Sunday, September 20, 2015

Haircut , the necessary ritual

They say even a king has to bow before a barber as no one can have a haircut with the head held high.The barbers have been an important segment of society and in villages, apart from cutting hair they were engaged in carrying messages or communication especially pertaining to marriages and marriage invitations. They were said to be a garrulous lot and unstoppable talkers with unmatched wit . But this perhaps merits a separate discussion.
I have clear memories of having a haircut at home when the barber would come once in a month on Sunday to do the job. This continued till the time I was old enough to accompany my father to the barber’s shop and to absorb the unfamiliar atmosphere of a shop or a saloon .The barber would place a wooden plank on and across the arms of the chair and make me sit on it so that my face came up to the level of the mirror in front so as to be clearly visible .Longish hair would be snipped with a scissors .I was made to move my head left, right and down and the machine would move on the back and sides with a clacking sound. The barber was one Jhania Ram, a middle aged man, in the early sixties, who used to give a haircut at home also. The shop is still there in Lower Bazaar , Shimla and is the first barber’s shop while going from DC office side.
While in School ,with rich growth of hair on my head ,which grew in length rather quickly, it was not only a ritual but also a necessity to have a haircut once in a month lest it should invite the ire and anger of teachers and parents alike . Sporting long hair was not in vogue.When I reached seventh class , I started having a haircut , going to the barber’s shop unescorted , on my own. Reaching higher classes , I made it a point to have my haircut at a place near my school during some PT period, so as to save on time .It was a must to have a hair wash immediately after the haircut or else jokingly , the barber was said to be ‘sitting on one’s head’.It was an arduous job as there would be very small hair scattered all over , thanks to the machine . Mercifully,these days only scissors are used and a electric trimmer is used to shear the sides. The place was called as barbers’ workshop where about a dozen barbers did the job under a roof along the stairs that lead from Lower Bazar to Ganj Bazar, literally the grain market of Shimla. The ‘workshop’ is still there.
In due course, change of place and residence took place and it was natural to have haircut from different barber at different time and place.

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