Thursday, 10 May 2007

The humble life of an unrelenting man

He goes scurrying on his bare foot, carrying his thin, wiry frame from one house to another, not wasting a minute anywhere, and executing his job with clockwork precision at every single stop..not a 'tic' less, not a 'talk' more. No sooner are you seated on a rickety stool or anything for that matter which can hold you a couple of feet above the ground, he pulls out his faithful pair of scissors and a white comb(which after decades of labour has turned to a dull beige) from an equally old nylon bag. Always wondered who was older..the scissors or myself..but never actually found out. And before you realise, he's on. SNIP SNIP SNIP... SWISHHHHH ... SNIP SNIP SNIP.. And on it goes for the next 8 mins(yes, that's precisely how much he takes to relieve me of my frizzy, curly head of hair), with an occasional pause to reposition my head into another awkward 'statue' position. And before long, he pulls out yet another of his faithful implements, the dreaded razor! When a school going kid, that was the last of things I wanted to entrust my tender little self to, but then I did not have a choice. The very sight of him changing the blade, glistening in the open sunshine was enough to give me goosebumps. And to have the 'razor-sharp razor' swishing down my nape and neck at a literally hair raising speed(please note, calling it a breakneck speed would be risky!!)... well, I just muttered silent prayers to all the gods that I was aware of! Miraculously, every single time, I managed to make it ...ALIVE! Except for a few minor cuts a couple of times that is. Am I among the few lucky ones, or are all his clients equally lucky??

He's one of a kind, I must admit. Almost until I joined NITK for my undergrads, not once did I go under any other pair of scissors other than his. People in the cities talk about family physicians, but out here in my little hamlet, we have the good fortune of having a family barber(a hair stylist as metro-ites like to put it), if not for a family doctor. Its not that he does his job with a finesse somebody somewhere in a hi-tech, fully equipped saloon else cannot. But its the bond between him and the families of the countryside that makes it all very different. I still remember the time when his wife expired. When he was at my place, dad enquired about his spouse's untimely departure. "Blood cancer", he'd replied. His voice was choked and tears had welled up in his eyes. He now had to single handedly up bring his two little kids. That is when I realised a widower's pain. The whole village shared his sorrow.

Its been almost 2 decades and he's become a part of life now. He was there at my 'Chawlopanayana' and 'Upanayana'(Brahmopadesham) to complete the rituals required to formally initiate me into higher tiers of life. There are another two left! In college, after having a 'hair stylist' render services, the differences were apparent. While his urban counterpart carefully went through an entire gamut of rituals carefully designed over the years, begining with the artistic flipping open of the towel to finally applying a dash of aftershave, my barber did nothing more than the bare minimum. The former had all the time in the world, for his next customer was sitting leisurely under the fan, leaning back against the soft cushion, poring through a copy of Filmfare or the morning newspaper, or just listening to the radio blabbering from some corner of the saloon. But this poor little man had to make it to the next house before it was too late for the kid to run to school or his father to set out to earn his daily wage. And for that matter, this man actully belongs to what is called the secondary sector, meaning to say that he still depends on agriculture for his daily bread and this profession is just a supplement to his revenue. So, its not easy being what he is.

All this may very much sound like an abstract from Malgudi Days. I actually remember RK mentioning about the village barber in The World of Nagraj who acted as a match maker...collecting gossip from each house and then tying things up(making some dough in the meantime). Our man doesn't quite do it, at least not that I know of ! We, on the contrary, have the comfort of telling the postman(of all people) that a haircut is needed. And the following Sunday, the barber is our backyard to do the needful.That's the way life in the country is.

1 comment:

fragmented fragrance.. said...

thatz a nice country barber story...i mean..i thought men were sooo damn lucky for they dint hav to shape their eyebrows or put up wid cold or warm waxx on their skin until each follicle is ripped away till it leaves a trail of red sores [unlike women..!]...but now i believe otherwise, after knowin ur saga with the shinin blade...kuddos men of honour...[as long as u dnt be a victim of an honour killing!]