A Stylist, an Artist, & a Trainer
Big lesson of a small kind…
This is a simple story of three folks I know. They are different from each other. There is only one common thing they share. Me. My rendezvous with them lasts for about an hour. It’s monthly with the first one, weekly with the second one, and tri-weekly with the third one. One grooms me; one mellows me; one pumps me.
Monthly: I have been going to Neda’s salon for seven years. Every fourth rolling Saturday at 12:45 pm. My calendar is blocked six months in advance. It’s a cut & color deal, the entire ordeal takes a little over an hour. I keep talking and joking about my receding life and hairline; she keeps listening, laughing, and reassuring me that I have a great crop of mane for a person my age. She doesn’t gossip back. Which is comforting. It’s an assurance that my secrets are safe with her. Because by now she knows a lot about me, perhaps even a trick or two on the business strategy of Cybage. I keep giving her business tips as well, but she is closed to my advice. For instance, she has two chairs in her salon but discounts my recommendation to get a partner or an employee to operate the second chair. She believes her quality will be compromised if she scales her business.
Neda has a no-nonsense approach towards her profession. So much so that not only do her customers have to book slots way in advance, they need to reach on the dot as well. The hot chair in front of the mirror is emptily waiting for me every time I walk in. If I am late by as much as five minutes, I get a nagging call from her assistant. And if the delay exceeds fifteen minutes? I haven’t had the courage to try that. The planning of my schedule around her appointment day/time is a little stressful. And I can certainly do with lesser stress in my life. The truth is that my thin-greying hair doesn’t even warrant a professional stylist. There has to be a reason why no one other than Neda has touched my hair in so many years.
Weekly: Guruji’s scheduled hour starts at 11:00 am on Sunday. However, the time is only indicative; he is not punctual. It’s not his fault. He goes to two more places before he comes to me. Depending on the timekeeping exercised by the other two, his arrival time fluctuates wildly. From my side, all the accessories are set in their appropriate position by 10:00 am—mattress, harmonium, electronic tabla, even my kettle of hot tea to sip through the session. My professional enthusiasm is commendable; unfortunately, my preparation is better than my execution. But Guruji doesn’t let me feel that way. He encourages me to a point that I am often under a delusion that I sing better than him. He is also served tea at the beginning of the session but he lets it go cold. His sipping happens only in between the ragas. The break time is his opportunity to tell me about his life and that of his other students. I never tell him anything. The way he opens up, I am afraid that my secrets may not be safe with him.
Every now and then, I end up missing my singing class because of a weekend plan. Guruji pesters me to make it up on an alternate day. But he has an hour-long scooter drive to my place. I don’t like inconveniencing him, though from his side he doesn’t mind obliging as he has very few students. Classical singing is a dying art. Ideally, Guruji should start an intake of students who are more mainstream. But he believes Bollywood music is not real music, it’s for amateurs with no appreciation of soul music. He forgets that I am an amateur as well. There are days when ragas get too much, and I want to run away. Except, I will never run away. It will leave a vacuum that I won’t be able to refill.
Tri-weekly: Kavi has been coming to my home gym three mornings a week. My weight training routine lasts about an hour starting at 8 am. The focus is a different body part each time. Abs are often the center of attention. I don’t want a six pack, I just want to get rid of the protruding ugliness straining my shirt buttons. Kavi tells me that it isn’t bad at all, that I have the fittest body of anyone my age. I don’t listen to him. A loud MTV channel rolls during my workouts to ensure that the conversation is kept to a minimum. This keeps Kavi busy between routines while I work on my laptop. Both of us know very little about each other. Like he knows how much he can push me, and I know he is struggling professionally. The demand-supply mismatch has made it unviable for trainers to pursue a full-time profession. For this reason, Kavi is a part-time DJ and a good one at that. Unfortunately, the market for DJs is equally tough. I have tried evangelizing his reference in my social circles but have been unsuccessful.
Kavi never slips up on his morning appointment time, even on days when he has wrapped up his DJing very late the previous night. To further complicate his life, I often do last-minute swaps between cardio and weight-training days depending on my mood. But he is accommodating. At times, I feel that training me is the most constant factor in Kavi’s life. He feels happy when I push hard, unhappy when I bunk. But in spite of his best attempts, it is unfortunate that my eating habits and slowing metabolism seems to have plateaued my body. I am often advised that changing my trainer may break the stagnation and invigorate my body. I advise my advisors to mind their own business.
Three breeds, three worlds. Neda is a mom, Guruji is a grandfather, Kavi is a bachelor. Neda is a good listener, Guruji is a good talker, Kavi is neither. Neda is inflexible with her appointments, Guruji is unreliable, Kavi works around my convenience. Neda is content, Guruji is a survivor, Kavi has aspirations.
All three disparate, yet my attachment is identical. It’s uncanny. For I am inherently unsentimental when it comes to professional affiliations. I can’t afford to, I am entrenched in an attrition-prevalent industry. In fact, I believe a healthy churn of employees and customers is a pivotal prerequisite for building a successful enterprise. However, I am not willing to extend this ‘churn’ applicability to the characters of my story.
Why? Is it because they flatter me well? Or do they? For sycophancy comes in random flavors. But their ‘flattery’ is focused – Nidha compliments only my hair, Guruji only my singing, and Kavi only my body. You see, they are not complimenting me—their adulation is for their own work of art! It’s not their attendance, it’s their wholesome presence that has locked me in. For them, I am a project, their center of universe when they are with me. Evidence? I have never heard their mobile ring in all these years. And it’s fascinating to be somebody’s center of universe for an hour. A customer service personification at its incredible best…