Just another brain-dead techie with views on everything under the sun!

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Simply barbaric!!

Just the other day I was awaiting my turn in the barbershop, ogling at the actresses in the well-worn magazines. All of a sudden a sense of enlightenment illuminated my cranium. I realized that if you ask a man to list down the people he trusts the most, then one entry would surely be common to many people’s lists. That entry would be “the barber”.

What??! A barber?!

Well yes, a man seems to trust his barber tremendously. How else can you explain the fact that he coolly submits his head to be manipulated a stranger who with his other hand wields razor-sharp instruments for use on that head. Plus, it’s a fact that men rarely change their barbers (something to chew about for those marketing type yuppies who talk about brand-loyalty and some such stuff). I think this is what prompted Mark Twain to declare, “All things change except barbers”.

My earliest memories of visits to barbershops are those of sitting atop two cushions on the barber’s chair and looking into the wall of mirror in front of me. The barber was a kindly person who snipped my hair with gentle finesse. And if I behaved well in the chair then I would get a lollipop at the end of the haircut (which was quite a treat at that time since lollipops and other sweetmeats were a rarity given the now-you-see-one-now-you-don’t condition of my teeth). Whether it was the lollipop assured at the end of the ordeal or the sweet smell of various creams and lotions on the shelf, I would look forward to these visits to the barbershop accompanied by my mother.

A few years later, having outgrown the phase in which I considered lollipops as treats, my father started taking me along with him to his barber. This gentleman was quite different to the earlier one. He was a stern looking person who would envelope my young head with his huge hands and turn it around while the other hand snipped away with military precision, the errant wisps of hair which dared to stand out of place on my head. The end product of these visits would be close-cropped hair that had me looking like a very young recruit into a military school. I hated this look!

As I entered my teens, I scouted around and found a decent barber who would not have me looking like a porcupine whenever he was finished with me (well, vanity is a big thing during the teens!). All throughout my teens and quite a few years after that I stuck with this barber, which bolstered my belief that, men never change barbers. Every month I would make the visit early on a Sunday morning to the barbershop. I would sit down on the chair(now without any pillows of course). The barber would wrap a white cape around me and spray water on my head with an atomizer. Then he would produce combs of various shapes and sizes from the drawer and place them alongside scissors. Then, the ‘master craftsman’ that he pretended to be would start to ply his trade with adroit precision, snipping away to glory. Being a short and portly figure, he would bustle around me trying to give attention to all the parts of my head. As the clickity clack of the scissors started, I would close my eyes and let the barber take over completely, my neck, pliable and willing in his hands, as he twisted and turned it like a corkscrew. The songs on the radio or the cassette player would almost lull me into a light slumber. My eyes would open only when some cool spirit would be splashed on the back of my neck and behind my ears, ostensibly in an effort to sterilize it before the razor was applied. The razor is used to banish even the littlest outcroppings of hair under the hairline perfectly carved by the able hands of the barber. I would then regard myself long and hard in the bank of mirrors before me, turning my head this way and that. It is essential to be mentioned here that my hairs though abundant in volume, are an unruly lot. They refuse to settle down and stand out from the scalp making me look very much like a porcupine with long quills. For this reason, the barber would keep my hair longer than he normally would, citing the reason that it would be difficult to comb them if they were shortened. As a result I would not look much different after the haircut than before it. Grudgingly then, I would nod my head in response to the barber’s inquiring stare. Happy to have satisfied his customer the barber would then proceed to give a small expertly executed massage to my head, which would relax me completely.

As the times changed, the barbers and their tiny barbershops changed too. Slick, air-conditioned parlours replaced the dingy serviceable shops, the barbers themselves started wearing clean and pressed uniforms and started calling themselves hair-dressers or hair-care-specialists… (and other such mighty sounding names), the unnamed powders and lotions changed to branded products, the old instruments changed to shiny new ones, the whole atmosphere in the barbershop changed to reflect the times. What however did not change was the trust that men had in their barbers. They still go to the same barber even though he charges a lot higher now than in the past and expects a tip every time without exception.

How often do YOU change your barber?!



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Sameer/Male/27. Hails from India/Maharashtra/Mumbai/Prabhadevi, speaks Marathi, English and Hindi. Spends 60% of daytime online. Uses a Faster (1M+) connection. And likes Reading/Computers.