Barbershop

One of the things I really admire about my father is his ability to connect to people across social strata. It’s one of the things he made me very conscious about as a young kid, and it’s something that we don’t do regularly enough in India. My barber and I have a sacred relationship – in whichever city I spend time in, I make friends with a barber who I entrust with my hair, for life. He’s the only one allowed to cut it and shape it and leave his mark on it. He is the artist and my hair is his paint.

I’m usually very picky about when I have a haircut – I hate going to the barbershop close to some important date, some time where it’s necessary and beneficial to look presentable, because I’m worried that the haircut will make me look terrible. As a result, haircuts are meticulously planned out in my head. I go for one pretty much every month on the same date and end up looking pretty consistent across photographs. In fact, I think I’ve looked the same since Age 5 (minus the acne).

But I took a bold risk. Today, I went for a haircut. This, despite the fact that I really need to look good for a few days in the upcoming week. I prayed to God when I sat on the chair, and communicated exactly what I wanted to Picasso, hoping he’d work another masterpiece.

However I decided today would be a great day to take my mind off my nervousness by actually talking to my barber and understanding how he ended up where he is. I’ve not done this before because his shop’s always been awfully crowded, and he’s usually focusing on the Taarak Mehta playing in the background. In the past, I’ve convinced myself that my broken Hindi is only sufficient to ensure that my hair isn’t ruined. Today, I ventured into the unknown.

And I learnt so much about the barber. And strangely, about the Law.

Curiously enough, people who don’t study it, don’t trust it. (This isn’t something new, but the gravity of things only strikes you when it’s contextualized.) Land matters take far too along, fraud in daily life is a regularity, losses keep coming and the Law just seems unable to protect people in time. After 10 years of cutting the hair of Law students, my barber had become more aware of current issues. Apparently, one of my seniors had told my barber to send his kids to school and just ensure they complete Class 10 in English medium. Because that would ensure employability of some kind.

Since that day, my barber’s been studying himself. Through the newspapers he has spread out for his customers. Through his customers himself. And apparently, he watches the News in the afternoon when no one is around – because Taarak Mehta is on hold for a bit apparently.

I know this shouldn’t, and it probably doesn’t sound like much. But this evening, my barber took off some of my hair and replaced it with a bunch of perspective.

 

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