Friday, January 30, 2009

A hair-razing experience

You land up in an alien land, and things happen which you end up remembering for a while. One such incident occurred a few months when I attempted the usually-simple task of getting a hair cut.

It was the day before our summer internship placements were starting, and I decided that going into interviews with a hair like a mop wasn't a bright idea when my CV didn't boast of any jaw-dropping achievements. Nor was my knowledge of business subjects enough for the interviewer to ignore the 2 obvious not-so-great things. And since the only thing I could improve on of these 3 was my looks, or more specifically, my hair, I decided to risk a hair cut in Kozhikode, nay, Kunnamangalam, the suburb which is currently home. With a bit of trepidation I drove down the 2 km road to the campus main gate, and found a barber shop. There were 3 chairs inside. 1 was occupied, and a content looking chap was leisurely and almost casually chopping off the locks of an equally indifferent customer.

'Kitna time?'
Some gobbledook which I presumed was mallu.
'Mallu nahi ata'
Gobbledook again.
'Hindi?'
Shakes his head with a sad look on it.
'Time. How much? Haircut'
'10'

10 minutes sounded like a fair estimation to me, so I sat down, trying to get myself enthralled by looking at the act of him chopping off hair. A few magazines were strewn around, but they all were mallu and had fancily-posed members of the weaker (whoever has coined that phrase has obviously been nowhere close to South India) sex on its covers. Instinct warned me to stay away from them and not flip through, and I wisely did so. The dusty black radio belted out mallu numbers interspersed with the chatter of an excited RJ, again in good ol' mallu. I cast a bored glance at the instruments of his trade strewn on the table in front of the large, wide mirror, and one at my watch. 15 minutes had passed.

'Time. How much? Haircut'
'10'
'10 hua. More?'
'10 only. I cut his hair. Go. Tea. Back in 45 mins. Then 10 mins.'

Houston, we have a problem.

45 minutes to have tea? When you have a customer waiting? My big-town upbringing was appalled at this work ethic, but it cleared looked like I was the needy person in the transaction, and he didn't care two hoots about whether I took my business elsewhere. So off I went, back to campus, returning three quarters of an hour later, hoping that another customer had not replaced the old one, and that I would not be forced to go through the cycle again. I was partly correct, no customer had replaced the old one, but the owner of the shop was nowhere to be seen. I guess I don't learn from my mistakes, for again I had forgotten to get along something which would enable me to pass time without wanting to make a haircut redundant (though it would take a fair bit of frustration for me to pull out all of my hair). The more I waited, the more agitated I got, so after waiting for 10 odd minutes, I decided to push off and buy some odds and ends which the campus shop refused to stock for some obscure reason.

After another quarter of an hour, I returned. I was in luck this time, for the shop was empty, the mandatory cuppa had been consumed, and the owner was actually present inside. Success was, finally, mine. Or so I thought, until he declared he'd finished and I saw my scalp in its entire pristine glory, through the short stubble of hair he'd kindly left behind. Exactly 10 minutes later.

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