The good old barber
Yesterday, after many years I found myself sitting in a long since unfamiliar bench of a barbers shop, not for myself but as I accompanied a male friend there.
Obviously a barbers shop is a male domain and we women can only peep in sidelong, to see a row of rather large, high, chairs of fake leather, placed on thick metal pedestals that make you wonder if the barber would want to strap you in should you develop cold feet at the sound of the snipping scissors and sharp blades.
Barber shops have come a long way from the tiny places they use to be with huge mirrors on one wall and heavy wooden chairs facing them. Then people went in for a simple hair cut or shave. Today, there are various types of hair cuts you can get, coloring of the hair, massages, manicures and pedicures that were once thought of as only for women. Not forgetting straightening of the hair or curling it.
With the ever increasing competition from snazzy unisex saloons, the humble barber is suddenly being looked at as unfashionable, but for a large number of men, the small shop along each lane is till the only place that can make them look civilized and that too for a pittance.
As I sat on the bench I watched my friend, swaddled in a royal purple cape, seated on this stout swirling chair. The room is in light yellow paneling of fake wood, and the counter is lined with boxes of hair colour, shaving lotions, combs, scissors and posters of models in various hair cuts. The soothing and rapid sound of the snip, snip, snip, snip of the scissors took me back in time, when I and my sisters were perhaps no more than ten years old and my mum would take us to a similar barber in the small city of Mapuca in Goa.
The saloon itself was situated on the Camara climb, a tiny shop called Central, with those same chunky chairs, and since we were tiny and would hardly be seen in the mirror ahead, the barber, an old short stout man with thick spectacles would place a wooden broad across the hand rest of the chair and get us to sit on it. In hind site, it must have been a hilarious site. A white cape velcrowed around our neck and the same snip, snip, snip, snip of the scissors as little mops of hair fell around us.
The trip to the barber was about the few opportunities to get a bus ride into the city every two three months. But it was a bitter sweet trip, as we so longed to grow our hair and the days preceding the visit where noticeable for their much haggling and arguing. But my mum would hear none of it. She would settle for nothing but a short boy crop. I guess she was right, in those days, our hair was invariable infested with lice, even the thought of it sends shivers down my spine now, but no matter how much we cleaned our hair they always came back. Kids spread these things around liberally and so, one of the ways to ensure you got rid of the lice was to kept the hair nice and short. My mum liked to get the barber to cut our hair as short as possible, much to our consternation, so that it delayed the next trip to the barber.
Now thinking about all those trips to the barber makes me blush, but those were the days of little opportunities and fashion was a word not in common use. Looking back, perhaps those years to the barber have led me to always keep me hair shoulder length, so I have to visit neither barber nor beauty parlour. Each time my hair gets a bit unmanageable, I just have mum snip off a few inches, and low and behold, it looks ‘civilized’ again.