As I tramped wearily from the train station to my apartment complex this evening I was pounced upon by the Manager of the condominium in which I live.
Not literally – Mr. Tan is far too polite for such a thing – but he appeared as he often does – as if from nowhere.
I had not yet even entered the driveway when he materialized and bounded towards me. I was very tired after a long day in the office - battling with the cursed English - and I wasn't really in the mood for a protracted conversation.
"Good Evening Mr. Peter" he said.
"Good Evening Mr. Tan" I replied.
“You are bald Mr. Peter,” he observed.
“I am Mr. Tan”
Singaporean politeness prevented Mr. Tan from enquiring any further but I could tell by both his facial expression and the fact that he was hopping around a little on the spot that he was itching to know why I was now hairless.
Yesterday I had a full head of curly black – OK greying black – luscious hair.
OK – fuck it - not so luscious, but hair nevertheless
I have known Mr. Tan for many years now and I can read him well.
I simply couldn’t be bothered explaining my sudden baldness.
I had been doing it all day.
We walked together to the Security hut and the two very smartly dressed guards whose names are Raj and Raj gave Mr. Tan and I very elaborate salutes. As is usual - I felt obliged to return them. My father was a career officer in the Australian army so I learned how to salute from a very early age.
I salute well.
Both of the security guards are Indian chaps - from the sub-continent.
They are not the North American type of Indians.
They are incredibly nice men who are obsessive saluters. I have begged, implored and even at one stage ordered them to stop saluting me but all to no avail.
I now simply accept it.
“At ease boys” I commanded.
It is the only way I can get them to cease their salutes.
“Good be gidday Mr. Peter you are being balded sir,” one of the Raj stated.
I have been teaching the Raj the Australian language and they have embraced it enthusiastically.
“I have indeed been balded Raj” I replied.
“Why is it Mr. cobbler sir that your finest head of most curliest hair has been balded off?” the other Raj enquired
I could sense Mr. Tan leaning in to hear the answer.
“It was a charity thing Raj called Hair for Hope”
“But you are being hope Mr. Peter sir”
“I am Hep Raj” I retorted
I am Hep.
I have told both Raj and Mr. Tan as well in fact to refer to me thus. All my friends do. My surname is a long and complex one and it has been abbreviated to Hep all my life. Australians abbreviate long names and give each other nicknames. We commonly add an ‘o’ to a name as well so ‘Dave’ becomes ‘Davo’ and ‘Steve’ ‘Stevo’ – and so on.
It is what we do.
“Hair for Hope Raj. Not Hep. It is a charity to support kids with cancer”
This bizarrely but not unsurprisingly triggered salutes from both Raj and I had to once again command them both to stand at ease.
I did this firmly but gently.
Both Raj have splendid beards and they wear turbans. They are Sikhs and are Punjabi.
Virtually every male Sikh has the surname 'Singh'. Female's mostly have the surname 'Kaur'. This means "Princess".
I have discussed with the Raj the splendor of the Harmandir Sahib Gurudawara in Amrisar in India. They know that I have been there before and that I think that it is very beautiful. The Harmandir Sahib Gurudawara in Amrisar is Golden in color and its architecture is splendid. I have also been to the Gurudawara that the Raj attend here in Singapore.
It is in Katong.
A Gurudawara is a Sikh Temple.
It is a place of worship.
I told Raj and Raj that I thought that the Dasta they were wearing today were splendid and they beamed and saluted again.
I have no-one to blame for myself for that one.
The Dasta is a Sikh name for a turban. Sikh males are prohibited to cut their hair – so I suspected that my balding would be slightly abhorrent to them. The Dasta keeps the Sikh’s hair bundled and covered but it is also symbolic. It portrays the very strong values and virtues of the Sikh faith. Amongst these are honour, morality and courage. The Sikh people have a strong set of moral values and ethics. They do not drink alcohol or engage in vulgarities. Historically they have been a warrior people.
They are fighters.
They were much persecuted throughout their history.
I have previously informed Raj and Raj that I had once attended an event of Pag Vatauni here in Singapore with two of my Indian friends. This is a Punjabi Sikh thing where two Sikh friends swap turbans. Pag Vatauni is a pledge and declaration of their friendship for life. It is a bonding and they become Best Friends Forever.
I thought that the ceremony and the symbolism of the Pag Vatauni I attended was very beautiful and I may have even shed a tear. If I was a Sikh I would do a Pag Vatauni with my best mate Berty for he is my BFF.
I think both Raj enjoy that I knew a little of their faith. We often talk about karma - which is very big in the Sikh world. I was beginning to explain how I thought my balding was good karma as well as a fund raising and awareness thing for the Hair for Hope Foundation when my Danish neighbor and nemesis - the crazy fucker Jens - roared up the driveway on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He came to a stop where Mr. Tan, the new Security guards and I were standing. He was wearing his ridiculous motorcycle helmet with the two horns stuck on it.
"How is de modderfokker skippy unt ver is de hair all gone?" he roared at me.
"I am quite alright thank you Jens" I replied.
"You look fatter, more foolish and even uglier than you normally do." I added.
I ignored his observation of my hairless head and he simply tossed back his head and laughed insanely.
The man is a nut.
"I hope that Jens has not been giving you shit? " I asked of the Guards.
"His personal hygiene is disgusting and I believe he is still the culprit in the shitting in the swimming pool incident"
This is true. A very large floater was found in our pool a couple of years ago and I firmly believe that the crazy fucker Jens was responsible
"I will rip you fokker face off Kangaroo man,” Jens screamed at me.
Both Raj took a step forward toward the Dane and I held them back with a flick of my hand. Jens looked suddenly nervous and a bit sheepish.
"Be careful of such threats you make you insane Dane" I replied.
"Remember I know an KGB Russian killer who has volunteered to come and stab you in the eye with an icepick"
This is also true. I do know a huge, very hairy and heavily tattooed Russian gangster named Vlad who has told me that he hates Danes. He told me that he despises all Scandinavians in fact. He has apparently also killed several people before - in Russia. Not Singapore.
Vlad has informed me that his preferred method of killing people is to use an icepick to stab them in the eye. When I told him about my lunatic neighbor Dane Jens he immediately volunteered to 'Keel zee Danish peeg" for me. I thanked him for the offer but told him that it wouldn't be necessary.
I don't want Jens dead.
Not yet anyway.
"Fook de Russian and you too Skippy" Jens yelled as he revved up his Harley and then he tore down the driveway to the basement car park.
I noticed that Mr. Tan had surreptitiously disappeared during this conversation with Jens. He quietly slipped away.
Mr. Tan is afraid of Jens.
I am a bit too sometimes but he mostly just amuses me. Also when push comes to shove I can certainly run faster than the fat slob so I can run away.
I am quite sure too that the Raj would defend me stoically should Jens suddenly snap at my jibes and choose to attack.
I don’t think he would though.
He is a big Danish pussycat.
"That man is a very sick puppy". I once again said to Raj and Raj.
"He has no honor and you should continue to watch him carefully,” I advised.
"He is not Sikh" one of the Raj's declared and he looked very concerned.
"No 'sick' not Sikh" I laughed.
"He is mentally ill"
"Jens is a deranged lunatic and you should not hesitate in shooting him if he causes you any trouble" I added
"We are not being allowed to be shooting peoples and are being having no guns" the other Raj replied.
He looked very serious and earnest.
Both Raj did in fact.
"I know" I replied.
"I was only joking about the shooting bit - but the man is potentially very dangerous and you need to be wary of him. He has made many threats to harm me"
"We shall be protecting you at all times Mr. Peter" the other Mr. Singh declared.
I think that they will too. Sikh's are brave and honourable and Raj and Raj are both very big Punjabi boys. They are a massive improvement on the previous dopey guards that we used to have.
I bid the two men good evening and I could feel their salutes at my back as I retreated to the lobby lift to go to my apartment.
On the walk to the lift I ran my head across my bald scalp. It feels weird but I am sure that I will get used to it rather quickly.
I raised a fair bit of money for the Hair for Hope charity by getting people to sponsor me.
I hassled and bullied for sponsors.
I did most of my hassling and bullying electronically – as one does nowadays. A couple of emails informing colleagues and ex-colleagues and friends that I was to be involved in a balding for kids with cancer quickly raised several thousand dollars.
Most of my sponsors are kind people with good hearts but a few thought that my balding was going to be a form of humiliation. They believed that removing my hair would somehow belittle and embarrass me.
Such people don’t know me all that well.
I am well aware that our hair does not define who we are.
Bald or hairy I am who I am and a balding – it is child’s play compared to the suffering that a parent must endure when their child has cancer.
A balding is nothing in comparison.
It is fuck all.