Continuing with the theme for the week - personal rambling inspired by previous posts:
In my fourth term at WIMWI, I grew a beard. Well, maybe I should phrase it differently. The thing is, when you tell someone you grew a beard they have this mental picture of some sort of exotic husbandry, of facial horticulture involving pomades and lotions and a snippily wielded pair of scissors. The image it conjures up is of some gentle gardener tending, night and day, his prized rose.
What really happened was this. Two weeks into fourth term I realised that I had taken on way too much work and decided that the one activity I could definitely do without was shaving. So razor and shaving foam were duly abandoned, and my fallow cheeks were left to grow wild.
The results were not pretty. There's a scene in Wodehouse's Joy in the Morning where Bertie's Uncle has a secret meeting with some US tycoon (his name, if memory serves, is Chichester Clam) at a fancy dress ball, where said tycoon shows up disguised in a perfectly foul explosion of horsehair that he claims is a beard. Bertie's Uncle, discussing the encounter afterwards, professes scepticism as to the historical accuracy of this disguise, arguing that no King of England could possibly have had a beard like that. Posses would have been gathered, strong men would have taken to arms to root out the evil.
No one actually proposed lynching me because of my beard, but grown men (and grown men from IITM at that - who you would think would be beyond disgust by now) were known to shudder at the sight of it, and there was marked tendency for most of the female population to blanch and turn deathly pale every time I passed by .
The trouble is, this only increased my attachment to the fungus. There's something strangely satisfying about being able to creep up on an unsuspecting bystander and watch him or her cringe at the sight of your face. You can see why the Devil gets his kicks from this sort of thing. Plus there's the thrill that comes with being perversely stubborn, of course, the strange sense of power that comes from rebelling against what everyone else wants.
Beyond a point, though, the beard began to take on a personality all its own. Soon it felt like I was walking around with a face behind my beard, like some prophet proclaiming a tangled and hirsute truth. By the time the mid-terms came around, the beard had its own e-mail id (it called itself, predictably enough, the Beard of Avon), its own special circle of drunken friends, even its own political opinions. How many times that term did I sit in class listening to the beard put some random CP that I totally disagreed with? How many times did I find myself dragged to some gujju pasta place when I'd much rather have been eating aloo paratha because the beard had this thing for exotic foods? 
Dealing with the trauma of seeing your face in the mirror every morning was difficult at first.  But pretty soon it was clear to even the meanest intelligence that the scruffiness of our reflection belonged entirely to the beard. You had only to look closely to see the lines of my real face, in all its classically handsome glory (damn! I swore I would type that with a straight face) behind all the wild abandon of the beard.
By the time the term ended it had got to the point where even I no longer recognised myself. I still have a VCD of our days at WIMWI that a batchmate made for us, in which I make a three second appearance making a presentation in class. The first time I saw that clip I turned to the person sitting next to me (also a batchmate) and wanted to know who that prof was, since I didn't seem to remember taking a class with him.
My beard meanwhile, was rapidly acquiring the kind of cult status usually conferred only on B-grade slasher flicks. Those among my batchmates who were more classically inclined had taken to viewing me only with the use of a mirror, inspired, no doubt, by the exploits of Perseus. Meanwhile offers from leading museums the world over to include my humble little beard in exhibitions dealing with the macabre in contemporary art kept pouring in, and there was some talk of including my beard in a sub-clause of the latest draft of the Non Proliferation Treaty that India wouldn't sign. When I flew home to Delhi at the end of the term, my flight was delayed by half an hour while anxious police searched again and again through my baggage, convinced that no one who looked like me could possibly not be a terrorist. As for my parents - well, they were there usual forgiving, forbearing selves, though you could see them eyeing the parents of other batchmates of mine wistfully, wondering how much they would take to exchange sons for the week.
As with all great art, Love was the downfall of my masterpiece, the kryptonite by which I was undone. I had every intention, when I went back home, of continuing to allow my beard its full and free expression, dreaming that someday my facial hair might be listed among the key crops of India, somewhere down there between saffron and banana nut. Except that my then girlfriend, in a move that would make Jeeves nod sagely, decreed that she would have nothing more to do with me unless I shaved the monstrosity off. (I am no longer with this woman, incidentally - how can you continue to date someone who won't allow for your personal growth?). It was a tough decision, but I figured I could always grow the beard back once the relationship had come to its inevitable end, but no woman was ever going to be stupid enough to date me again, so the beard had to go. At the time I saw it as a bold, desperate gesture, not unlike Van Gogh's in cutting off his ear, though maturer reflection has shown the the true cowardice of the deed.
Since then, every time the moon is full or Gillette comes out with 'the revolutionary new concept in shaving' (I mean seriously, what are they up to now - 12 blade razors or something?), I think about growing my beard back. The trouble is, I'm worried about how Bush and Co. will respond. They might decide I'm using my beard to hide WMDs. I don't want to wake up one morning and have to comb Marines out of my beard.
Ah well, I guess I'll just have to go on shaving. Think of it as my personal contribution to World Peace (Stockholm, are you listening?).
 And these were facchis (freshers) too - people I'd never spoken a word to - so it wasn't about my personality.
 Okay, okay, so I've been reading too much Gogol. So shoot me. But only after you challenge me to a duel.
 Plus there was that inexplicably repeated nightmare about having my throat eaten away by a hedgehog.
Categories: Personal, Humour