When I asked Hari what time his barber shop opens, he asked me, ‘Why? You don’t need a hair cut.’ The barbers also wonder why I walk into their shop. When I sit in my Arlington barber’s chair (a 2-seater with one barber), he finishes his job within a few minutes, then keeps hovering around trying to find places to work on. He must be feeling guilty for charging me his rate of $16 for so little time spent on my head.

I prefer barber shops with male barbers. They know how to use that scissor/comb the way it should be used. Women barbers tend to clutch clumps of hair and snip them, not gradually work the comb as it progresses up the back of your head giving you that cool feeling as the hair falls off and the air hits your scalp.

The Chennai barber ‘Diamond Hair Dressers’ (a 8-seater place with at least 4 barbers) at the junction of Kasturibhai Nagar 2nd cross road and Guindy road is my favorite haunt. The proprietor would be sitting in the corner of the shop reading ‘Dinamani,’ the Tamil daily. As you walk in, he will greet you, and direct one of his assistants to attend to you. You have a choice of machine or manual. Haircut is Rs. 50, beard trim Rs. 40. And oh, that head massage (Rs. 50) is divine; he will slap your scalp and stroke it in different ways that will make it move independent of the cranium. By the time he is done with your head, you will feel you have a new one.

But I was in for a surprise when I walked into ‘Gateway, Hair Clinic’ (2-seater with one barber) on Double Road in Indira Nagar, Bangalore. The barber was chatting away with his assistant in an empty saloon (salons are for women) on a Saturday morning which should be his peak time. He got into action, pulled out what looked like a used sheet and draped me. I wondered what was to come. He asked if he could use the machine (I only wanted a light trim) and I reluctantly agreed. But he attacked every hair with professional precision. He wanted to know if I wished to have my beard ‘shaped’ and not just trimmed. I hastily said ‘no’. I was already being greeted by random Muslims on the street as one of their own and didn’t wish an appointment to the local mosque as their imam. Then he told me that I should keep the underside of my chin more closely trimmed for it will make the upper part look more shapely for my face structure. Hmm. Wise words. All for a mere Rs. 50 (I generously added Rs. 20 as a tip).

Of course, nobody around me even knew I had a haircut.

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