Macam Biasa
October 24, 2007

The great Greek philosopher, Heraclitus once said "You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you."

Nor was the quote at the back of my head neither do I get a word of it. I wanted to write about 'changes' and thought starting with a quote would be sweet. So I plugged the term into Wikiquote and voila, a sleek point of view from a Greek philosopher with a funny name.

As far as I could remember, I've been getting my haircuts at the neighborhood Indian barbershops. From the days when I'll be sitting on a stool on top of the barber chair with my dad getting a haircut beside me, to the days when I'll drive to the barbershop on my own with my dad needing no mending of his hair... as he had none.

Throughout the years, nothing but the price changed.

The sight:

Barbers will always have the best hairdos. Walk into any local barbershop and you'll never be greeted by a lad sporting a Don King. They will always stay at the helm of the shiniest or best-permed hair in town; every inch shaped to perfection. Barbers, they are the exact opposite of fortune tellers who tell fortunes for a living.

And the sound:

It never mattered at all that I don't know a word of Tamil... I've grown to getting used to getting a haircut while listening to RTM Radio 6 (Minnal FM nowadays). It's a phenomenon I can't quite explain. Let's just say a haircut is to Tamil radio what Ben Affleck is to Matt Damon. I suppose.

Above all, it's the hospitality that has never really changed at all. I've always felt welcomed whenever I set foot into their sub-zero temperature shops. There's that Cheers 'Where everybody knows your name' vibe to the place. I used to meet up with my schoolmates at the barbershop a lot back in the day.

Most importantly, they never make you wait. Should all the barbers are busy working, one will attend to you as soon as he's done with his customer. Even if you do have to wait, there's always a copy of Cosmo magazine from a year or two ago laying around to keep you company. 'Turning her on...' in '95 will still be good in '05.

When I started working though, there was this realization that managed to creep into my head, somehow. I didn't want to go to these barbershops anymore. There was this sudden urge for that Supercuts/Great Clips professionally trained 'hair-stylist' treatment; at the very least. Then maybe once in a while, a visit to Thomas and Guys wouldn't hurt. In short, I wanted to be Ross Geller.

Consequently, I tried a nearby unisex salon or more elegantly termed, coiffure; as preferred by their hairstylists. The minute I set afoot their welcome mat and take a glance around the place, I felt as awkward as a stripper at a baby shower. I just did not belong. Surrounding me were the entire cast of the Disney Channel's Cheetah Girls and the only thing that gave me a sense of comfort were the pictures of hairstyles for men on the wall.

The chairs and mirrors weren't that different from what I'm used to. The hairstylists though, were a bit, how do I put it... peculiar. Well, maybe not to most but I'm not used to hanging out with people resembling Project Runway contestants. And the number of questions they ask you before they actually start cutting your hair; I may land myself a job there without noticing it after answering them.

At the end of the day (literally maybe, took them quite a while), I can safely say that I did get the Supercuts treatment that I wanted. Only to realize that while it may be what I wanted, I was definitely not what I needed. All I will ever need is the old school, traditional, cut to the chase, Indian barbershop treatment for the middle class working man in me.

And to Siva Barbershop I went a few months after my coiffure experience. No question asked as upon seating on the chair, I only had to mutter three words, "Macam biasa cha..."

Bet he understood what I meant as much as I understood that Heraclitus quote.

Gendut Remaja
October 01, 2007

As much as I watch SportsCenter religiously, I'm bad at sports; all of them.

OK, not all sports as I am to Winning Eleven what Maradona is to football. A gift. Just ask my cousin. It's not everyday that you lose, using a full strength Brazil, to a 7-men Argentina; thanks to a superbly orchestrated last minute diving header.

Nevertheless, take the controller away from me and I'm Batman without Robin, Peter Griffin without Brian, Chelsea without Jose or even Joey without his other Friends. You know, still cool and all, but lacking that other half to make me super cool. And not being super cool is already bad in my book, as an overachiever.

As I was saying, I'm so bad at sports I make Kournikova look like Navratilova.

In the beginning however, it wasn't all that bad. When I was in standard two, I got second place in this telematch thing at school. A year later I won silver and bronze in 100m freestyle and handball respectively. And I did make it to the school football team.

But that was it and I was 9. Forward 15 years and those three really dusty medals are all I have as far as my athletic achievements go. As they say though, the worst athletes make the best fans. Thank God there's Mazree who's as inept as any football player can be; making me look ‘not too bad' on the pitch.

My lower secondary years were the most exciting period though. If Milan has its Rossoneri and Nerrazurri, Subang Jaya has its Tempoyak and Asam.

Yes, those are the actual names of the football club that the bunch of us founded, back when we were mere 15-year old Alan Shearer worshippers. Asam got their name from the tamarind trees around their field and as for Tempoyak, let's just say kids back then were into random nonsense. Clad in red, I was Tempoyak's right back.. aptly as I can't kick jack shit with my left leg. And on the pitch, I was always that very, very average player. While others were being coined the next Romario, Baggio, Maldini et al, I was glorified as the next Mark Pembridge. You read it right, Toffee and Welsh legend Mark Anthony Pembridge. My mediocrity couldn't be highlighted any clearer.

But it was all good though. Waking up at 8am on Saturdays before cycling to the field to face off with your friends was always a joy. I still keep the red Le Coq jersey with number 34 at the back. Somehow, I thought it'd be sweet to have a non-conventional football number to look cool. Well, that and all the better numbers were already taken by the better players.

Today, I try to revive those Saturday mornings every Friday evening. After coming home from work, I'll try to have dinner as early as possible to allow ample time for food digestion. And by 10pm or so, I'll hit the open air futsal court in Bangi to go head to head with my school friends. It is the only thing (apart from the City games on TV) that I look forward to every week. But to think that my highlight of the week is two hours on the pitch with 11 really sweaty guys is a bit strange.

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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