Hey Jupaa, whats with the new Thiruchelvan look ?
Ada naaye...Haircut panni thola...Enna asingum da idhu...(Bugger...get a haircut done...u look fugly)
Sweety, are you short of money ? Need some for a haircut and shave ?
A million memories....Flashback time...
During my very early childhood (when I was a real bachcha) I remember having some local barber coming over to our 'thinnai' (verandah) and doing his duties while Paatti would stand guard near the front door ensuring that the man did not invest anything but 150% concentration on the job at hand After a good 20 mts (used to be the era when quality of work was directly proportional to the time you took to do it) when everyone at home was unanimous in their opinion that a reasonably good job had been done, the barber would be paid his dues and dismissed. Of course, I could not come inside the house till I had had my 'kuliyal' (bath) near the 'kenaru' (well) at our 'kollapakkam' (backyard) which was probably the best part of the whole ritual.
I must have been 5 or probably 6 when I first went, with my father in tow, to have my haircut done in a proper saloon. I vaguely remember the awe with which I stared at the posters of heros like Rajini, Kamal and a handsome hunk unknown to me (which I later found was Jeetendra) that adorned the entrance, the mirrors on all walls inside, the huge swiveling chairs where the 'grown ups' sat whilst they were dealt with and the radio blaring out songs from Akashvani... When it was finally my turn, I remember being seated on a 'palagai' (wooden bench) above the chair since I was too short and the head barber brandishing a gleaming scissors and a green comb. My parents tell me that when I came back home, I cried a lot for no reason whatsoever (to my credit, dad tells me I never flinched inside the room) but that is one part I dont remember much. What I do remember is that the head barber, who was also the owner of the shop, had been very friendly and put me totally at ease which meant that I had just become a lifetime customer for him. As time flew and I grew up, Dad would no longer accompany me since he was now reasonably confident that the barber knew exactly what I liked and what I disliked. For one, I hated that initial water spray so for me it had to be a little lesser amount of water (just enough to make the hair wet and easy to chop off) than the regular. Unlike his other customers, I always insisted that he use a new blade when he started with me and this is a practice that happens till today. (just that for economies, he halves every blade and uses a fresh half for me) During those early days, the shop had just 3 seats so there used to be very little trouble on who decided what should play on the radio. When I was there, I always had my way (paavum kozhandai was how he would get the others to agree) and it was film music and not some stupid news (Neone remembers Saroj Narayanswamy ?) or farming programme.
Saloons in most places are closed on Tuesdays. During my school days, I had no option but to get my haircut done only on weekends and Saturday used to be my wake-up-late day which left Sunday as the only alternative. However unlike a lot of people, I enjoyed going to the saloon on Sunday coz it used to be crowded which meant that there would be atleast 3 newspapers and a couple of magazines lying around which I could lay my hands on. The usual practice was to leave at around 7:45 am and after a wait that ranged from 20 to 40 mts, I would finally get my turn and be back by 8:45 am which meant I could still have my bath and sit in front of telly from 9 am....Those were the days when cable TV wasn't as prevalent and more people saw He-man and the Masters of the Universe, Guiness Book of World records, Ramayan and the lot...Neway coming back to the saloon itself, it was here that I first learnt to read Thamizh. The Sunday newspapers usually had a 4 page supplement devoted solely to TV and cinema with hot, nubile women adorning the front page and the incentive to learn the language was the fact that I could then be privy to all the secrets / gossip of Kollywood.
More years went by and it was around Std: 6 or 7 when I became aware that a lot of my friends devoted a good 20 mts before the mirror everyday styling their hair in all sorta fashions. If it wasn't disco cut, then it was step cut...Or what was it... rambo cut...but good ol' me was always a 'summer cut' (means: go the whole hog) boy...The family believed that when u spent good money, you needed to get good value for it :-) It was probably around the same time that the owner moved to a bigger shop in the same building which could now seat 5 people and had a large waiting lounge. The interiors were redecorated, prices hiked and it was rechristened Malaysia Saloon. Curious me always was full of questions so I remember asking him why he had called it so for which the reason given was that the owner's son had gone to work in Malaysia (as a fitter or plumber or the usual) and having to endure very tough work conditions had run back home to his family occupation which made him a foreign trained specialist. LOL.
As I reached senior school and fancier saloons sprung everywhere in the neighbourhood, I continued to vest my loyalty with Malaysia though prices had now risen to unheard of astronomical highs (Rs 35 for a summer cut and Rs 50 for a shave and haircut was obscene in a small town like Trichy) Then college happened and though I was part hosteler and part dayscholar, I always came home for the monthly ritual. It was probably during this time that the owner also started treating me like a mature adult (instead of pampering me) and confided all his financial problems and personal family issues to me asking for advice. I think it was sometime in my last year of college when I first entertained thoughts of trying out a new hairstyle, esp since I had already got a job and wanted to live the life of a rebel in those last few months. After carefully rehearsing the lines that I would use to convince the man why I did not need a regular 'summer cut', when I finally tried to attempt it, I was in for a rude jolt. Here's what happened
"Vaanga thambi... Eppdi irukeenga ?" (Come in lad, how are you?)
"Nalla irukken annen.. neenga eppdi irukeenga ? Unga payyan Arumugham sowkiyama ?" (I am fine.. How about you ? Hows your son Arumugham doing ?)
"Adhu periya kadhai thambi... vaanga vetti kittey solraen" (Thats a long story.. let me tell you as I do your haircut)
"Yaen.. nalla dhaane irukkaaru ?" (I hope its nothing serious)
*addressing another customer*
"Indha thambiya enakku 5 vayasilerndhu theriyumm.. kaalam pora pokkula kettu pogaadhu orey pulla idhu.. eppovume summer cut dhaan..indha kanna pinna style ellam kidiayaadhu"
(I have known this kid since he was 5..He is the only boy to have been not spoilt by the passage of time...always does his 'summer cut' and not these rubbish fashions?
...and thus ended my briefest flirtation with fashion. The rest as they say is history. I worked in Pune and Chennai and trusted my cool hair to a lot of new faces but never was I treated as royally as I was at Malaysia. At SP in Mumbai, it was different for it was the first time that I went to a proper stylist's saloon where employees opened doors for customers, the AC was awesome, there were fancy aprons, foreign colognes and the works... But it was all machine operated and the whole experience lasted a maximum of 8 minutes and the Rs 50 charge almost left me feeling cheated. Damn. I could barely read the Filmfare and Stardust in that time.
So many more childhood stories... But all those for another rainy day...Yeah, its raining here in Bangalore... Yippeee...