a wailing little kid.. seated on two bricks under the mercy of an old barber and shade of an old tree..pushed there by merciless parents.. that’s what i used to think when sent for haircut as a kindergarten child..if i remember right ..the old trembling barber charged Rs 2..a gala welcome would await my parade back home..all curtains lifted…no one dare stand on the way.. the way that directly lead to the bathroom..towels would then follow at my behest..ooh what a relief..no one at home was supposed to touch an ambatta theetu
time went on..shifted my loyalties to an actual barber shop..this one..had a couple of mirrors…a thatched roof ..few hindi news papers..still he charged me only Rs 3 ..i used to protest..cos a charge of Rs. 4 would mean i was a grown up and then at the age of 10-12 i eagerly wanted to join that category..even then the welcome at home after this ritual remained the same..
two more years and i was proud to join the above “grown up” category..charges escalated to Rs 5 by then..now i went to the saloon where papa used to go..krishna saloon , that was its name.. this one had a proper roof.. played music..he had a wonderful collection of rafi songs..and had another big attraction..there were loads of these filmy magazines and i made it a point to devour at each of them with my adolescent eyes….besides this there was always a crowd on a sunday morning and to be entertained all you need were keen ears..gossip about the whole township would bud at that place..some time around then i briefly visited another barber shop..the guys at this place tricked me.. they would perform half their job on me and then put me to wait and attend another customer.. thus seeing to it that there were many half shaved heads and beards in his shop..i never turned back to the shop again.. coming back to Krishna saloon.. their service was simply amazing.. after the haircut, he would give you a head massage (that reminds me of some massage blues about which I’ll write some other time)..all for a princely sum of Rs.5 (need to find out if rates have increased now)..
all that was in a humble township called moubhandar in erstwhile bihar..by now this “grown up” was put in a hostel in chennai.. a lot of things were to change here..it started of with economics.. was shocked to be paying Rs. 25 at some saloon in the streets of Triplicane for a haircut..but was clamed by the fact that it was one of the cheapest rates….more than long unruly hairs a cricket match telecasted on satellite television was a stronger reason to go to saloon..then one day was celebrating some b’day in my room.. this guy Ramesh..barber fresh from a saloon jumped onto my bed for the snacks…was shocked as to what was happening in an Iyengar hostel..but then said chuck it cos i had to react fast on the fast depleting kara bundi and mixture..that was when the concept of ambatta theetu was thrown for a toss..
then welcome saloon in tanjore..selvam saloon in lalgudi.. by now i started insisting on the usage of new blade….turning on the air condition.. learnt a couple of saloon jargons.. all this and more flashed at my mind when was asked Rs 60 to cut the hair that took 30 days to grow..