Every two months or so, my feet and hands grow cold, the hair on the back of my neck dances to the tune of the theme song for Jaws, and my whole being shivers in anticipation of what is in store for me. It’s time for a haircut.
Going to the barber’s, of late, has become tiresome. I have always gone to the hairdressers around the corner, the shop with two inclined chairs, a small box television in the corner playing old vernacular hits, a waiting bench half occupied with newspapers and magazines, a sink which is used very rarely in the middle of the counter, hair colour and dye strewn about on every shelf in the shop, and last but not the least, the picture of a close-cropped David Beckham on the poster outside.
The thought of going to a salon with modern lighting and flat-screen televisions, with multiple sinks, and hairstylists who are skilfull enough to groom someone going to the Met Gala has occurred to me, but how can I go to a fancy place when even my father, a working professional, frequents only the local barber. My conscience still pricks me, despite the fact that he has little hair to style and does not need much of a cut.
I spend the evening before the dreaded day asking trusted old Google for hairstyles that are modern, yet simple enough for my barber to execute. I keep swiping, image after image until I find one that suits my style.
Fast forward to the hour of reckoning. My barber greets me and I take my place in front of the mirror, as nervous as a sacrificial lamb in medieval times. This seems to be entertaining to God, too, for I cannot even see if the barber decides to take out his frustration, or whatever is worrying him on my hair for sans my spectacles, I am blinder than a bat. I show him a picture of what I want and his confidence is alarming rather than reassuring. “Okay sir, okay no problem.” He whips out his spray bottle and his instruments with the confidence of a surgeon and starts cutting away.
At the end of this 20-minute ordeal, he asks me if I want a head massage. “Oh no,” I reply, having learned from a very painful experience, that his head massage will very well turn into a ‘head massacre’. My head will become a tabla, and invariably, God will pitch in too, by broadcasting an old Zakir Hussain concert on Doordarshan.
Finally, he removes the cape from me and I put on my glasses. He hasn’t followed any of my instructions and I get the same old boring bowl haircut that Djokovic sports so well, but I can’t pull off.
I take leave and walk back to my home, telling myself I shouldn’t have curbed my urge to go to a salon. But I always feel better when I see another young boy like myself, zooming down the road, with a ridiculous haircut that the standards of modern fashion have placed. Perhaps old is really gold and beauty does truly lie within.