Lock, shock and babble

Lock, shock and babble

I have ‘bowed my head’ to a galaxy of barbers in my lifetime but I am yet to come across one who, like the Trappist monks, observes a vow of silence. The phrase ‘silent barber’ is in itself an oxymoron. The quintessential barber is a multi-tasker; while his scissors snip, he plays the talk show host. Unless, of course, he is a practitioner of ‘oil pulling’ in which case he gargles a mouthful of oil all the time making it difficult for him to talk without causing an ‘oil-spill.’ Or, maybe, when his doctor placed a thermometer in his mouth and forgot to take it out.

When it comes to his chatter, your friendly neighbourhood barber always finds the ‘flavour of the day,’ something around which his chat is built. Last Sunday, when I visited my barber, he was developing on the theme of ‘the statewide bundh.’ His invigorating account on the subject included a scholarly discourse on ‘5 ways to find food during bundh.’

Unlike other professionals, especially lawyers, a barber is quite lucid in his expressions. He is the only professional whose conversation you can follow, even though he talks over your head! When he holds court, a barber’s peppy gushings can be a delight of the grandstand. The absolute depth of his erudition can make Wikipedia sound like pulp.

At a barber’s salon, stormy workshops are conducted at which red-hot national and international issues are analysed threadbare. A keynote address by the barber sets in motion the brainstorming plenary sessions on topics ranging from domestic LPG leaks to Wikileaks. It is at a barber’s lounge that you can gauge the mood of the society you live in; whether the society is in a jolly mood or if there is a furrow of anxiety on the society’s brow. It is at a barber’s shop that journos get their scoop.

Present day Gen Y ‘hairstylists’ have taken the multitasking to a new level. These colts watch the TV (that is kept for the benefit of waiting clientele) while they cut the (h)air. Add this to the customary banter and you get the proverbial powder keg. And if you happen to be on one such barber’s chair, you get into ‘shear’ panic. What if the bloke pokes your eye with the scissors or shaves off your eyebrow? So you ponder over the old adage that the hair on your head is worth two in the barber’s brush. Consequently, you try to divert him into a chat on, say, Rajinikanth’s ‘Enthiran, The Robot’ before he starts acting like one. Or else, yours could end up being a case of ‘hair today and gone tomorrow.’

Finally, there is one question that has always confounded me: When one barber cuts another barber’s hair, which one does all the talking?