Barbernama: Why Two-timing Your Barber is Always a Bad Idea


Barbernama: Why Two-timing Your Barber is Always a Bad Idea

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Men, I’ve realised, are greatly attached to two people throughout their lives – their mothers and their barbers. The first helps them shape their life and the latter helps them shape the rest of their lives. But while you might eventually move out of your mother’s house, you know you’ll be visiting the same barber until the day you die, or go bald. So, we commence the search for “the one” in the dingiest salons and parlours of our neighbourhood. And we’ll keep playing musical chairs with each barber until we finally meet our one true hair-mate.

Naturally, at some point, the search ends, and an everlasting romance commences along with a promise to never let another man touch our hair. But, if you’ve ever watched a rom-com, or better yet, lived one, then you’d know that the greatest romances end because people never realise what they have until it’s lost forever.

This was the case with my one true hair-mate, Dada, a 45-year-old barber who looked 55, and had been cutting my hair since I was a schoolboy.

Enhance Beauty Parlour was popular for keeping up with the coolest hairstyles of the decade. Rumour had it that the peerless Dada, a visionary, was the first barber in our neighbourhood to use Brad Pitt’s photograph on his display window.

Upon my immediate arrival, Dada offered me a seat with a steadfast expression. I tried to smile at him but the churning in my stomach held me back.

For each haircut, he’d charge us a lousy 60 bucks and then, he’d style it into a faux-hawk with expensive hair serum that he’d bought specially for the kids. On mornings when the salon wasn’t too crowded, Dada would give cathartic head massages with Navratna Tel, free of charge. On many occasions customers couldn’t help but let out suggestive moans as Dada’s fingers led them toward a pleasurable climax. Perhaps this is why there was such a rush outside his salon at opening time.

Over the years I’d grown quite fond of the sweet old man. But a few weeks ago, I committed the greatest violation of barber-client code by two-timing my man while he was out of town. Think of it like cheating on your partner, except your partner is in control of your appearance and will probably want revenge. That evening, I’d showed up at Enhance Beauty Parlour for the usual trim and shave to prep for a date, when Dada’s colleague told me he had left for his hometown on a family emergency.  

I needed a haircut and I needed it right then – dates are hard enough to come by! But Dada was nowhere to be seen. As I walked back home I saw the sign for Maratha Salon for Gents, Dada’s greatest business rivals. Then, feeling like the traitor I was, I walked right in.

As they say, karma’s a bitch. I was not only stood up by my date, I was also forced to walk around with an ugly haircut for the next three weeks. By the time I walked back into Dada’s salon, I was wracked by guilt. I’d tried to let my hair grow out to hide my traces, but how could I fool the man who had known me since I had milk teeth?

Upon my immediate arrival, Dada offered me a seat with a steadfast expression. I tried to smile at him but the churning in my stomach held me back.

My heart began pounding as my cuckolded barber tightened a cape around my neck. I desperately wanted to enquire if something was wrong but, I was afraid it would draw his suspicion. He proceeded to give me a routine haircut, and even had me pick a look from his wall of celebrities as usual. Even so, my instincts told me something was definitely off. I was getting off the chair when Dada latched onto my forehead and forcibly pulled me back into my seat.

“Kahaan jaa rahe ho? Daadhi trim karlo, ekdum Brad Pitt dikhoge,” he insisted.

I’ve learned it’s best not to argue with a man holding a straight razor, so I stayed put in my chair. I was terrified of the possibilities. Would he ruin my haircut with a slip of the clippers? Would he leave a patch of stubble in a blind-spot for my date to point out and embarrass me? Turns out, Dada was too much of a professional to ruin his careful handiwork out of some desire for revenge. Because of his A-game poker face, I couldn’t tell whether he had found out about my careless dalliance with his rival.

I’m sure he knew. Because when it came time to apply the aftershave, he seemed to take sadistic pleasure in rubbing the stinging alcohol into the cuts on my face. My face felt like it was on fire, and I even let out a whimper, but all he did was laugh. My sweet old barber had turned into Sweeney Todd.

Today, I’ve got tufts of hair growing over my ears and brushing the top of my collar, but I’m still nervous about going back to Dada. I can’t go to Maratha Salon for Gents either, since the barber there couldn’t cut open a packet of milk to save his life. Perhaps, this is what I deserve for my indiscretion. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Hell hath no fury like a barber scorned.