Who doesn’t like going home and visiting their parents. Everyone does! The love and care and the amazing mom’s food, you don’t need any more reasons than that.
But, is a visit home all so hunky dory? Isn’t there something you fear? Well, I will tell you what’s to fear if you are a guy. No, I am not referring to the incessant talks about marriage (I agree that’s unsettling, but that’s not what this post is about). It’s about your hair ,and be thankful to your good genes if you still have decent hair left on your scalp after 25 odd years.
Thank God that i still had enough hair left on my head to comb when i woke up today.And may it be the same tomorrow. Amen!
So after all the niceties are done with, and all the hoopla surrounding your visit home after such a long time has died down. You and your dad are face to face. You have been dreading this moment ever since you made plans to visit home. There’s a silence in the room and the tension is so palpable that you could cut it with a knife. And then your dad says
“So Son, when are you getting a haircut?”
The problem with fathers is that they can never like your hairstyle. It’s always too long for them. I suspect that if I turn up home with a shaved head, even then I would be asked to get a haircut. I think that’s how dads are programmed to be.
What does your father know how much care has gone into styling and nurturing the whatever little hair is left on your head, into the perfect length so that there’s no hint of the inevitable baldness that has been slowly and steadily encroaching upon your hairspace. You have grown your hair to the perfect length, which gives the illusion of the maximum foliage. That reminds me of the epic scene from one of my all-time favourite movies Andaz Apna Apna.
I have done my own research on this hair-raising problem. After detailed data analysis using regression tools over the past 5 years, I have come to the conclusion that the optimum duration between two haircuts should be exactly 42 days ( Of course, after all 42 is The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything ) and the length of your hair should be exactly 3φ .( φ : The Divine Proportion if you recall it from The Da Vinci code). The curve comes out to be a Gaussian distribution. ( I am not going to bore you with all my research technicalities. Take up a course on www.coursera.org, if you want to learn about Data analysis and Gaussian distributions.)
The hair is too short and everyone knows you are balding…
The hair is too long and you easily give away that you are balding, at the slightest gust of a wind …
If only there was a Nobel Prize in the field of Hair Research, Sigh!
Even your mom doesn’t have a say on this sensitive issue. Your wanton look of help towards your mom to rescue you out of this haircut situation is met with a helpless- “You have to do what the dad says “-shrug. And being such an obedient son that I am, I put aside all those years of research and decided that alas, I will get a haircut to keep my dad happy.
“Oh, the things we do for our parents”
Since, I don’t exactly live in a metro city where you have Habib’s and what nots, at every corner, I decided to chart out the unfamiliar ‘barberian’ terrain around my house. Here were the three options that I stumbled upon on my quest.
Option 1: The quintessential Italian salon that thrives in India. From villages to metros, its market penetration is unrivalled.
By the time I completed my quest and zeroed in on Option 3, it was already dark. Inside the salon, there was a flickering ,not more than 40 W bulb, and a frail shaking old man in dhoti sitting on the corner who I presumed must be the barber. The setting would have given run for money to any Hollywood Horror blockbuster. But what had to be done, had to be done, and casting my fears aside and revolting against all my senses that were shouting at me to retreat, I requested the old man for a haircut.
I don’t even know if the old guy could see anything clearly beyond two inches, but he was surprisingly adept at handling his scissor and comb. I felt there was something sinister going on in this place, but that’s just supposed to happen in movies, right! And that was the second feeling of warning I ignored.
15 minutes into the haircut, the electricity went off. But the barber kept working in the dark , as if nothing had happened. Warning number 3! Obviously, you don’t expect a backup power source or generator in such a place, so I mustered up the courage and asked him to put on some light source. He just laughed and said, “Don’t worry , I have been doing this for 500 years. I can do this with both my eyes closed!” Was he joking when he said 500 years? I didn’t have the guts to ask him whether he was being serious or funny.
Either he took a pity on my frightful and anxious state or my prayers of getting this ordeal over as soon as possible were answered. He paused for a few moments, rummaged in the dark and lit a candle, which was at least as old as the barber if not more. I just prayed to God that the candle keeps burning at least till my haircut lasts.
Me: “Are you sure you won’t cut my ear or anything, in such dim light?”
The barber: “Oh I am pretty sure, if I wanted, I could cut more than just your ear”
That was the end of the conversation and whatever doubt and skepticism I had regarding his ‘barberian’ skills I decided to keep to myself, lest I wanted to see another day.
After what felt like eternity, he said he was done. So 20 bucks lighter and being almost scared to death, as I was leaving, he asked me to come check up with him in the morning in case he missed something due to the poor light. I thought I sensed a hint of mischief and malice in his parting words, but I didn’t give it much thought. I was just happy to be alive and not short of an ear! I was not coming back, ever again!
I reached back home, to face the taunts of my sisters, who didn’t make any two bones about how ridiculous I looked with the new haircut. Mom was more supportive; she said the haircut was good. That’s why we all love moms, don’t we? But the icing on the cake was Dad. The happiness on my dad’s face was nothing like I had ever seen before. He was so glad that I had listened to him and finally got a haircut. I think he was not so proud of me even on the day I cleared JEE.
The next day when I woke up, I thought the candle light haircut was not such a spooky experience after all. Maybe the exhaustion and hunger of the Barber quest had made me imagine everything. So I thought, I will heed the advice of the barber and visit his shop to get some final touches.
I found my way back to the shop. But, Instead of a shop it was just an old, half- charred wooden structure with the walls barely standing. I asked the chai-walla at the corner, “Wasn’t this a barber shop.” He gave me a puzzled and a “Who-gets-high-so-early-in-the-morning?”- look and replied, “No sir, the shop burnt down 15 years ago on a winter night. The barber who used to sleep in the shop couldn’t escape and was burnt to death!!”
P.S: No offence meant to any bald people, balding people or ghost barbers!