I feed my colleagues and clients, much to my boss's indignation).

But I intend to get a haircut in Jan '06 - maintaining this is such a pain, wonder how girls manage! The barber will probably charge me extra, for trimming this mane !!


Anonymous said...

good story about Agastya!

is it true? :)

Anonymous said...

Ektz, both the Ramayana and Mahabharata stories are apparently true; you can check the wikipedia entry for Agastya to take a look !!