It seems like it is time for my quarterly haircut. How do I know this? Well my raven-coloured hair have grown into a uncontrollable mass of cellulose, which in their moist uncombed state are taking the shape of an ecosystem more diverse than the Sunderbans.
Pali Hill, Bandra, for all its amenities, is filled with barbers the likes of which charge large amounts of money. Alas, this is a burden my light wallet cannot take. I am forced, like an economic migrant, to commute to meet my hair hygiene needs.
A glass store front, rimmed with wooden blue welcomes me. Etched in red on the glass are the styles and fashions the ‘Hair Cutting Saloon’ deals in. Barber shops in India come in various avatars viz. the corner nahee [barber] who sets up his unpolished mirror and rickety chair under some tall tree or a puccha [brick] barber establishment that employs several such masters of the trade. Scissors, brushes, stainless steel blades, and circular foldable plastic razors are the versatile tools of their trade. Inside men wait patiently on worn-out rexine sofas, hiding their faces behind a local newspaper or a glossy gossip-spilling film magazine. As I enter the men make space for me, bunching up together almost by reflex and one of them hands me an old issue a film magazine.
Stylised posters of popular Bollywood actors and screen starlets adorn the walls. Barber shops often become tiny Meccas to Indian film culture and the sense of style derived from Bollywood or the local cinema. If a film becomes a ‘super hit’ fans want to emulate their favourite stars’ hairstyle. It is a place for music and entertainment as well. No shop is complete without an old pocket TV in a corner or a grungy loud cassette player or a small portable transistor radio.