True confessions of an impoverished metrosexual

After being reliably informed that a man who is fashionably dressed will have women fall over him, one decides to correct one’s chronically single status, and sets out to become a contemporary metrosexual.

First on the list: The Classic White Shirt.

The desi cotton shirts I buy off the roadside shop at Puttenahalli are neither entirely white nor entirely classic, so I proceed to a famous mall looking for a famous brand. At the famous mall, the salesman peddling the famous brand gives me a feral grin, and puts forth a dazzling array of the whitest white shirts I have ever seen. I didn’t know there could be so many shades of white.

I point my shaking finger at one shining shirt, chosen at random. The feral salesman tells me that it costs Rs.2000/-.  Two thousand bucks for a shirt?!

Stunned, I point at another shirt, thinking that surely it can’t be more expensive. But no, I’m wrong. It turns out that two thousand bucks is merely the starting point. This one costs a mind-boggling Rs. 5000/-.  Five thousand Indian rupees for one single shirt. I haven’t spent that much money on all the shirts I’ve bought in my adult life. But then, I’m sternly informed, this shirt is made from pure Egyptian cotton. No wonder the Egyptians sent it to us. Seems to me even a Pharaoh can’t afford it.

One rushes on to the next item on the Fashionista list: Designer jeans. The cheerful nymphet at the jeans corner asks me which jeans I want – bootcut, straightcut, relaxed or skinny. I didn’t know jeans could relax and lose weight.

Then she asks me if I want stonewash, acidwash, vintage wash or dirty wash or if I want distressed jeans. Dirty wash? How does one wash something till it becomes dirty?  And how do jeans get distressed? I am mystified.

I learn then that it is a privilege to wear jeans that are frayed and filthy, and that the technical term for these collectibles is ‘distressed’ jeans. And then, she asks if I want high-rise, low-rise or medium-rise. I ask her to elucidate. The nymphet tells me that the rise will determine how much of my gluteals will be exposed when I bend over. She is deeply offended when I ask her why on earth would I want to wear something with the intention of displaying my gluteals to the general public. So, after a heated debate, we agree upon a pair of straight-cut, high-rise, unwashed denim jeans. The price tag says that it will cost me just over Rs.4000/-.  It is scant consolation that a pair of frayed and tattered bootcut jeans costs twice as much. I tell the nymphet I am too distressed to buy her jeans.

Next halt: The shoe corner.

Fashion pundits are unanimous in their opinion that a man is judged by his shoes. My experience at the jeans corner tells me to expect another hefty dose of fashion-babble from the brawny chap waiting for me. And he does not disappoint, as he unleashes a barrage of scary names at me. Until I met this formidable merchant of modern footwear, I thought there were only two types of shoes – those that you wear to office, and those that you don’t. There were only three colors that I knew of – black, brown and white. And only two materials of construction – leather and canvas. That sort of thinking went out in the last century, I find out.

Now, there are shoes called Oxfords that are made in Italy, shoes called loafers that one wears to work, different shoes for jogging, running and walking, and moccasins that one wears at home to relax. I thought it was normal to take shoes off at home. The brawny salesman tells me it necessary to wear shoes with laces when I wear a formal suit and slip-on shoes when I’m suit-less. What if I decide to take my suit off in the middle of the day, I ask him. Do I need to change my shoes as well? Undeterred, he shows me his range of Oxfords, casuals and sheepskins. One pair of classic square Oxfords = Rs 2446/-, loafers for work = Rs. 3716/-, ergonomic running shoes with arch support = Rs 4200/-; sheepskin moccasins for relaxation = Rs. 2663/-. And then I ask him how come he’s wearing plain canvas shoes, and he tells me that if he could afford proper shoes, then why the heck would he be working in a shoe shop? Point taken.

Accessorize, we are advised by the fashion websites. Unable to afford any major clothing items, I tell myself that maybe I can pretend to be a metrosexual by sporting a couple of branded accessories that I can distract on-lookers with. No such luck.

Paco Rabanne Eau de toilette for men (a seductive fragrance that blends energy, charm & virility) = Rs 2999/-. Pretty expensive toilet water.

Tommy Hilfiger anti-perspirant deo for men (this masculine scent possesses a blend of tangy citrus, cranberry and lavender) = Rs. 2295/-.  The anti-perspirant made me break out in a cold sweat.

Crocodile leather belt (top quality split calf leather with polyurethane coating, will last for years to come) = Rs.4000/-.  If I buy the belt, I can’t afford trousers.

HIDesign men’s wallet (city slick and denim happy) = Rs. 1145/-. I’ll be left with no money to put into the wallet.

Ray-Ban sunglasses = Rs. 4600/-.  My eyes pop out on seeing the price tag.

In sheer desperation, I seek out the innerwear department. I am being over-optimistic, I know, but I hope to flaunt some fashionable innerwear, in the unlikely event that I am required to remove my outerwear. High hopes indeed. Tommy Hilfiger men’s briefs (low-rise brief, 93% cotton, 7% elastane, prices may vary with size) = Rs.619/-.   That is twice the price I pay for my trousers. Probably a good idea to avoid innerwear altogether.

Dashed and defeated, I go back to my usual roadside couturier, and pour out my woes to him. Not to worry, Saar, he says. He reaches into an inner shelf, and pulls out one branded item after another. Lei jeans= Rs.300/-; Tammy Hilfinger white shirt = Rs. 200/-; Adddidas casual shirt = Rs.250/-; Brute deo = Rs.150/-; Crockodile leather belt = Rs.175/-, and “Roy-Band” sunglasses = Rs.200/-. Total bill = Rs.1275/-. I ask him about shoes, and he tells me he can get me any brand I want. That is, any brand I want will be printed on the shoes. Flat price = Rs.550/-, non-negotiable.

Looks exactly like original labels, saar, he assures me with a nudge and a wink. No one will notice, Saar. Yeah, sure.

Watch out, ladies. Here I come!

Cheers … Srini.

The Birthday Conundrum

Happy-Birthday-To-Me-3Another birthday. Another year of life. Another year of wondering how many birthdays I have left.

Two years ago, after an unexpected angioplasty, I wasn’t sure I’d see my next birthday. Two birthdays have gone by since, and I’m still around. I’m still seething with rage over the angioplasty, still furious about the two unwanted stents in my heart. And I’m utterly enraged at the astronomical sum that Sagar hospital extorted from me for my life.

Two decades of daily workouts, carefully planned cardiovascular exercise, a spartan diet, half-yearly health check-ups, normal cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar, regular treadmill tests, rippling muscles, rock-hard abs.

What a big fucking waste.

You can’t escape karma. I wound up in a cath lab at midnight, with my elderly mother weeping outside, and half a dozen masked strangers drilling holes into me.

So. How does an impoverished, angry, bald man with two ex-wives, one estranged daughter and two stents in his heart celebrate his birthday?

He stops whining. And he counts his blessings.

I’m not rich. But I’m not in debt. I do not earn much. But I save most of what I earn. Two wives left me to die. But I’m not dead.

The daughter who dumped me does not give a damn if I’m alive or not. But those orphaned girls that I support, do. For all the ten years I was married to her mother, I was abused and humiliated in public, because by her rarified socio-economic standards, I was a loser. But the blind children’s ashram I pay an annual donation to, thinks I’m the world’s greatest winner.

My modest income was insufficient to meet my wife’s chronic demands. But that same modest income was more than enough to pay for the entire education of three orphan girls, right up to their graduation. Three grateful nurses will never know who their anonymous sponsor was. That’s ok. I do.

My rock-hard abs have been replaced by a comfortable little paunch. Those rock-hard abs did not prevent heart disease. They impressed no one, and served me no purpose. I do not miss them.

I live in an urban slum. But I sleep well, because I have good neighbors. I do not have much. But I want for nothing.

My work gives me pleasure. Because I work at my will. With an employer of my choice. Not to satisfy a pretentious wife’s shallow social needs.

If I see something I like, I count the money in my pocket, and I buy it. If I do not have the money, I don’t. My choice. Not my wife’s choice. Mine.

If I want to watch a movie, I go and watch it. Or I don’t. If I want to catch up with my old friends in Bombay, I take the next flight. Or I don’t.

I feel the need to impress no one. I am accountable to no one – with the unfortunate exception of the Income tax department.

But what about sex, my married friends ask me. As if they have a wild romp in bed every night. When I point out that they’re as deprived as I am, they all slink away in silence. And download the same “inspirational” videos that I do.

But what about companionship. At least we have someone to come home to, they sneer. Yeah sure. The day I feel the need for a loyal, trustworthy companion who will always welcome me when I come home, I’ll get myself a DOG.

Marriage? Been there, done that. Traumatic.

Kids? Been there, done that. Over-rated.

On my birthday, I didn’t have a blast. My dietary restrictions being what they are, I can’t go around town painting it red. So what? I had a bowl of sugarless custard made by my aged mother, added a banana for taste, watched Friends for the nth time. Then I lay back on my couch. Took stock of my current situation in life. And smiled.

Financial liabilities: Nil. Alimony: Nil. Vicious, adulterous wives: Nil. Creditors at my doorstep: Nil. Boorish employers: Nil. Hair on my head: Slightly more than nil.

Work: Wow. Leisure: As much as I want. Reliable friends: As many as I deserve. Fun: As much as I can handle.

Things could have been a great deal worse. I might have been dead. Or much worse, I might have still been married.

Life is good.

Happy birthday to me.

Stay Single, you fool!

being-single-cushion-36148Yeah. Singleness is great.

My married friends can furiously deny this and vehemently curse me as much as they like. The fact is, the benefits of being single are very real – especially for someone like me who has suffered the consequences of being non-single.

Here are fully one dozen staggering benefits of being your own man:

1) C’est ta vie. It is YOUR life. That’s the biggest benefit of being single. You can lead your life as you wish to.

2) It’s good for your health. There are peer-reviewed studies that clearly demonstrate the beneficial effects of singleness on an individual’s health. In any case, it is far better to be single than be trapped in a bad marriage.

3) It’s good for your career. You can pursue the career that you really want to, irrespective of how much it pays or does not pay.

4) What you earn, you keep. And if you’re a frugal man like me, you can keep a lot.

5) Your social life improves greatly. One of the great fallacies about single people is that they do not have social lives. On the contrary. You can be with people whom you really want to be with, i.e. those who share your interests and hobbies. You are not obliged to socialise with people whom you absolutely detest, just to keep your wife happy.

6) It’s much easier to get a passport or any other legal document. Much, much easier. As I found out recently.

7) You lose weight. You get fit. That’s because you can spend quality time in the gym or in any enjoyable physical activity. That is, if you wish to.

8) You will never have any issues with your issues. And you will never have any grouse with your spouse.

9) You can leer without fear, and flirt without guilt. And that’s actually healthy for your self-esteem. The health benefits of flirting are well documented. Provided, of course, you flirt with the right people in the right situations, and not with complete strangers on the Internet.

If you’re married, try telling your wife that you were flirting with that hot nymphet at the office party, purely for health reasons.

10) You do sleep better. Go ahead. Snore all you want. There’s no one next to you.

11) You dress better. You look better. You eat better. You can take that IT course you always wanted to. You can go back to college to get that Master’s degree you deserve. You can visit the Andamans. You can really invest in your own self.

12) Most important benefit of all. If you are single, you will never have to worry about being legally victimised. If there is one single argument in favor of being single, this would be it.

And no one knows this better than I do. No one.

Make no mistake about it. Stay single. Stay free.

If you’re happily married, well then, good for you.  But if you’re single and worried about it, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Get off your butt and celebrate your singleness.

And if people point fingers at you, then point just one finger back at them – your stiff, upright middle finger.

“Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.”  Jo Coudert, American author.

Cheers … Srini.

Perambulations in Puttenahalli.

Scared witless by dire warnings from medical friends about the horrifying ailments that will befall those who turn fifty, one decides to embark on a fitness drive.

Thus, clad with one ‘Reeback’ tracksuit from a roadside boutique (made as USA, assures the label), one pair of cloned Nikes, one Chinese iPod and hot walking tips from the Net, one sets off on a morning walk.  In Puttenahalli.

The walker’s website advises ‘Start with a deep breath’.  So, one goes ‘Aaaahh, Inhaaaale !’ Bad mistake. There’s an overflowing garbage bin at the corner. Gasp, choke, gag.

puttenahalli-1-2-c‘Avoid main roads’, the website further advises.  That’s easy, no main roads here. In fact, no roads here at all. There’s a huge bottomless pit where 15th Cross used to be. This bottomless pit, the notice board says, is the JNURM Underpass – that should have come up in Feb 2009. So much for the IT City.

One trips and stumbles across the debris, and ducks into a side-lane. Another bad mistake. No tar on this road. The stones slice into desi Nikes. The feet howl in protest. One takes a detour into muddy 8th Cross. Soft mud may be dirty but it doesn’t chew up your soles.

Mud doesn’t chew up soles but the local canine brigade certainly does. For sheer raw excitement in the morning, there’s nothing like five growling feral dogs charging right at you.

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One takes very quick detour into the next lane. Right. We start again.

Feel the air in your lungs, the website says. The air has a misty feel. Just like a dream sequence from Bollywood.  Gasp, choke, wheeze. Dream sequence shattered. The mist turns out to be dust from a local maid’s vigorous broom.

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Website walking tips be damned. One finally seeks refuge in the newly tarred main road.  Nice smooth tar, no dogs, no vigorous brooms, no bins. One can put in some serious walking finally.

Impact of one round object on the cranium. “Ball please!”, yell ten future Sachins, in one collective scream, from the playground across the road. One doesn’t wish to ruin the future of Indian cricket.  So one tosses ball. Which bounces back from the fence. Future of Indian cricket giggles loudly. With a mighty heave one clears the fence. And adds injury to insult as one’s ancient shoulder screams in protest.

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Now it’s one lonely man against the Elements. Dusty lungs, torn feet, aching arm, but one walks on grimly.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”  “Daari bidee Saar !”

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Entire cardiac system skips one colossal beat.  It’s the local milkman and his bovine employees. One doesn’t wish to incur the wrath of 300 crore devis and devtas that our scriptures say reside in those cows, so one makes a strategic retreat. The Gods have won.

One retires hurt to one’s pavilion, and one bows to the inevitable. One joins the local gym, for an astronomical fee. It’s expensive, it’s crowded with brash, pushy IT types, the music is loud enough waken the dead but it does have a couple of good treadmills – and it does have several nubile nymphets in clingy garments, merrily jiggling away with no concern for the laws of gravity or for an elderly bachelor’s pounding heart.

Finally, one can put in a brisk walk…and flirt a bit in the process. And maybe get oneself a nice young girlfriend. Thus filled with hope in one’s heart, one grins broadly at the nubile nymphet merrily jiggling on the next treadmill and says, “HI. Isn’t it a fine morning?”

And afore-mentioned nubile nymphet sniffs and says, “Hello, Uncle”.

Next morning – armed with one TV remote, one tunes into the aerobics show on ESPN , and firmly settles down into nearest couch.

Potatoes are good for the heart, say my medical friends.

Naturally, that includes couch potatoes.

Cheers … Srini.

The lost art of the Invitation…

dinner-party-event-invitation-television-dvr-apology-ecards-someecardsThere are two ways to invite people – the right way and the wrong way.

There is one obvious reason to invite anyone to your event – because you want him or her to attend.

But the manner in which people issue invites these days makes me feel they don’t really want me to attend their event.

There is a difference between an invitation and a notification. A notification received on Facebook or LinkedIn is a notification and nothing more. No matter how sweet and inviting the words used in your notification, it is still just an impersonal notification.

It depends on the event, you might argue. Certainly. If it’s an event meant for the general public, then by all means use FB or LinkedIn or whatever. Then don’t use a phrase like, “Please consider this my personal invitation”. If you’re inviting the general public, then generally invite the public.

And don’t expect me to attend. I am not the general public.

My point of view is quite simple really. If I am known to the host and the host knows me, I expect a personal invitation. Not a notification. A personal invitation.

The medium does not matter. Even an sms or Whatsapp addressed to me is acceptable – not welcome, but acceptable.  A telephone call is better. A letter addressed to me, still better. A personal visit will be greatly appreciated, and will guarantee my attendance. Only a natural calamity or life-threatening illness will keep me away from your event.

Be practical, you say? Don’t be an egoistic jackass, you say? This is the age of Social Media, you say? I beg to differ.

There are some things that are simply not done.

Nowadays, sending personally addressed emails to a large group is easy. There are any number of free bulk mail solutions available online. And there’s always MS Outlook. I send out one hundred personal emails every month to my clients. Most mail servers permit upto 500 emails over a 24 hour period.

Sending out printed invitations to your friends and well-wishers is almost as easy. Ask the local post office. Once in three months, I send out at least a hundred personally addressed letters to my customers, across India. It’s not a pleasant task, but I do it.

Over the year, I send out personal letters to over 1000 scientists across India. And these are people I do not know at all. But I still address them personally, because I value my customers and I need their business.

In your case, if you’re inviting a limited number of people to a personal event, you have no excuse. Since it is a personal event, it is obvious that you know your invitees personally. You invite them personally. Period.

And further, if you’re in the same city as I am, inviting me via social media is sheer blasphemy. It is a slap on my face. It is a clear message to me that I do not deserve even the courtesy of a telephone call or sms from you.

I host four social events in Bangalore, every year. I do use social media, event websites like Burrp.com and even the press, to invite the general public. But those I know personally, I invite personally. If I don’t have their postal address, I call. If I can’t call, I use Whatsapp. Or else, I try to contact them via common friends. One way or the other, I ensure that the concerned invitee gets the message from me that I would be very happy if he/she could attend my event. And most of them do.

And those I do not want to invite, I do not invite.

No matter which century it is, good manners are good manners.

I’m not a fan of the ‘good old days‘, but I do miss those days when people would take the trouble to invite me face-to-face – and not Facebook-to-Facebook.

Cheers … Srini.