My loss their gain

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on August 22, 2014


When in doubt, walk into the men’s parlour for a perfect haircut

As someone with very short hair, I am often congratulated upon my ‘low-maintenance’ hairstyle. But it needs cutting every six weeks, so it’s not really low-maintenance at all. I would love to grow it, except it’s much too thin. When there’s only an inch or two on the top of my skull, it stands up and pretends to look perky. The moment it reaches the three-inch limit, it flops over and dies.

That’s when I begin to lurk near the doorways of hair-dressing parlours, fighting the urge to go in. Why fight the urge, you might ask? Because I hate having to hand out money in order to lose something! Call me weird or call me silly, but that’s how I think of it: I go in, sit down, get a shampoo and then someone comes along and relieves me of six weeks’ worth of my own dear keratin.

In Delhi, I’ve worked out a solution in the form of a hair-dresser whom I like, called Shyam. He’s wonderful and he works at Blliis, near the Surya Hotel in Friends Colony, close to where I live. I’ve been going there for the past 10 years until... well... until the price of getting a haircut included the international airfare. So. I’ve had to find a parlour in Elsewhere. And it’s not been fun.

There are two main problems. First, the young women who work at parlours are not good with my very short, very thin, semi-wavy Asian hair. Second, they charge about three times of what it costs from Shyam while providing less than half the satisfaction. Lousy deal, huh? So that’s why, after several gloomy encounters in Elsewhere’s women’s salons, I finally pick up the courage to cross the street and step into the nearest barber’s shop.

It’s called Louey’s. I’ve checked online for the average price of a haircut and I know that it’s half of what Blliis charges. So that’s great. But infiltrating hardcore men’s territory? With no prior experience? And no one to guide me? Not so great. I have to drink cups of coffee, eat two cupcakes and rehearse what I’ll say many times over before I can force myself to lean in the open front door and whisper, ‘Uhh ... ’scuse me?’

I didn’t want to ask, ‘Do you cut women’s hair?’ Because it sounds vaguely pornographic. So instead I say, ‘Can I get a haircut?’ There are two guys wielding scissors and about eight guys waiting. They all look up, including the fellows who are currently being served. For a moment I feel as if I’ve grown three heads and am covered in green, glowing, zebra-striped boils.

Then the nearest of the two barbers nods, smiles, indicates the waiting area and says, ‘Sure! Take a seat.’ And everything returns to normal. I wait half an hour. I get a short, neat cut. No shampoo. No hair-dry. I pay my dues and trot back to my lair across the street. Grinning all the way.

( Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, tells us tales of her parallel life in Elsewhere, US, in this fortnightly series)


Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 25, 2014
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor