When i was young, well younger… the 4 most dreaded words in my life were “You need a Haircut” . This would invariably be preceded by vicious tug on the guilty part and followed by an even more vicious clucking that would put to shame the alpha cock in most poultry farms.
Let me step back and talk about how this barber industry has progressed in my mind..
Long ago, and I mean loooong ago, the barber would visit homes. Apparently during these medevial times, he would cut the hair of his customers in the back yard of the customer’s home itself. Talk about home service.. His fee would be 1 or 2 Rs if lucky or a bellyful of food and coconuts from the yard.
I remember one such episode when we were staying in Trivandrum. I was seated on a chair all weepy and hating the world for conspiring against my lovely tresses, and this thin reedy dark gentleman compunded the fear by standing 2 feet away from me and sharpening his scissors and blades. I still remember the sound of the blade being sharpened.
Going to the barber shop then slowly became a father son thingy.. Appa would take me to the barbers, and specify sternly what to do. The barber would ignore and cut my hair the way he wanted to. Remember this was way before hair and styling were being used together. The only styles you had back then were long , short or Amitabh Bachchan… Appa would pay as if it were the most accurate rendition of what he had hitherto detailed to the barber.. Cost – 5 – 7 Rs.
Fast forward to the teenage years. It was important to look good. I was foolish enough to think that a mane ,rich and luxurious was enough to hide the hideous body fat that I carried around. Therefore I would splurge on good haircuts- 30 Rs. Our barber shops slowly started becoming more welcoming. There were fans all around, huge mirrors, music ( bollywood only please). The barber was still the obnoxious character of old. Its as if the trade of not smiling and listening to you was passed on as a trade secret. Barber shops become hubs of discussion, where people would flock to just talk about the political scenarios currently affecting our country. His tools became modern. I just loved the one machine which would be gloved onto the hand and would vibrate at the flick of a switch. He would then run this hand over your hair and finally into your ears.. Ufff. that was bliss..
Fast forward again.. friends started losing hair naturally without having to visit the barber ever so much ( friends not me ofcourse). The barber shops morphed into something more of a service salon. It was not longer simple to visit a barber and ask for a haircut. You needed to know what exactly you required. The first time I visited a salon, my hair was examined by no less than 3 people. They tut tutted and clucked , putting to shame my father in the earlier avatar. I was half expecting a refusal to cut my hair from their side. Then the bombardment started, ” Sir, your follicles are weak ” – The whats weak, didnt know them things. Is it serious? Sir, you have no clue, we need to start the treatment immediately. I quickly succumbed to an attack of the shampoos and gels and it felt awesome… till i saw the bill… 750 Rs. Hair follicles be damned…
Today, the cleverer , more mature me goes to the salon and asks to be trimmed, never cut, no damn treatments, a wash after wards and thats it.. My haircut costs me around a 200 Rs every time. The salon is air conditioned and has products from france that I can never hope to pronounce, so I stay away from it. My barber is a pimply faced youth who keeps his mouth shut and does his job. There is an LCD tv showing news channels playing all the time. I am Offered tea and coffee during the hair cut. The artist divides my head into zones and cuts my hair. Techniques are tried out , looks are styled and god knows what else, I come out looking more or less the same.
To me , getting a hair cut is an hour away from it all. Its about sinking into the chair and sleeping and not knowing what you are going to look like at the end of the hour. Its one hour away from the internet, the phones, from everything. Its about coming out of the barber shop and feeling nice and light. After all, one thing that we all need to be proud of and happy about…. we still have hair to cut..