When I was very young, my father’s barber used to cut my hair. He, or rather they, were local barbers who made housecalls. They were a pair of brothers, one short and slight, called Shanti, and the other burlier and taller, whom Baba (my father) called Ashanti (the opposite of Shanti/ peace) for the sake of rhyme and rhetoric. Shanti, true to his name, was more timid and patient, and I preferred him.
He would usually come on Sundays, carrying his small wooden box with a top handle, and one of the straight-backed dining chairs would be brought out in the open cemented courtyard, ready for all the family members (men or children) who wanted a shave or a haircut or theirs nails trimmed (for the stubborn male-nails, not for our tender-tips-and-toes, which were cut by Maa)
My Dadu (granddad) would sit first, and Shanti would carefully trim his scanty white hairs (on head, ears and nostrils – which fascinated us) and shave his wrinkled-wobbling cheeks tenderly and reverentially. Then Baba and Jethun (father and uncle) would come, and Shanti (or Ashanti) would be more robust and talkative, swiftly stroking the sharp blade down their cheeks and chin and briskly wiping the lather on a flat piece of leather, neatly paring their stubborn nails and giving them a joint-hand, chop-chop-chop head-banging massage.
Bhai and I would be the last, and we would sit under the sun, with the sparrows and magpies watching us warily from the trees in the garden surrounding the open courtyard. We would be wrapped in a huge white cloth tucked around our scrawny necks and Shanti (but never his brother) would chop away merrily with his scissors, giving us a brain-rattling massage at the end, and we would look down ruefully at the shiny black locks of hair fallen on the ground, and then up at our reflections in Shanti’s small spotted mirror.
These reflections would be unvarying – Bhai was always getting a crew-cut (which meant that merely a millimeter of his curly hair would remain on his head) and I would get a “boy’s cut” (inch-long curls all over my head).
I had to wait till almost my teens to enter a proper parlour, but that’s another story.
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR HAIRCUT-EXPERIENCES AS A CHILD?