Sunday, March 27, 2011

Global Haircut experience - Part 1

One of the monthly rigors that you need to carry out – to appear clean, well groomed and approachable is having a decent mop of hair on your head. It is a critical indicator of your appearance to the external world and also for your own internal self confidence that is also defined by your looks. A hair cut can be a monthly routine or twice in three months routine, but nevertheless is a part and parcel of every working professional’s life in the corporate world. The only exceptions to this regular hair cutting regime could be due to fashion - AR Rehman , MS Dhoni (who had huge mops of shoulder length hair in the beginning), Radio Jockeys, actors  or due to religion.

For that moment lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour the hairdresser has complete control on you like no one else. Like a lead mentoring the orchestra with the swift movement of his music stick, the hairdresser uses his comb, scissor or razor in his hand. This movement of the comb/scissor/razor are the tunes to which your head subconsciously sways for that hour. Its like being in a rock concert with no music playing, but still your head-banging in and out. As you bow down, or sway sidewards all you are doing is dancing to the tunes of the hairdresser while his scissors chirp away to glory cutting those locks of hair that you managed to grow since your last haircut. Skillful and crafty enough – he not only saves your ears from being cut, but also uses that tiny razor to remove those microns of hair defining the boundaries of your sideburns and outline of the head meeting the neck. The craftiness of delicate work does make you tickle, or sends shivers down your spine. This experience is more out of your own anticipation to get hurt and then experiencing not getting hurt the next second or because of the sensuousness that your nerves detect when a razor just shaves a micron of hair just a centimeter above them.  Over the years, as I have taken numerous haircuts with hairdressers all around the world, I have realized that a lot occurs during haircuts.  If hairdressers are chatty enough – I can chat incessantly throughout my haircut. If hairdressers are quiet, I can go the silent way with my mind free to think what it wants to. If I have known the hairdresser for a long time, at times I even go to sleep during the entire haircut! I had the same hairdresser for 23 years in Mumbai, India during my growing up years and all it required for him to ensure my head obeys his orchestra is to gently tap my head in the direction he needs it  to move to, while I was blissfully asleep listening to the background radio playing old hindi songs. My head was totally obedient of the hairdresser as if in auto pilot mode, while i dozed off  in a world of Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar songs. However if you are having haircut in a new country, its important to ensure you don’t end up sleeping away to glory but are alert. The reason being that only you know how you want to look! The hairdresser can give you that “Fresh Peeled Chicken” look if left unguided, the look that will haunt you for weeks and make you the butt of jokes till then! Listed below are some of the experiences of having a haircut in a globalized world across Americas, Europe and Asia.

Price – INR 100 (approximately $2!)  This includes a head and back massage with special aroma oil

Having been born and brought up in India, of course most of the haircuts in my lifetime will be attributed to India and more specifically Mumbai. Though I have had haircuts in other cities while working there – Bangalore, Pune, nothing like the Mumbai hair cut. 

From the time I was a kid, I used to accompany my father to the same hairdresser saloon in Mulund and almost had the same hairdresser for 23 years since I was born, until we moved out to a different suburb of Mumbai. All the hairdressers in this “Maharashtra Hair Cutting Saloon” right opposite Mulund (East) railway station, knew us quiet well, including the owner - a Marathi manoos always dressed in Safari and somewhat resembling Mr. Sharad Pawar, the Maratha politician. It would seem slightly uncommon, but when we were shifting suburbs and moving to a bigger house at CBD Belapur in 2004, I had specifically gone to bid them goodbye for that one last haircut and believe me – it was an emotional moment. For those 23 years – usually on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Wednesday (the only auspicious days when I was allowed to have a hair cut) of a month, I had my hair cut by my favorite hairdresser  - who resembled  Indian hindi movie superstar Rajesh Khanna per my imagination. He used to call me “Baba” since the time I was small enough  to fit into his big chair  and needed two big cushions under my ass to lift me till I could see myself in the mirror !  With Rajesh, he knew exactly what I wanted and sometimes the experimentation I carried out also came out well – like a crew cut, spiky cut which were a fashion rage during my college days. The haircut costed anywhere from INR 10 – INR 50 till I was 23. That including a handsome tip made the day for Rajesh and ended my monthly visit to the hairdresser. Even 6 months back, when i was in India on a vacation in Oct 2010, when i was in Mulund, i specifically stepped inside the saloon to search for Rajesh and he was just sitting outside, having a tea. We exchanged pleasantries and i introduced him to my wife was just waiting outside the saloon. Rajesh was glad and shared that one of the other hairdressers (who had cut my hair atleast once) died of a heart attack a year back. It was sad to know. Rajesh planned to retire in a years time and settle back in his hometown in UP. Hope i get that last haircuit of Rajesh before he hangs up his boots or should i say scissors?

Since we moved to a new suburb – CBD Belapur in 2004, I have literally stayed out of my suitcase – thanks to my work which took me to Bangalore, Pune, US, Norway and host of other places. Hence, when I am at home I have been going to the recommended hairdresser by my dad – Royal Hairdressers.  This hairdresser is now faintly familiar with me as he knows I give him repeat business a little less regularly – once every six months, when I am at home for vacation, but nevertheless with an unforgettable tip. To add to it he has been successful to upsell value added services like a head massage and back massage which I finally succumbed to. After all – if i can spend a minimum of 8-12 times the cost of a haircut in India while abroad, why not indulge in some self fulfillment when it costs a fraction of the amount it would otherwise cost abroad? A haircut in his AC room (non AC is less expensive), a massage for the back and head with aromatic Navratna oil including a handsome tip – all for INR 100! 

What more does one want in life??? 2 months before I come to India on vacation or just before I travel abroad, I ensure my haircuts are planned for this arbitrage and pleasure in India! 

To be continued...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very nice - This is the first piece of article devoted to the Hairdressers as far as I know, they being great artists in their own field, shape you and present you neatly, they serve the community which we do not given them their due credit or remember them in our busy life. Good that their services are recognised and acknowledged. Go ahead and keep it up. - Appa