THE BEARD, THE CHEESE, THE DATE

There is an element of trouble involved in many beards. I am not talking about people for whom religion makes it mandatory that they keep one. But those for whom it’s a matter of choice, the world turns slightly complicated when they allow nature to take over their faces; coz a beard brings on many troubles.

You don’t realize that at first for it’s a foxy thing. It doesn’t attack you all at once, so that its iniquities hit you with a force, you get irritated and shave it off. No, its manners are too silken for that. But if you get taken in by them, lord save you, for it has got a black soul.

One must credit it with one virtue though: it knows its job well. It grows along its chosen grounds slowly and surely like a harmless weed, and is gracious in the beginning. Run your palms along it and it gives you a nice, soft feeling, and well you still look kind of gentlemanly, so there’s not much to worry about.

Then you move on to the second stage. Which is when you first start getting the indication that all’s not well; you peer into the mirror one morning and find it has had the cheek to make you look the way Pratim looked a week after his first heartbreak.

Pratim – my best friend till I met Shazia – since then had many heartbreaks, and mourned them equally badly, but he’s never looked worse than when Raina first left him to do a B.S. in physics at Cornell. I told him then hadn’t I warned him so beforehand – I always thought Raina loved physics more than him, and the lure of going to U.S more than physics. But he disregarded my advice and went on to love her deeply. The depth of his love resulted in him going around for a month after Raina’s departure, looking more wooden than Pinocchio.

He’s learnt since then. He still feels as much, but doesn’t let his feelings interfere with his physical appearance, and the last time he was jilted, he managed to stay as dapper as ever afterwards. I guess one improves in that sphere with each heartbreak.

That’s when the itching starts too – when you start looking like a cross between a Hamlet sans Ophelia, and Pratim. But the worse is still to come.

One day your cousin’s two year old son Bittu, whom you were fond of and who in return thought you a capital fellow, refuses to let you pick him up, and fights with you savagely when you attempt that act in spite of his disinclination. Getting a look of faint disgust after you have eaten humble pie – his bawling has forced his mother to intervene with an apologetic look that plainly says buzz off – you retreat displeased with Bittu and wonder what has brought down your equity with him; he thought you sweet enough before and weren’t you always considered kid savvy. Nothing has told you till now that you aren’t the real culprit, and you will continue in this blissless ignorance till the moment you take Vishakha on a date.

Vishakha is not the best person to take on a date when you have a beard. She is not the best person to take on a date even otherwise, but with a beard on she’s positively detrimental for your ego. And if you want your date to end in a disaster, you should complement her presence with a trip to the nearest fast-food joint and eat burghers.

Have you ever tried to eat a large sized burgher with an untrimmed beard trying its best to corner a portion of it? If you haven’t, you should try once. Actually perhaps I am being too hard on the beard. It’s not that greedy. It has no affinity towards bread, tomatoes, cabbages or those other odds and ends found in a burgher. It lets you pass them on to your mouth without much ado – just feels them a bit, that’s all.

The problem comes with the cheese. It loves cheese. I know you love cheese too, but it loves cheese even more than you do. A battle is inevitable then. But prepare to lose. For however hard you try you can’t escape its covetous strands licking of your cheese from under your nose, and long before you are through with the burgher, it is through with half your cheese. Call that a hyperbole if you wish, but it’s no hyperbole to claim that at the end of it all, for all your ploys, you will find it has won the war and is basking all over in cheesy glory. Trying to clean it off with a tissue paper now will seem akin to pulling the winner down from the victory stand; it will refuse to shed its borrowed glory and you might have to tug at it real hard to bring it down from its golden heights.

You might now ask where does Vishakha come in all this. That is because all this while you have been so preoccupied in fighting with your beard that you have half forgotten about her. You haven’t noticed her snickering at your antics either. However after having lost the battle, when you finally have some attention to spare for your date, you might notice that she’s been laughing!

Vishakha is not one what might call a perspicacious person. She, you later discover, is also all-embracing in her choice of laughs… very eclectic. Give her anything to laugh at and she won’t disappoint you. Give her yourself to laugh at and she will exceed your expectations. She does exceed your expectations once she catches your eyes. She exceeds your expectations so much that people at other table begin to wonder whether you are the funniest man alive. You certainly are not the funniest man alive. In fact you are feeling far from funny, but of course Vishakha is not a perspicacious person. At this tragic moment you remember the dictum “the world will laugh at you if you can’t laugh at yourself”, and having no other choice you follow it. You join Vishakha and you two have a hearty laugh together while you keep wondering why do girls always have to get the best bargains: no beards and free burghers, with free entertainment thrown in for a good measure too.

After this bout of entertainment, Vishakha wants a milkshake. So you bring a milkshake for her and a cola for yourself. Looking into the future, you then wish you had been lovers who loved looking into each other’s eyes. That would have ensured you sat on opposite sides of the table.

As it is you are sitting next to each other, which is not the best arrangement if you have a beard. For if you have a beard it will itch. And when it itches, you will lift your left hand to scratch it. And when you do that it is guaranteed that your elbow will topple your cola right onto the right thigh of your date, who won’t like it at all. That’s what precisely happens.

So while you have had your revenge, you are not pretending to feel funny anymore. Vishakha is not feeling funny either – her ability to laugh widely excludes herself. And when Vishakha is not feeling funny, one can imagine how unfunny the situation is. That’s how the evening ends: very unfunny. All thanks to your beard because it wanted a little cheese.

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