Monday, November 10, 2008

What qualifies a Guy as a M.e.t.r.o.s.e.x.u.a.l...?

The Metro sexual man - " a single young man with a high disposable income , living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are and who has clearly taken himself as his own love object ..." - wikipedia

Like many of you, i too heard the term Metrosexual, when it was first associated with David beckham but didn't give it much thought as i thought it was yet another scam term to imply that men are spending more money on cosmetics...
At that time, men using beauty products was not commonly seen ( at least outside the 4 walls of their house)...Recently i read a nice blog in which one of the things that struck me was the fun poked at the use of Cuticura talcum powder, which was till a few years ago , one of the sole well know beauty/ personal hygiene products in India...And now we have Shahrukh on TV telling guys not to use girly fairness creams and instead,use products made specifically for men...

All this made me look at the present day scenario...and what a great place to begin than my very own room which i share with 5 others. I went and collected vials,bottles and tubes of all kinds (except the soap,shampoo n tooth paste ones) and placed it together on the table ...
The initial number of items was a bit shocker but then i saw that most of them would come under hygiene products rather than 'beauty' products per se...Out of the 20 or so items only 3 could be called as 'beauty' products while the rest were sunscreens, aftershaves and deodorants. The odd ones were a shoe deo and a sprain spray for sport injuries...The fact that we all had a tally of around 25 pairs of foot wear in the house reminded me that the situation wasn't that bad...

And to remind me that ours was still a true bachelor pad, i took a look around me and got satisfied...

So are men suddenly turning towards beauty products and that too in large numbers ?

Well there are many who would have tried a simple facial or the more adventurous ones a pedicure or manicure...Even the local barber shop at the corner is giving the former...

My barber used to try regularly to tempt me into doing a facial or face massage.I used to refuse the offer but things changed after a trip to home town during which many commented that i had grown dark due to the Chennai sun. Then it got really personal...I forgot what thalaivar Rajnikanth told in the movie Sivaji regarding the quest for fair skin

So the next time i went for the hair cut,without the barber asking (he must have given up on me or accepted that my naturally handsome face was already perfect), i told hesitantly the four dreaded words ...'i need a facial'. The barber got very happy and finished the usual 20 min long hair cut in a jiffy.I thought i knew what i was getting into...i mean, i had seen guys of all ages sitting with creams on their faces during my previous visits to the hair saloon and it didn't look too difficult.

Now i know people of all ages read this blog so I wont get into the gruesome details, but the highlights were

  • The pure pain i endured when he gave first degree burns on my face with hot steam

  • When he scared me to death by acting like Sweeney Tood , by opening a tool box full of sharp tools and then approached me with a smile usually seen on Project Mangers during annual reviews. He was brandishing the sharpest weapon from his collection, saying that this will remove the 'blackheads'...heck i thought he meant my head...Anyway he then proceeded to scrap the entire skin off my nose, while i tried to hold a straight face as if lost in the world of the 'jatka' movements running on SS music channel.

Luckily i survived without much injuries and after wiping clean my face, the barber pointed to the mirror and told with a ironical smile, ' Parungey...Hero mathiri aayitten' (Look, now you look like a hero)...although we both knew my face and physique were more apt for the baddies who get bashed up in South Indian movies.

I did try it another time and it wasnt that bad...i had the most wonderful sleep in the cool AC room, with cold cream on my face...i think they can make more money if they package this as a relaxation, stress relieving treatment...Of course i told him to leave the blackheads alone this time, and he continued to give me condescending looks through out the next hour or so...

The thing is, it didnt change my looks...the 'glow' unfortunately lasted exactly till the time i washed my face, (i completely forgot i just had a facial).To see how my peers were in this 'race for beauty', i tried to enquire and found that although many had tried it once or twice, none of them did it on a regular basis.

As for the more extravagant pedicures and manicures, no one had tried them, and one guy commented 'who will pay so much to cut nails man' and then proceeding to bite his nails to prove the point (his GF was not in office that day)... Of course there are others who apply kadala maav (channa paste) on their faces at weekends and those who apply pure fairness creams religiously, but these are a rarity..

So i guess as long as we men are clean,hygienic, iron our clothes and apply deodorants (mildly, not like the AXE ads) i guess its okay...Society doesn't want us with flawless skin...that burden in most cases, still falls on the fairer sex :-)

Oh, that reminds me, i have to buy sunscreen with SPF 30+ , for the trip we roomies are planning this weekend... ;-)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aap, Mein aur Bagpipper...of course i mean the club soda ;-)

"It was a late evening in 2002...having got some funding and even more importantly, official leave from college on the pretext of inviting various colleges to our yearly college fest, 5 of us friends found ourselves at the thallaserry side of the Mahe bridge...with excitement building up we started crossing it...On reaching the other side we were officially into Mahe and it was like what Alice would have felt when she came out of the rabbit hole into the Wonderland...or maybe when one enters Las vegas...It was a sight for sore eyes...All around us were flashing colorful neon lights on top of shops of all sizes ranging from multi storied buildings to small sheds where the owner cant even sit...all selling one single thing...Liquor ! That too at the cheapest rates available in and around the state of Kerala, in bottles of all imaginable colors and shapes..."

Some call it heaven...some call it hell...i call it necessary evil to get some friends to talk... :-)

For good or bad, social drinking has become an integral part of life...when old friends meet or when new friends are being made, the eternal bottle has become the epitome of an ice breaker.

Below are the random memories that come to my mind :

Cemetery Meets

The fondest memories of mine are the weekend get together we used to have in our hostel...Imagine a hill with a church and two bungalows as the sole buildings on it. In one the local priest lived with his family and in the other, we 40 odd guys lived. Behind the 2 buildings was the rising hill and nestled in between was a cemetery. It was here that we used to have our meets. Either there used to a specific reason for this like discussing on the ‘socio-political’ atmosphere in college or we used to simply make one up just to have it !

No meeting was complete without the accompanying camp fire, the wood for which came from a small ‘locked’ shed of the church which was full of old broken furniture…we had even torched one of the wooden cots given by the college for this !

The local brands guzzled with gusto in those days will surely send chills down the spine of the same guys in the present times and the parody songs sung around the fire in pitch black nights in freezing temperatures still ring in our hearts…

My first and last Outdoor catering assignment:

In the brief time I spent in the Hotel Mgmt institute in Kovalam, I got only once a chance to take part in an outdoor catering assignment. So on a weekend me and my friends went to Ashok beach resort, the only 5 star hotel in Trivandrum at that time, for a banquet function arranged for some all India medical conference.

The jobs where simple: dust the cutlery in the storage room, man the food counter and man the bar counter. Since I was a non drinker, the guys told me to choose the other two jobs. The next six hours saw me dusting the cutlery from the huge storage rooms and placing them for the dinner. After 6 hours of this, I asked for a change and got the serving counter. Boy was I in for a surprise! I don’t know if it was the nice atmosphere of cool windy evening in the beach resort, or was it the chance to be with old friends, or whether it was the free liquor, but people were attacking the bar counter with a vengeance. All around you could see passed out people and busy servers like me collecting glasses from them or serving them fresh ones.

Once we collect the glasses, we pass through a long corridor and then enter into the cleaning room where we deposit the glasses. Now there were lots of half empty glasses placed by guests all over the banquet hall and in the garden adjacent to it. Our manager had told us that no glass should be seen unattended and the guys took it literally! Guests would have a sip or two, put the glass down for a second and turn around only to find the glass gone. The long dark corridor turned into a free for all party for all the servers who ensured the glasses always came out empty into the cleaning area.

At the end of the day, it was time for the payment and the manager told us to stand in a queue to collect the pay check but there was a catch. The procedure was simple: walk up to him, blow air to his face and collect the money :-)

Luckily he wasn’t smelling for ice cream (no empty ice cream cartons left the food counter where I was present) and I successfully passed his test and got the first hard earned money of my life: 125 bucks for 12 hours of work!

First and second Semester results are out !

Being the first batch of the college, not having seniors resulted in us not understanding fully the hardships of having back logs. Result? Mass failings in the first and second semester exams ! One of the well meaning teachers of our college came to the hostel that night to see how we guys where handling the harsh results of the first year of the course and to help alleviate the tension if any. Instead the teacher entered to find a big party going on and to top it one of the guys offered him a drink to join the festivities!

This also marked the beginning of the trend of purposefully ‘leaving’ the last paper of each semester. We used to mark big red tilaks which where symbolic representations of the fact that we were undertaking mass flunking…At this time when I write this, I sincerely thank God that he ensured we all out grew these things and completed the degrees in time…but still when I see a group of guys walking with tilaks, I cant help but go back to those days in the college rest room were we got ready with our tilaks.

Spirit Day:

A hartal called by some party found all of us sitting in the hostel with nothing to do. No CD shops to rent the vcd player and tv, no beverage shops to buy liquor and even the 2 sole theaters in Munnar where closed. A local person from Munnar known to us said he can get Spirit (a form of Arrack) for us. He kept his word and got us 5 liters of it !

Due to shortage of big tumblers, it was diluted in 2 buckets with 30 odd eager hands holding glasses waiting expectantly. The evening found almost everyone passed out in their rooms…

I can remember lot more incidents but that’s for another time…

I would like to stress that none of the guys turned into chronic drinkers and with the current work pressures, the daily drinkers of yesteryears now drink 2/3 pegs on weekends and talk with gleaming eyes about those golden days …


I am sure that any one who doesn't know me very very well, wont believe that i don't take liquor...And you too, after reading this blog would be of the same opinion... I don't blame you...My colleagues give knowing smiles when i don't take one, thinking i don't drink in official friends think i drink only with my close friends...some think i stopped after years of 'enjoyment'...During college days, our neighbors use to say that my 'plum' look was a direct result of guzzling beer...heck, even my current house owner in Chennai asked my room mates on the first day itself " Our Monu looks like a pal of the bottle,eh?"...

My decision is not due to religious pulling nor is due to some high moral thoughts...i am over weight and have perfected the art of making bad habits, so i don't want any new ones...period.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joy of Sharing

Festive atmosphere for Diwali is at its peak... (inspite of the huge downpour in Chennai as i am blogging this)

Festivals are a chance to share happiness with one another and two days back i saw something that reminded me of what sharing truly means...

As someone said, a picture is worth a thousand words...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My experiments with Cooking

Waking up early on Sunday morning with no scheduled plans can be a blessing in disguise…Like today it prompted me to “dust” my old blog and write a fresh post...As always I was hungry and so the topic was easy – Cooking !

Ah…Cooking…the word that supposedly instills fear in the minds of the both men and women of today’s generation alike...Men have to answer “Didn’t you cook anything when you where a bachelor” and women have to answer “Didn’t you learn anything from your mom”…

Well my tryst with cooking started quite early…at the age of 5 !

Me and my friend Bhanu where alone at his home and we got hungry…Since he was older than me by a year, the responsibility of finding food fell on him…After ascertaining that there was nothing edible in the kitchen, we both decided to cook Maggie and Omelet. For the Omelets we poured oil into the pan, added the beaten eggs and then realized the oil was too much...What to do? We took the small round sieve used to remove tea powder and sieved the oil and egg mix :-)… That was the first self cooked meal of mine…with Bhanus help.

After many years Bhanu, who always had a flair for cooking, joined the Hotel Management Institute in Kovalam and next year I also followed his ‘food’ steps. He is currently a head chef with Le Meridian hotels.

Life at IHMCT, one of the top 5 catering colleges in India, was an eye opener. The college believed that to be good managers and chefs of the future, everyone must know the hardships faced by each staff of a hotel. So everything in the college was done by the students…For a guy like me who had never cleaned a single plate @ home till then, standing at the mess hall exit, collecting the soiled plates of the entire college and loading them to the huge dishwashers was an unforgettable experience…It taught me that no job was inferior.

The cooking classes where the hardest for me…I had no natural flair for cooking…We did cooking in 2 member teams and my partner was a girl from Tibet called Pema. When the chef told us to start cooking I looked helplessly around…We had to cook a continental meal – 4 Breadrolls(buns for non-chef'y' crowd), a soup,a meat dish,a veg dish and a desert !
The fact that what we cook was going to be our lunch was even scarier!!!

With the though of taking the easy way out, I told Pema I will do the dough for the breadrolls.
But no matter what I did, half the dough was always stuck in my hands…The chef came and asked if I had any clue about what I was doing…In the end poor Pema had to cook most of the meal and this (obviously) continued for my entire duration in IHMCT. The patience she showed with me made me thank the fact that she was from Nepal and I also thanked Buddhist monks and their patient way of life. Pema, if you ever read this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart :-)

I wont spend too much time on the life @ IHMCT which is an entire topic in itself, but one particular incident I remember in catering college was the mid term exam…

Imagine a hall the length of 5 normal college class rooms…having two long rows of steel stands for the gas burners…Everything spotlessly clean and shining…Everything in perfect order…all utensils and ingredients arranged perfectly…
The exam began with everyone making the standard veg soup…60 students cooking silently, the only noise coming from the occasional vessel clangs. I some how made my soup and while transferring it to the soup bowls, the pot handle slipped from my hand and the entire soup fell on the clean spotless floor…the only noise in the hall was the clattering sound of pot as it rolled round and round till it came to rest…Everyone stopped and looked at the pot and when it stopped rolling, they looked up at me with astonishment as if I had dropped a nuclear bomb…It was one of the few instances in life when you wanted to be invisible for the right reasons…

Those days spent at IHMCT Kovalam were  a priceless experience in my life...

I didn’t complete my catering course (and because of this even now you can go to any restaurant and eat food fearlessly) and joined my Engineering course in Munnar…There I didn’t play around with cooking much…

Chennai life was (and still is ) at the hands of the ‘akka’/ maid who comes to cook for us…Her cooking principle is simple and easy….make a gravy with tomatoes and then each day add different things into it – green peas, channa,potatos,egg,sprouts and on (un) lucky days we get just the tomato gravy in its full glory.

Recently I successfully cooked Chicken ‘potato’ roast …After I started cooking the chicken, I realized that the onion puree was not enough. So I took 3 unboiled potatos, crushed them in the mixie and added that as the base…My room mates didn’t notice anything while they ate and I told them of this the next day…No one has been harmed till now with my experiments with cooking and I am still going strong :-)