True Story. One time, I walked into a salon for a haircut and had to bolt out.
Picture this. A shirtless, middle-aged, hirsute man sprawled on his back with his arms flung back. Another man bending down on him. It’s was like walking into two lovers engaged in an intimate moment, except that it wasn’t. Just your everyday armpit hair trimming people.
What was I expecting, you ask? After all, in India concept of personal space is as alien as karela in a wedding buffet.
Just check out this notice from Willingdon Sports Club in Mumbai dated May 31, 2018. It requests members to not ‘take their shirt and vests off while having a hair-cut’ in the barber shop as well as mentioned an instance where a person had taken his trousers off.
Here are 5 things one can expect only to see in a desi barber shop:
1. Cracking necks, bones and everything else that can be cracked:
You might not have thought of getting one, but a head massage in an Indian barber shop is as common as are Indian serials starting with ‘K’. The barber’s real talent isn’t in how well he replicates the haircut of your favourite footballer but how well he can relieve the stress from your shoulders and how much he can make your body scream in pain. Who needs spas, anyhow?
But such neck and body massages can also land you in a hospital. In 2017, after a man in Delhi got a neck massage, he had to go to the hospital because of nerve damage when his neck got cracked.
2. Talcum powder that you can mistake for coke:
The rest of the world may find the powder puff antiquated but for us Indians, it’s a part of a male rite of passage. You are not a grown-up until you go through this.
3. An alum and many bald heads:
Alum, or what is called phitkari, is used to keep infections at bay. But before you go for the skinhead look, take a good look at that white piece of stone and remember that it would have slid over many bald heads before it comes to yours.
4. A sports bar without the drinks:
Other than people sitting on the barbers’ chairs and waiting to go under the scissors, there are others who just casually sit on the waiting benches. They’re not waiting for their turn. But to see whether India can win their next cricket match. They don’t care one bit about whether the customer has waited 10 minutes or 30 to get a simple trim, they would not end debating with the barber whether Virat Kohli should have married Anushka Sharma.
All that’s missing is a bartender.
5. Pay to get body-shamed:
One thing that comes with getting a haircut is being judged: about your weight, height, pimples adorning your face, blemishes you can play Connect The Dots with. Yeah, we know they’re just trying to sell more services but who wants to hear about the inverse proportionality of you getting marriage proposals to how mountainous is your face’s terrain?