Baal Ki Dukaan

Hair-raising chronicles

Hairstyles now complete the look. There are thousands of styles and millions of stylists. From a low paying job to a minting profession, getting your hair cut has seen the light of day. But not without a few comedy of errors. What follows are memoirs of the same, spanning over two decades.

From haircuts under a tree to swanky salons, my hair has seen its share of scissors, razors, and the animated hairdressers, who catered to it.

Adarsh – a small joint sitting under my building, true to its name remained ideal in its vocation. Like a lawn mower, the man did what he was asked to do – keep it short or Baarik as my dad instructed in Marathi. My childhood passport photographs are a manifestation of what you know as the spike look today. It’s a different story that electrocuted stands at random parts of your head were not considered fashion. Futuristic as they may seem now, the porcupines I sported back then were as irritating as someone poking you in the eye.  At Adarsh, the barber’s methodic diligent Scissorhands just got the work done; never quite delivering the finesse of an Edward, but the man behind the scissors was equally good at heart. It’s ironic that Edward Scissordhands and Sweeny Todd were played by the same guy. Anyways, within that goofed up look, where hair was the last thing one cared about, I spent my initial years in a happy oblivion. And I thank him for that.

Years passed by and my hair too jumped all over the place.

Oh, I missed out on the under-the-tree barbers. My first encounter with these freelancers was after a lice attack. I visited them a couple of times to enjoy a cut in open air. But my dad butted in with hygiene, and those freelancers were hit by recession.

Around 16, I met a dear friend, called side partition. Puberty had hit me and I upgraded to a “stylist”. In those days, salons did not exist, but you had these upcoming small setups which charged a meaty 40 bucks. Living in a world of 15-17-20 bucks for a decade now, 40 rupees was a big deal.

And the next 4 years were spent sporting the “Apple Cut”. If you’re confused, look at every Gujju/Jain kid around and even now you’d see this cut. It’s so out of fashion that it will never go out of fashion.

Talking about bad haircuts, just like you, I too have had more than my fair share. From early accusations of Chuhe na khaaya hai kya (Has a rat feasted on your hair), did the barber get bored mid way?, to more modern hazards of stylists experimenting with hair, abbe tu Milind Soman nahi hai, ki kuch bhi suit karega (You are no model to sport any look given to you).

I started earning. With great buying power, came great irresponsibility. I splurged on hair. Salons took over saloons. The bad hair days slept in the past, and the good hair days woke up from the slumber. It was their time to shine. Oh, my hair had finally arrived.  And so had the stylists.

The stylists too came with their own style. Some referred to the manuals. Some were hell-bent in giving you a cut you can style in 5 ways. Now, it really did not matter if neither of them suited you, because never before have you had five styles in one cut.

From the JUICEs to B: BLUNTs to L’OREALs to DILSHAD’s to MAD O’ WOTs, we became consumers of skill. Now the individual stylists garner more attention than the place. And that exclusivity too comes at a heavy price. From saloons to salons, getting your hair cut has seen the winds of change. Now, I’m sporting a short haired look, with a few electrocuted strands. It’s in ‘fashion’. It’s in ’vogue’. It is ‘in’. They call it the messy, out of bed look.

The hundreds and thousands you spend will get you a fashionable look, but the freedom gifted to you by your local barber will remain priceless.

In the end it’s just a haircut, unnecessarily baal ki khaal mat nikaal.


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