Posted on December 13, 2016 under Storytelling with 2 comments

Tharun. The Michaelangelo of barbers

I entered this world bald and it looks like I’ll exit it in the same fashion.

After seven weeks in India, even someone who is “follically challenged” like me,  begins to look a bit scruffy. The little hair that I have,  starts to sprout in weird ways and the nape of my neck resembles the fuzz on an over ripe peach. Now, I am not so vain as to worry about my appearance but every now and then, I decide to make a donation to the haircutting fraternity.

In order to get to my favorite breakfast establishment, I have to pass through a neighborhood dotted with small shops. These are very common in India. Most of them resemble a concrete bunker and are not much bigger than a baby barn. In one block there could easily be 100 of these side by side. And there is every manner of commerce conducted  within the three walls. At the end of the day, they pull down a retractable door like you might find in a garage back home.

On any given day and in just about any neighborhood, you can find steel fabricators, mattress makers, woodworkers, pharmacies, motorcycle repair shops  and  food vendors. Name any business and you will find someone who can provide you with goods and services.  If you want a  farm fresh chicken for an evening meal,  you can pick a live one and have it processed while you wait! All of these people work very long hours, sometimes well into the evening. And they are very talented.

One of the businesses that I pass at least once a day is a barber shop which looks like it may have been there from the day Hyderabad was settled hundreds of years ago. Peering in from the street, which is only a few feet from the front door, the space appears very small indeed. When the aforementioned scruffiness finally got to me, I had to make a choice. Do I go to the City Centre Mall and visit an upscale “ unisex” salon or do I keep my business closer to home. I am not a big fan of malls so I opted for a trip to “ Beauteous Men’s Parlour.”

There was one barber on duty. He was doing some serious styling to the patron in the chair while three of us in line read the daily paper or watched  television. It was 10:00 a.m. and I had a one hour window as I was meeting a friend for lunch at noon and this was a 50 minute walk from the barbershop. I was amazed at the attention to detail as this master barber applied gel and talent in equal abundance. At 10:15, it was decision time. If the other two guys in front of me received the same royal treatment, I wouldn’t even make it for dessert, let alone lunch. Just then, a second barber appeared and there was a glimmer of hope. Optimism turned to joy as the other barber finished up and the other two guys were obviously “regulars” of the senior barber.

I hopped in the chair. The sign on the wall said “ Haircut: 100 rs.” ( 100 rupees is the equivalent of $2.00 Canadian ).

I purposely didn’t shave earlier that morning and decided that I would go whole hog so I ordered up a haircut and a shave.  Cue the music: “ Shave and a haircut, two bits.” I didn’t inquire about the price of the shave. It wouldn’t have mattered as my barber , Tharun, spoke not a word of English.

Let’s be very generous and say that the haircutting portion of the job took ten minutes. Ok. Maybe seven. But I noticed immediately how meticulous Tharun was , as he clipped and snipped away. He tilted the chair back and repositioned my head. I spied the straight razor.

Tharun is young and very muscular. I’m certain he must lift weights. He poured a bit of lotion into his large mitts and began massaging my face. In 65 + years, no one has ever massaged my face with the possible exception of a face rub by an opposing hockey player while playing for the Bulldogs.  I wasn’t sure what was happening but I have learned to just roll with the punches. The gentle massage became stronger with each new application of the cool lotion. Suddenly, the shrill sounds coming from the soap opera on the television set and the ever present traffic noise didn’t seem as loud. The massaging continued for at least 15 minutes. I was wondering ( worrying? )  if I was going to pay for the shave by the minute. I was almost asleep when he took his hands away from my face.

I have never been to a spa but I started to understand the appeal.

Finally, he applied some shaving cream and he started removing facial hair. Slowly. Carefully. Precisely. I’m sure Michaelangelo  didn’t take as much care sculpting the statue of David. It seemed like he treasured every hair and was removing them individually. I opened my eyes. All of a sudden my inner calm was arrested when I looked at the clock and saw that it was 10:50. I didn’t say anything as he gently wiped the residual shaving cream off my face. When he once again grabbed the can of Gillette, I knew that my lunch date was in peril.

The second round with the scalpel was short and sweet. He then applied some after shave and I nearly hit the ceiling. I had completely forgotten what that felt like having given away my last bottle of Old Spice when I got married.

And now, the moment of reckoning had arrived. He held up 2 fingers. I wasn’t sure if that was a peace sign or the tab. The total bill for 45 minutes in the chair,  one of the most amazing experiences of my life, came to 200 rupees or about $4.00. Even with a hefty 25 % tip, I still only paid $5.00 for the full meal deal.

I didn’t have time to go back to my residence to get changed for my lunch date. I walked as fast as my legs could carry me in 32 degree heat and arrived at the restaurant looking like I had just run the Boston Marathon.

Upon questioning of my somewhat dishevelled look, I grinned at my friend and simply indicated that I just had a close shave.




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2 Responses to Beauteous

  1. Toni MacDonell says:

    I think I’ll try a spa, you make that facial massage sound very intriguing.

  2. Greg Albert says:

    That to was a very interesting story.It sure beats paying $15.00 here in Antigonish.Make sure you get another one before you leave to come home lol

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