It’s been nearly a year and a half in Nepal but I haven’t ever had a haircut here. Now, don’t be unduly shocked. For those who have seen me recently would vouchsafe that I do not carry kale lambe ghane reshmi tresses on my head – in fact, I don’t even flaunt hair long enough to match Hritik’s Mowgli inspired Krishh style (nor do I have the body to go alongwith it, but that’s a different story).
The reason for not trying Nepalese barbers is that, usually, I make once-a-month trip to Delhi, and get the needful done there, in comfortable and familiar surroundings. But during January’s trip I barely stayed home, hence did not get time at all. True, I had few hours in Mumbai, but then, I am confident Priyangini wouldn’t really have relished the idea of having a meet at a barber’s shop!
Thus, by first week February I was looking quite unruly. Also, long hair irritates – whether on my head, or someone else’s. I firmly believe a man looks best with short cropped hair (and inversely, a girl’s beauty is enhanced by her crowning glory). So before the matter got out of hand, I decided to do something about it.
Realisation hit me that I hadn’t seen many barbers here. There was a small cubby hole shop down the lane, which had on display a faded and torn Salman Khan poster from his Saajan days, and had kept on the dull-green mica counter, an archaic glass-and-long-winding-steel-water- spray- an item that even my Delhi’s neighborhood ‘naai’ had upgraded to a more fancy plastic ones; it’s original use is to water plants, I reckon!
No way was I going there, I resolved with a slight shudder.
On his last visit, my boss had pointed out to a corner shop in front of Radisson, asking about haircut rates here; at that time I had no clue. The shop belongs to the hotel, though it is not in the main premises. So, off I went there – twice! Both times it was closed. But today, thankfully the awful shutter was up and in I walked, praying that let it not be exorbitantly expensive. The counter man smiled and refused to take me in saying the shop was closed. At six pm!
My next destination was Hotel Annapurna – they have a shopping arcade adjacent to the main building. I recalled seeing some ‘barber’ signage there. Sure, it was there, and it was open – though the personnel gave same answer – ‘closing time’. I plonked myself on the sofa, gave a sweet smile and requested him to adjust me in today. Thankfully, he agreed.
And there began my perils!
I have nothing against garrulous barbers, but it’s just that I am not given to small talk. But this was something I hadn’t imagined.
He started off pointing at my graying hair. Probably, he would next ask me to dye my hair- a temptation which my Delhi barber still secretly hopes I would succumb to someday. Everytime I visit him, he picks a few hair strands, and drops them in disdain as if they are a filthy rag, and shake his head sorrowfully, “Tch tch tch, Bahut safed ho gaye hain”; his tone makes you feel as if it is Earth’s biggest calamity; and then, brightening up, he will go on to inform that current hair colors are even good for the hair. My response, as ever, is a soft smile but a firm no! ‘At least henna?’ he ventures hopefully. ‘We have lots of good herbal hennas.’ Hennas are always herbal, I wish to retort sometimes. But most likely, I slip into the comfortable chair and close off my eyes. That ends the discussion, and the rest goes off peacefully.
Anyways I am digressing. So, this one talked about bad diet, stomach ailment and all. Perplexed, I waited patiently for the catch to be sprung on me, while his hand moved dexterously on my mane. And then it came! The moot point: – there is a lovely organic fruit supplement that can cure anything. He was member of the company’s direct marketing team.
I maintained a stoic smile, but inwardly let out a loud groan. I am very wary of direct marketers – friends, who after the obligatory hellos, start off with virtues of ‘this awesome never-sold, never-found product’ (then why did you find it, my mind would scream); or eager acquaintances who thrust Tupperware catellogues under your nose as you struggle to sip your Coke with a straight face – these are people who I strike off my phone book the first.
I recall I had this friendly client – and during the negotiations his wife nearly kept my purchase of Tupperware as a ransom for the deal to go through. Thankfully, her husband was sensible, and moreover her greed for the new car prevailed over her salesmanship-spirit!
At another time, a friend’s friend had conspiratorially called me for a ‘striking business deal’. I agreed to check it out and ended up at Japan Life’s orientation meet at Kalkaji, Delhi. Japan Life sold (or probably, still sells) a unique magnetic mattress that guaranteed obliteration of any and every disease – and it was for ‘just Rs 70,000’! The deal was you buy that mattress, make three more members and the money shall start rolling in. Cool! After an impressive presentation, there were casual meets between various ‘uplines’ and ‘downlines’ – it all seemed so easy. Just a few more like you and you have cheques coming your way every month. You are your own boss, no office, no fixed routines -they lured.
Two girls, in low-waist jeans, talked excitedly – one piped about the next car she had booked – a grey Santro, the other vetoed it with a long squeaky drawl ‘Chhee, buy a yellow one!’ I nearly fainted but this one went on to mention an upcoming holiday in Mauritius.
With naivety, I heard their conversation; my salivating mind lapped up each word greedily. Yes, this was my calling – this was what I was always meant for. Easy money – luxurious holidays, swanky cars, trendy night-clubs and without any serious work, or best of all: – no slimy idiotic boss to report to! For sure, I was sold on to the idea. The only obstacle – I didn’t have the initial Rs 70,000! And my dad categorically refused to cough up his own for, what he felt, ‘an outrageously stupid idea’!
That was the end of that story.
Reluctantly my mind dissolved to the present. The burden on my head was lesser, but the one on my ear was still the same. It’s not a drug, it’s organic, it doesn’t have side effects, takes care of your liver and kidneys as well etc etc. One bottle was for NPR 1900, but of course there is a ten-percent discount if you buy immediately. There always is!
I looked at my reflection – my smile was still frozen from the time he had started off! I tried to sound interested, letting out a few ‘hmms’ at regular intervals. I always find such situations very sticky where some one is trying to sell an idea/deal/product enthusiastically, and I have the least interest for it!
However, in all this, hiis work was good and I was satisfied with the end-result.
As soon as he was finished, I sprang from the leather chair and paid the money. Till then he had only talked about the goodness of this American-Japanese joint product, reaching Nepal via Malaysia! But as he took the money he finally fired his final salvo, ‘So should I pack one for you?’
I mumbled something about being here only so will pick it up some other day and hurried out of the shop. No more here; I vowed to myself that next time it will be in Delhi only – even if it means getting the hair hennaed! At least it’s better and cheaper than being sold off some horrendously expensive tonic!