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Sanjay: The Guide is Led to the Barber by Manny


"While the big tourist sites were great, I'd also like to just walk about the streets a little bit and get some photos of everyday life. Would that be possible? I'll be happy to compensate you for the extra time," Marshall told his tour guide, Sanjay, as they arrived at the hotel. He had thoroughly enjoyed his morning with the local university student who free-lanced as a tour guide in his spare time. Sanjay was deferential when addressing Marshall and catering to his whims and desires, but he was more than a bit cocky and arrogant when addressing the employees at the museums, the cab drivers, the waiters, etc. The handsome tour guide with the lovely coiffed mane and manicured nails perhaps needed to be knocked down a few notches, Marshall thought to himself.

Sanjay smiled broadly and readily agreed to continuing the tour for an extra $10 per hour. He mopped the heavy silken forelock back away from his large brown eyes, as he turned to lead the way on their stroll through the streets near the hotel.

As Marshall trailed him, he couldn't help but smile as well, surveying the magnificent mane of well groomed, shimmering dark brown hair that swished about the base of Sanjay's collar. It would only take a few minutes before they stumbled across Marshall's intended destination -- a street barber's stall!

Within minutes, the first street barber's shop came into view. It was a small operation -- one chair under a tree with a small nail hanging from a nail on the trunk. The barber was vigorously attacking the short haircut with a set of scissors and comb, tapering the man's hair shorter and shorter up the back.

As they walked past, Marshall innocently asked, "Do you use a street barber, Sanjay?"

The hip university student recoiled in horror. "Heavens, no! That's not for people like me -- educated ones. It's more the people from the country-side...peasants...and other people with low paying jobs or from low castes."

"As we passed that barber back there, I started thinking it might be kind of fun to use a street barber....having your hair cut right on the sidewalk while the world walks by," Marshall said wistfully. "I'd try it, except I got my hair all cut off right before this trip, and there's nothing left up here to cut!" he laughed as he rub his hand across his tight butch cut.

"Well, with that type haircut, you might actually be able to use a street barber if you lived here. Not much skill needed. I have mine done at a salon run by my aunt's cousin. She put a bit of henna in my hair recently to make it lighter and extra shiny," Sanjay said as he flicked his head a bit to make his precious locks dance in the bright sun.

"You do have very nice hair," Marshall noted. "I bet you get a lot of attention because of it."

"Sometimes too much. When the police officers see my hair, they tend to assume I'm a playboy and stop me in the street and ask to see documents or pull me over on my motorcycle if I don't have my helmet on," Sanjay explain.

"You should always use a helmet -- all the crazy drivers here! These thick locks wouldn't protect you if you took a spill on your motorcycle," Marshall said as he gently tussled his guide's shimmering brown locks.

"You're funny," the guide said as he turned around and smiled. "The other person whose attention my locks attracts is my old uncle. He hates long hair and is always interfering with my parents to pressure me to cut mine short. My poor cousins look like they're in the military! In fact, the only time in my life my hair was cut by a street barber was thanks to Uncle Pranay -- back when I was in grade school."

"Let's stop here and get a coke," suggested Marshall. "And tell me about your experience with the street barber."

"I was thirteen. My parents were out of town at a relative's funeral and I had to stay with Uncle Pranay. It was the first day of school, and so he walked my cousins and me to the school. My hair was in a long floppy bowlcut at the time, and my uncle was teasing me and saying that I forgot to wear my skirt. At the school, he dropped his boys off at their classes and then took me to my class. My new teacher was a friend of his and the first thing he said when he got to the class was, 'Rahul, does this school allow the boys to come here looking like girls?' The teacher looked at my hair and said I needed it cut before I could start. In an instant, Uncle Pranay had me by the arm and was almost dragging me out of the school. We came to the first street barber and he forced me to sit and be silent. I hated sitting in that hard, homemade chair and having that filthy rag draped about my shoulders and tied at the neck. Uncle Pranay pointed to a set of manual hand clippers and said -- 'make him look like a boy'. Then he grabbed me by my hair and told the barber, 'keep cutting this until he looks like a boy'."

"Oh, poor you! No wonder you won't go to street barbers!" Marshall explained.

"I sat there helplessly watching my hair come off, piling up on the cape in my lap, wondering how angry my parents -- especially my mother -- would be. Uncle Pranay instructed the barber to go 'shorter' several times, and I knew that I would emerge looking like his sons! Besides the shock of being shorn so unexpectedly, I worried about picking up lice or some other infection from that horrible street barber!" said Sanjay.

"Did you?" asked Marshall.

"No, but the experience gave me more than a few nightmares for a while. My uncle marched me back to the school triumphantly. By that time, class had started, and I was paraded in and ridiculed by both my new teacher and my uncle in front of all my new classmates. They called me Baldy and saluted at me like I had been inducted into the military."

"What about your parents?" Marshall inquired.

"My father approved of what his older brother had done and told me I might act more manly now instead of like a crybaby sissy. My mother was angry and could not stop rubbing my shorn head and weeping," recalled Sanjay. "It comforted me, to feel her stroking my shorn head."

"And you're a momma's boy, I take it," laughed Marshall. "One who goes to a salon and gets his pretty locks dyed with henna...."

"Where I want to go," said Sanjay, as he looked up and met Marshall's gaze, changing the subject abruptly, "is America! Where I can be myself and not live with all the family pressures. If I don't want to have my hair dyed at my aunt's cousin's salon, I don't have to. If I don't want to study to be an engineer, I can be a dancer instead. If I don't want to have a wife, I won't get married. That's what I want. Can you help me get to America, Mr. Marshall?" Sanjay pleaded.

"You mean, like having a place to stay?" asked Marshall.

"No, I have relatives there. But I need someone, an American like you, to go with me to get my visa. If I go by myself and say I'm visiting my brother-in-law who runs a taxi service, I won't get the visa," explained Sanjay.

"But if you come with me and say I'm sponsoring you on a visit to look a dance schools, you will?" asked Marshall.

"That's it," he said, as he mopped his lovely hair back from his earnest face.

"I will take you," said Marshall. "Let's go get the forms and instructions."

Sanjay was ecstatic! As they walked done the sidewalk quickly he stuck close to his new friend and gushed, "You're so kind. What can I do for you?"

As they approached the street barber, Marshall answered, "I would like to take some pictures of someone getting a haircut by a street barber. But there is no one in the chair, I see."

Sanjay's joy abruptly froze in fear, "You don't want me, I hope!"

Marshall struck an innocent look. "Just pose for the shots. We can give the barber a tip. Ask if you can sit there and have him cape you up," Marshall said.

"But not cut my hair," pressed Sanjay for a clarification.

"Not if you are opposed. I'm not Uncle Pranay, you know!" laughed Marshall, breaking the ice.

"Of course not!" said Sanjay more relaxed.

Sanjay spoke with the street barber in a native language and they bantered back and forth a bit. "He asks for 50 cents to pose for photos with me in the chair."

"Deal!" exclaimed Marshall. "Okay, hop up there, Sanjay!"

The longhaired lad took a seat in the makeshift chair and shifted uneasily as the street barber fastened a spotted white cape around his neck. Marshall reached out and stroke the lad's lovely hair and then grasped a handful of it at the nape.

The street barber spoke and Sanjay laughed a bit nervously. "He says I need a haircut!"

"Tell him you admire my haircut!" suggested Marshall.

Sanjay's eyes widened. It was clear he did not! "If I say that, this pretend haircut might turn into a real one," muttered Sanjay.

"How much does he charge for haircuts?" Marshall wanted to know.

"Only 75 cents," he replied, pointing to the sign near the mirror.

"You mean I'm paying nearly as much for him to pose as to actually cut your hair?" Marshall exclaimed. "Then I'll pay the extra 25 cents and you can get a proper haircut!"

"Oh, no! Mr. Marshall! Please, you said I would just pose here...." pleaded Sanjay, trapped by the cape, but desperate to be out of the chair.

"Ah, yes. Your mother. You're afraid of how angry she'll be in you cut your hair that she wants you to wear long and girly-like...." snickered Marshall.

"No, lots of people like my hair long like this. And I do too," protested Sanjay.

"But the American at the Embassy might not. And I would really like to video someone with long hair like this having it all cut off by an eager street barber," said Marshall as he again seized one of Sanjay's pretty tresses and carressed it.

"No, Mister! Take your photos now so that I can get out of this chair," Sanjay pouted in a testy tone.

Marshall clicked a few snaps, and then Sanjay pulled off the horrid cape. Marshall gave the street barber 50 cents and the two walked away silently.

After a few blocks, Sanjay said softly, "I'm sorry about the way I reacted so angrily. And I had just asked you what I could do for you. Why do you want my hair cut, Mr. Marshall?"

"Because, my friend, it will be good for you. To have it all cut off -- just like mine!" replied Marshall.

"Bald -- like you?!" gasped Sanjay.

"Your precious locks, highlighted with henna, falling quickly onto the barber's cape -- yes, that's what you need. Uncle Pranay was right. Or do you want to be a little sissy momma's boy all your life?" Marshall asked.

Sanjay hung his head, and his beautiful hair swirled forward, veiling his look of shame. Then he looked up, defiantly, "I don't want to be a sissy momma's boy!"

The two walked on quietly, with Sanjay sneaking occasionaly glances at Marshall's baldy haircut. As they rounded a corner, he spoke, "Get your video camera out. There's a street barber who needs a client!"

"And here's a wonderful lad who needs a haircut!" Marshall replied as he clapped a bear hug around his new friend.

"But, this is my decision. I will do the speaking, and I will pay for the haircut," insisted Sanjay.

Marshall stroked the long hair, and a crowd of people stopped to watch the developing scene on the sidewalk. Two men holding hands was one thing, but two men embracing was another!

Sanjay whispered to Marshall, "It's time for my haircut." Then, he walked over to the street barber's chair and took a seat. He pointed to Marshall's head. The street barber smiled to show a mouth full of missing teeth. Then a ragged cloth was draped about the uppity playboy's neck, and the street barber picked up a set of manual hand clippers. He crunched them open and shut a few times in front of Sanjay's frightened eyes. Then he grasped the long, soft hair at the naped and forcefully made Sanjay tilt his face upwards a bit. The manual clippers struck right at the hairline and traveled across the top of the head, along the course traced out by Sanjay's central part. Lovely locks fell in torrents and Marshall filmed the radical makeover. Sanjay's face was stoic and blank as his cherished hair fell to the cape.

Marshall zoomed in close and got some excellent shots of the shimmering hair, radiating a soft orangish glow in the direct sunlight, falling from Sanjay's head.

The manual clippers came up through the sideburns, slicing the hair away at the scalp right up through the temple. Sanjay's delicate ear came into sight for the first time, revealing a small earring. During the second drive up the side of the head, the manual clippers got caught in the hair and yanked it, instead of cutting it. The sharp pain the hand clippers caused made Sanjay jump. "Sit still," the barber hissed. "If you didn't let your hair get so long, this wouldn't happened!"

THe people had gathered around the street barber's chair, forming a tight circle of curious onlookers. "Boys should look like boys," one old lady remarked. "After you cut his hair, make him take out those earrings."

Then a man in a police uniform, whose hair was closely clipped, stated, "The haircut is a good first step to cleaning up your life, Mr. Sanjay Patel. But this is the kind of haircut we give to new prisoners when we lock them up."

"Do I look like a convict, officer?" Marshall asked indignantly.

"No sir, you look like a tourist. But, my experience with boys like this is that when you strip a delinquent of his playboy hair, he starts acting like a law-abiding citizen!" the policeman replied calmly.

"Yes, I agree with that," replied Marshall. "Sanjay will not be giving you any more problems, I'm sure."

Through the taunts, Sanjay sat still and silent. However, he was grateful when the barber pushed his head forward so that his chin touched his chest and he did not have to look at the crowd in front of him that was enjoying his humiliation. The only person he wanted to see was Marshall -- his ticket out of there. As he sat there, staring at a lap full of his shorn, glossy hair, Sanjay began concentrating on the feel of the clippers at his nape and scalp. Their movements and rhythmic massage were curiously relaxing. He dreamed of stroking Marshall's shorn head and having his rubbed in return. He would not be returning to the salon to endure the idle chatter of the women who ran it. He would no longer be subject to their match-making -- him, an engineer-in-the-making, with their ugly nieces and daughters. No, he would go to America with Marshall and pursue his dream -- to escape to do what he wanted to do. Whether he became a dancer, or whether he became Marshall's houseboy, he didn't care! He would gladly sleep on the kitchen floor and bring a cup of steaming hot tea up to Marshall in bed each morning then keep studying electrical engineering just to please his parents."

Sanjay was so involved with imaging his future that the end of his haircut seemed rather abrupt. He heard Marshall telling the street barber, "There is no more hair to cut, sir! Let me pay you now."

Sanjay sat upright, "No, Marshall, this is the haircut I wanted." He studied his shorn head in the small mirror. He looked totally different. "What do you think of my haircut, Mr. Marshall?"

"I love it!" the tourist exclaimed as he rubbed his guide's stubble and fondled it tenderly.

Then Marshall began to remove Sanjay's earrings. "The old lady was right about boys with earrings. These holes in your lobes will grow back quickly. Here, take the earrings. Give them to your Ma as a going away gift," Marshall instructed.

As Sanjay reached his hand from under the cape, Marshall focused on the soft hands with the manicured nails that were longish, nicely filed and covered with a clear polish to make them shine. Then he fished into his pocket for his keys that had a small nail clipper attached to it. "Wait a minute, let me address this situation here," Marshall said as he secured Sanjay's nails by grasping each finger and quickly clipping the long nails off quite close to the quick. The impromptu manicure Marshall administered was rough and crude, leaving Sanjay's nails short, ragged and sharp. "We'll get that polish off later, so you can feel like a man again, Sanjay," he said.

Despite the humiliation of his public shearing, earring removal and nail clipping, Sanjay felt gratitude to his new friend. As Sanjay stood, he glanced down at his shorn hair around the legs of the street barber's chair. There was so much of it! He would never wear it long like that again.

"Come on, friend. Let's go get the visa -- and I'm paying the fees to get you to America with me!" cooed Marshall as they prepared to walk away.

"And if you pay for my air fare too, I'll work it off as your house boy. You can start off each morning with a big cup of steaming tea served to you in bed, Mr. Marshall," said the shorn Sanjay with a poorly concealed look of dedication in his eyes.

"But, before any of that takes place, you need to thank the nice street barber for your haircut, Sanjay. I think your makeover will help you remember to be polite and respectful to others, including those you may feel are beneath you. And thanking him includes a very generous tip," said Marshall with a bit of a preachy tone to his voice.

Yes, sir, Mr. Marshall," Sanjay replied obediently. He grasped the street barber's hand and thanked him profusely while he shook it vigorously.

"And, after we get you the visa, I think we need to pay Uncle Pranay a visit to tell him your news and see if he approves of your new haircut," Marshall said firmly.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Marshall, we will do just as you say," replied Sanjay meekly with a demure smile.




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