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Beautifully Different

The corrugated tin eaves at the corner of the roof had turned into a jetting spout, as collecting rainwater splashed down on the street below. I watched them collect the water in little clear plastic bags. They would then upend them over their heads all in one go. Their careless laughter was somewhat muted, indistinct behind the constant battering of the rain, but they carried just enough to reach my balcony.

They'd taken off their clothes, with all the audacity of street children, uncaring to watching eyes. The mud that splattered them wasn't long on their skin before being washed off. This part of town or at least the part of town on the other side of the street, where the slums and shantytowns started was starved of running water. Some of the kids, while playing, were keeping watchful eyes on tin and plastic buckets, left gaping out on the open streets to collect rainwater. Some had opened their mouths to the sky, their gaping maws disturbingly similar to the buckets.

At some point I think they left, at some point I think, when the rain had slowed down a little, and the jetting eave had lost its vigour, I think they left. The hand that gripped the railing of the veranda was wet, rust-stains from the wet steel marring the lines of my palm. The smell of disturbed dirt that always came after rain was slowly filling the air.

I moved away, the soles of my feet making a soft sucking sound as they came off the marble floor, too long in one spot had them stuck. The tingling feeling told me the blood had slowed in my veins. Somehow I didn't mind that sensation. It felt as if I was on new legs, unfamiliar steps, slow, making the simple exercise of crossing the threshold into my room so achingly dissimilar. Beautifully different.

I had left the fan on, inside my room. Its repetitive swishing absorbed the silence that blanketed the rest of the house. It almost gave off a feeling of life, that mindless spinning. If things moved they were alive, weren't they?

The thought of the children playing, haunted me as I settled myself into the recesses of my bed. Their unrestrained joy. I tried to remember when I last felt such unmitigated joy. I'm almost certain that there were instances when I truly laughed and when I truly felt happy, almost certain, but the faded memories that I can call to mind seem fictional at best. Nostalgia that I have grown to doubt. These days I find meaning in all the little things I never understood then. It took the edge off any good memory. I felt slightly guilty doing it, picking my good memories apart.

With remembered instances in mind I went to sleep.

By the time I woke up the blanket had managed to shift in its entirety to the region of my feet. When I got up and put my un-blanketed feet on the floor the cool touch sent up a gentle twitch. It felt good.

Looking out the window I noticed the soft hints of dark purple spreading across the sky. A whole day gone. I made a beeline to the bathroom and was greeted by the sight I normally avoid. The mirror above the bathroom sink.

I looked at myself today. At the slack cheeks and somewhat pinched mouth, the eyes that strained against the bright light bulb that hung above the mirror. It was like looking at a familiar stranger you can't quite place. I tried to connect the mind behind that slightly frowning brow to the face that was still intently, almost rudely staring. I failed. So I left it at that. A different face. A novelty of sleeping a lot I think.

Coming back to my empty room I found the fading light from the open door to the veranda, the swishing fan and the gloom surrounding the furniture all slightly contrived. Like a movie I'd seen so many times that every line seemed out of place. Made fake by familiarity.

But the children hadn't been fake. They had laughed and they had meant it. There were no insinuations I could add to this, no hidden meaning. This memory was untainted. It was uncaring of me, and somehow unselfconscious. This memory didn't care what I thought of it. It refused to change or fade.

I stood there, just outside my bathroom, not quite inside my bedroom, the water slowly drying on my face, and decided that I wanted that simplicity. If at least for a day.

But where?
It took me an hour to make it out of the house, an hour to convince myself but it was an hour well spent.

The rain had changed the city, if only temporarily. The wet quality of concrete, that discoloration that painted apartments have after a good soaking was soothing to my eyes. I noticed the muted colours more, and in some cases, the colours themselves because the coating of dust and grime had been washed away. It felt good. It felt new and I liked it.

I walked. The rain had driven the people away. I noticed the sidewalks. I tripped over a pothole, soaking one of my pant legs, and apologised. Out loud to a pothole. I laughed when I realised what I had done.

I passed shops that were empty and I think I truly saw them for the first time. Empty of customers and commerce, I noticed the dead quality of their fluorescent interiors, the bright veneer of the wares that quickly resolved to become only colours without shape or meaning. I realised I hated shops a little. It detracted from the general careless attitude that had overtaken me this evening but only just. It didn't much matter.

I ended up at a small, out of the way eatery; the kind that only sells one or two types of food. Shwarma and the less exotic chotpoti. It had the empty quality to it too. I got the feeling the place was very rarely without customers. The empty tables and chairs, all of it seemed surreal for the absence of people. I had the place to myself.

I ordered and listened to the quiet banter between the single waiter and the man at the cash till. I didn't really care about what they were saying. I focused on the food and listened to the sound of their voices. It was different and it was lonely, but it was nice.

There was nothing particularly great about the food or the fact that I was out for a bite. The act itself, though trivial and everyday, was simple and uncomplicated. Where do you go for change?

Well I suppose you could go get a bite.

By Tareq Adnan

Get Great Hair - A Conditional Offer

Women are generally well known for using useless stuff that only end up making a worthless dent in their wallets/purses. How exactly do you differentiate between an expensive brand of makeup (ineffective in itself) and a cheaper one? What rational reason would you have to wear the most uncomfortable but ultra-expensive pair of shoes ever made? Probably the most useless “care” product is hair conditioner. Guys should listen in too since they are also blatantly consuming this hollow product.

Researchers at the Ohio State University have just completed what is claimed to be the most comprehensive study of hair ever conducted. This moronic use of research funds can also be contributed to women and their urge to have perfect flowing hair even though the rest of their face looks like a “baboon's backside”. Apparently women's looks are far more important than developing alternative fossil fuels or finding ways to tackle climate change.

In the study, the researchers found that the primary cause of bad hair is friction at a microscopic level between the strands. What conditioners aim to do is to cover these gaps with a viscous fluid that reduces friction. Problem is regular conditioners don't even cover 1/3 of the hair from the top. No matter how much you rinse and tug and tear out your hair in the bath, you can't get even half the coverage.

Few products make the bold, imaginative, and highly delusional claims that shampoos and conditioners do. Any hair product company that wants to stay in the market describes mystical powers that can revitalise, energise, volumise, and therapise your hair (and the last two aren't even real words). Reduced hair fall in seven days? Hah. The only thing that'll be reduced is your spending power after you dump all your monthly earnings on these stupid products.

If any of you have ever had elementary Biology, you'll know that hair is nothing but a big black pile of dead cells. So tell me, how exactly does a shampoo or a conditioner “revitalise” a DEAD cell? Shouldn't “revitalise” be changed to “reanimate”? If the esteemed scientists have found a way to kick start dead cells, shouldn't they share the knowledge with us so we can use it for other, more important purposes, say, like in medicine? It's easy to make claims, another thing to prove them. Since there is no regulatory board like the Food and Drug Administration to analyse these claims, you shouldn't buy shampoo and conditioner. Period.

Some shampoos boast that they protect hair from ultraviolet rays. This typically means that the manufacturer has added a UV-protective ingredient, which you'll only end up rinsing down the drain, and which isn't present in strong enough concentrations to have an effect in the first place. The truth of the matter is that shampoo provides a rather straightforward hair-cleaning service. It does ABSOLUTELY nothing else, it doesn't strengthen anything, it doesn't revitalise, and it's basically a useless pile of coloured goo that you rinse through your hair hoping it'll work.

Which brings us to why hordes of women are so intent on proving conditioners and shampoos work, and why they almost certainly will continue using them in the future - womenfolk are terribly conscious of their looks and can't stand it if someone tells them they don't look any better after using cosmetics and care products. It's kind of like why men won't let go of their musical instruments, cars or sporting equipment: it makes them feel secure about their manliness. You might ask, what about the men who use conditioner on regular basis? Well, consider this - the only reason men dress up nicely and try and look good is to impress women. How are women impressed? - When they see a man who takes care of himself as much as they do. Since the point behind men using hair care products is to attain a much higher level of manliness (i.e. having a girlfriend), it's all forgiven. We, however, are NOT impressed by women going out of their way and spending insane amounts of money to look just slightly better.

By Shaer Sunsulk Reaz


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