FYI: ‘Barabar’ is a Hindi word, when translated literally in English means ‘Correct’. I just confirmed that with my colleague, and YES, we have less work in the office nowadays.
This post is for the guys who have gone through the dilemma of finding a trustworthy barber outside of our small state.
While in hostel days in Dehradun, we used to have an in-campus barber who was old, bitter and grumpy. Considering the fact that he had a steady job, one would expect him to be a bit more chirpy. Haircut-Inspections were something that occurred frequently. So on the eve of one such, there would be a long line outside his small shop while he (Yes, there was just one barber for the 250-odd inhabitants of the campus!) hurriedly ran the electric cutter from “tukhum-to-tukhum” (tukhum:Backside of the skull!), snipped a bit on the top and front, shove you off the chair and call out ‘neeekksshhtt’!
His haircuts were as horrible as the experience of having him wrap you with cloth, supposedly to prevent hair from getting on your clothes, when it was already full of the previous guy’s hair and what-not. One could feel them pricking on the skin as he tightens it around the neck, slowly scraping the throat with the tingly feeling of uneasiness. It reminds me of one Uncle who took great pleasure in torturing kids at Family gettogethers by rubbing his Five o’clock shadow on their cheeks! (How I hated that then, but now I AM that uncle!)
By the time I reached my last few semesters however, I had enough courage and knowledge of Hindi to jump the campus wall and take a haircut the way I’d wanted it, from a local barber whom I slowly came to trust. I would always come back from My Barber’s Shop all rejuvenated and relieved, as if I’d taken a week long vacation. Those were one of the highlights of my Hostel-memories.
Now, coming back to the present, there were these 3 barbers, whom I assumed were brothers cos’ they looked extremely alike and collectively owned the shop. They have been
my MY Barbers for almost 4 years now. Their shop would always have Africans, Middle-East or South-East Asians hanging out. They were friendly people and more than that, they gave good haircuts. Since they interacted with different cultures, they know what we want and they actually listen. And to top it off, they were from a different state, which meant that they were non-locals and that we have more in common.
I’ve had bad experiences (apart from the hostel scenario) with barbers, they were the reason I had grown my hair for months, TWICE, just cos’ I didn’t want to take a haircut outside Mizoram. But these guys restored my then wavering faith in non-mizo Barbers. (Racism has nothing to do with a good haircut!) Everytime I’ve been to their shop in the past few years (Except one time when I grew my hair really long cos I was balding and worried, but then gave up!), no matter how long the gap between each visit, they always remembered the last time I took a haircut from them. I always leave their shop a happy man.
I once paid more than Rs.100/- for a haircut when I visited a unisex Hair Salon in a posh area. It was late in the evening and I desperately needed a trim then. The shop was very elegant, the barber well-dressed and the equipments were state-of-the-art. But all that was worth less than the amount I paid, cos’ the man simply had no skills. Call it loyalty to what I know, but I paid the man, left and never again laid my good eye on the shop (The other eye is just incorrigible).
I recently went to take a haircut from My Barbers, but was greeted by their absence. (I’d stopped by a few days earlier but since they were not there and the young guy in their stead looked a little bit too young for an experienced barber, I had decided to come again a few days later.) It seems that they had left the shop for their home-town in search of greener pastures. The young man managed to convince me to sit on his chair while he carefully wrapped the synthetic cloth around my chest. He talked about how, back in Kuwait, (Bullshit! I thought!) he used to cut Filipino hair and he knows exactly what we want.. etc etc.
He leaned a little towards the gay-side, which I thought was a bit reassuring. (Sexism has nothing to do with a good haircut!) He talked a lot and said something about how my hair is like this and others are like that… I wasn’t really listening cos’ I was concentrating too hard on the mirror in front to make sure he doesn’t do something dramatic with my hair. When it was all said and done, I briefly looked in the mirror, paid him (Rs.30/- to be exact. I remember when they used to be Rs.5/- back home) and hurried home.
If you’re a guy, you would know that unless you wash the excess hair off your head after a haircut, you wouldn’t be able to see what it REALLY looks like.
After I had my bath, I quickly looked in the mirror, then stopped looking and slowly started admiring, “Not a bad job” I thought to myself. It seems My Barbers had left me with a worthy replacement indeed, but they will never be forgotten. They were them who restored my faith, my dignity and my close crop hair. (Although with some male pattern baldness now.)