The Village Barber. by Anand
My wife and myself were at our native place for a week. It was a remote village and we had gone there to see my Grandparents.
It was a typical South Indian hot summer day. My haircut was due and my hair had grown to a length beyond my comfort zone. Added to that, the summer heat was making me go nuts.I felt I could not wait to have my haircut till I returned back to Bangalore.
Though my wife was not so keen about me having the haircut in village but still she agreed.
When I asked my Grandfather about the Barbershop in the village. He said it was close to village market. He said as he was anyways going to the market, he will ask the barber to come home to give me the haircut.
"You could have gone to the barbershop and got your hair cut" my wife told me as we were waiting for the barber to arrive.
"I could have, but I had never got my haircut at home and thought it would be a new experience." I replied " and moreover I wanted to give my lovely wife a chance to watch me getting my haircut" I said smiling. She smiled in return.
"But I am skeptical about the skills of the village barber" she said running her fingers through my hair. "Hope you don’t end up with a bad haircut" she added.
"I am worried too. I feel I should have got my haircut done before we came over here.Now I am not able to bear this mop on my head anymore in this heat." I replied.
"I can understand" she nodded her head sympathetically "By the way, any idea which haircut needs least of the skills? She asked.
"Head shave!!! " I replied without hesitation and laughed.
"Very funny!!! I am talking about haircuts and not shaves." she snapped back in an irritated tone.
"Not Sure" I replied seriously "but I think short haircuts are simpler and straightforward." I added.
"OK then you can ask him to cut your hair shorter, to be on the safer side." She said "also you would feel better with a shorter haircut in the summer. I remember my brother getting summer haircut during summers. It used to be shorter style yet a decent one" she added.
As I nodded in agreement, the barber arrived with a small metallic box in his hand. He was an elderly man…in his late fifties.
We went into the veranda to meet him. After we exchanged pleasantries, he asked me to sit on the floor in one corner of the veranda.
I looked at my wife surprised but went and sat at the place pointed out by the barber.
He put the little box in front of me and opened it. He then took out a piece of cloth and was about to cape me with it but I gestured him not to as I felt it dirty.
"You don’t want to be caped, Son?" he asked me in surprise.
"I would like to…but not with this cloth." I replied to him pointing at the piece of cloth.
"I can never understand you city guys" he said shaking his head in disbelief. "In that case, it is better you take off your shirt" he told me.
As I took off my shirt and sat on the ground bare-chested, my wife stood there smiling and watching the proceedings.
"What kind of haircut do you get in your city, Son?" he asked.
"I would like to get a shorter haircut" I replied "like …err..you know..."
"Give him a summer cut." My wife interrupted me. I nodded in agreement realizing that she wanted to keep statements simple so as not to confuse the Barber.
"Oh, OK.You need a summer cut?" He asked."That’s my specialization" he told us with pride, taking a old fashioned hand clipper from the box and cleaning its shears with the piece of cloth that he wanted to cape me with.
"You want to give me a summer haircut with this?" I asked stunned pointing at the hand clippers in his hand.
"Yes" he replied, "do the city barbers not use this for summer cuts?" he asked me back.
"No. They do it using clippers with attachments or with scissors." I told him.
"They use scissors for summer cuts?" he asked, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Do you still want to go ahead with your haircut?" My wife interrupted our conversation.
"Yes…" I replied looking at her "…for two reasons, ONE.. I am not comfortable with this mop of hair and cannot wait another 5 more days to get rid of it and, TWO…By doubting his haircutting skills I don’t want to disappoint this elderly gentleman who has come to our home to give this city guy an haircut."
"Then…"she said as she paused for few seconds to think,"an head shave will be the safest bet for you."
"You stole my thoughts." I replied to her "… But are you sure you are OK with me shaving my head?" I inquired.
"Go ahead, a head shave is always better than a bad haircut". She assured me.
I turned towards the barber who was intently listening to our conversion but could not follow a single word as we deliberately talked in English.
"Shall I go ahead with the summer cut, Son?" he asked looking at me and then at my wife.
"No, I have changed my mind, we feel a head shave will be the most suited hairstyle for this summer heat." I replied. "Can you shave my head please?" I asked.
"Aha…OK…" he said as I looked enquiringly into his box to see which type of razor he had with him. Luckily I could see the straight razor and a pack of blades and not the old fashioned straight razor where the blade could not be changed.
As he took the razor and blade, he asked me to go and get my hair rinsed thoroughly in water.
I got up, went to the bathroom, rinsed my head with hot water and came back with water dripping down my face.
My wife gave a naughty smile looking at my plight.
As I sat again in front of him, he kept the razor back in the box and gave my head a good massage.
Convinced that the hair had softened enough for the shave, he took the razor with a changed blade, in his right hand. Then with his left hand he bent my head forward with my forehead almost touching the ground. He then held the razor at the back of my head with the blade touching the skin and jerked it towards my nape. I heard the soft sound of the razor shaving the hair and I felt the wet shaved hair fall on my naked shoulders. As he continued to shave the back of my head I could also feel the summer breeze caressing the shaved portion of the head. As he shifted his attention to the top of my head and started jerking the razor towards my forehead I could see tufts of hair falling on the ground and on my lap. I then realized that this is the first time I was seeing so much of my hair falling on the ground. He finished shaving my head in few minutes and was inspecting for any rough spots. He made sure that he shaved my head as smooth as possible.
Once he was satisfied with my head shave, he pointed the razor at my-armpits. I nodded disapprovingly and said NO. I was too embarrassed to get my under-armpits shaved from a third person that too in front of my wife.
Then he took a white translucent stone in his hand and wanted to rub it over my shaved head. I politely gestured to him not to.
As he was collecting all the hair from my lap, I felt my shaved head with both hands and looked enquiringly at my wife, who smiled approvingly about my new looks. She seemed very eager to feel my smooth shaved head and was just waiting for the barber to leave.
I then got up and dusted my legs for any stray hair. The barber cleaned the floor of all the hair, collected then in a newspaper and went out to dispose it in the nearby dustbin.
My wife who was just waiting for such a moment pounced on me and ran her hands over my freshly shaved head. "Looks Good and feels good!!!" she said admiringly and added, "I think he did a good job here" and laughed.
As the barber came back my wife went in and got me my purse. I paid him handsomely. He left thanking my wife and me.
I went into the bathroom and applied the aftershave lotion over my shaved head. My wife followed me into the bathroom with a towel. She kept the towel aside and asked me to sit on the chair that my grandparents used for bathing. She then applied oil over my head and body and massaged me thoroughly with special attention to my freshly shaved head. Once she was done with the massaging and I finished with the bath, she took the towel to wipe my shaved head dry.
As she carefully wiped my freshly shaved head with the towel she asked, "By the way, what is the tool that he said he will use for the summer cut?"
"It is the older version of the modern day motorized clippers. It is operated manually and does not have the attachments to adjust the length of cut. The barber needs to be highly skilled to be able to use it properly and I was not sure about him." I explained.
She then looked at me, held my face in both hands and said, "Though I reluctantly agreed for your head shave, I am glad I agreed. MAN!!! You look absolutely sexy!!!" then she planted kisses all over my shaved head.
By the time we came out of the bathroom, my Grandfather was back and was in the Kitchen assisting my Grandmother. When they saw me with a shaved head their jaws dropped. We were not sure what to tell them, instead my wife asked "Doesn’t he look cute with a shaved head?"
They just laughed. My grandfather asked me if the barber had messed up with my haircut. I replied in negative and said that I planned to shave my head for the summer.
My Grandfather felt happy that my reply about the Barber was not negative. He said he is the only barber in the village and is among the best in the district. He also added that guys come from other villages to get their hair cut by him.
My wife and myself looked at each other and exchanged smiles.
That evening my wife and myself came out to enjoy the lovely countryside. After we came across quite a few village guys with good haircuts my wife said to me looking at my shaved head "I am glad we overreacted by grossly underestimating the barber!!!"
Both of us laughed heartily as we enjoyed both the countryside and my smooth shaved head.