I’ve taken a lot of bad decisions in life - uncountable in number, innumerable in variety. A major chunk of them however, have been visiting hair salons; as I sit patiently watching a middle-aged man cut through a dirty mat of hair, I sadly realise this fact. Picture a classic ‘50 bucks a head’ hair cut place. There is a mini TV on the top right corner of the shop. There are two almost bald men cruelly chopping down hair and looking up at the screen in periodic intervals. The pair of scissors wouldn’t stop snipping even while looking up. Like angry pincers of some strange metal insect, it would go “clip clip” – he did it as though the completeness of his work depended solely on keeping them moving. True master at his craft. Such commitment. There were a few dozen posters on the walls - of hairstyles dating from the times of Dev Anand.
Neither the barbers nor the models seemed very much interested in whatever they were supposed to be doing.
I was invited to the chair as soon as the previous occupant climbed down, sighing in relief. Hitherto a normal human, he now had a hedgehog-ish vibe about him. He took a look at the mirror, grimaced, took out his wallet, carefully chose the worst five of his 10-rupee notes and handed them over to the scissor wielder. He gladly accepted the fare and gave his latest Guinea pig a parting ‘I-know-you-are-coming-back-again-dumbass’ look.
I settled on the elevated chair – it had a wooden plank inserted on the backrest, as if to make sure that nobody - irrespective of their height gifts - would be comfortable. A white cloth of a strange translucent material, materialised and he shook it clean. The same was tied around the author’s neck and fastened a bit too harshly. The Velcro around the neck was meant to silence any customer. You wouldn’t want to be disturbed either if you had a weapon in your hand - a lot of heads are at stake here. Next came out an old plastic bottle of Vim with a spray cap - my heart quickened for a second, but he sprayed water from it and went on to give me a head wash. It was on, my friends; this was the real deal.
Have you ever sympathised with circus animals - the lions and the bear cubs that jump through hoops, just for a few morsels of food? In the middle of all that jumping, you can see them looking up at you with profound sadness in their eyes. The image looking back at me in the mirror - with its head twisted and held in a weird angle was just as sad. He was destroying my mane, cutting it down in huge tufts of hair; it was brutal. Sigh. “Don’t shake your head”- the lion sadly obliged. Sigh.
I was drowning. Drowning in a huge sea of dust. It was all around me, cruel and suffocating. The wind was blowing it into my eyes, nose and mouth. I knew my death was near - it was inevitable. You cannot swim in a pool of dust even if you knew swimming, which I didn’t anyway. May the world think of me in glorious terms, may it sing in praise of my greatness….
I woke up with a start as the Velcro leash was pulled clean. The startling dream was probably because of all the powder that was sprayed on (and in) me when I’d dozed off. Classic old Cutticura. I looked nothing short of a monkey dressed up in a spacesuit, all ready to be tested on a maiden rocket flight. I began searching for the worst notes in my wallet.
On my way out I saw the shop’s board hung outside. Beneath a shirtless Hrithik Roshan, it read “God mak men. V mak dem hansum.”
Photography By: Manbarasan