My wife thinks that it’s high time I get done a bit of paintwork on my dome.
Though I’m still some way from reaching ‘middle-age’ – when most men get to see the first strands of grey on their head – my head is already more grey than black.
In fact, I’m quite okay with it. Salt and pepper is in vogue and I have seen much younger guys coloring their black hair into white, but my wife isn’t okay. Christmas is around the corner and she has given me a stern warning, “Don’t come with me to my home town with this hair. People will think you are my father’s older brother”. My father-in-law has jet black hair.
So I go to Mahesh Hair Saloon. It’s 2 pm and I’m there at this time for one main reason – to escape from post-lunch dish-washing duties at home.
This is not Mahesh hair saloon. This one’s from Gujarat
The ‘Mahesh’ who calls himself, “Mages”, is from Tamil Nadu and we have become kind of friends after my frequent visits.
“I only need a hair coloring” I announce.
With no plates to wash and no smelly armpits to shave, Mages is free around lunchtime. I’m the only customer present but I’m going to find out the negative side of visiting a barbershop at such a lean hour. Since he’s free, Mages is in a mood to give extensive service. He talks me into a haircut, shaves, head massage, and coloring. Full head service, indeed. “Only 120 rupees, Sir”
I have never done shaving and head massage in a saloon before but if I go home early my wife’s going to make me work the sink. It’s better to be in the saloon, watch TV and kill time.
I hoist myself into his tall revolving chair.
“Short, medium?” he asks snipping his scissors.
It may appear as a valid question, but I have been visiting him long enough to know it isn’t. I always tell him to cut little (medium), but he simply runs his mowing machine – a rusty old fashioned iron clipper – on my scalp and always leaves me with depressingly little hair in the end and when I go home, I would hear my wife tell my daughter, “Mottai (baldy) has come, open the door”. Today is no different.
The hair cut is over in less than 10 minutes – it never ever took more than 10 minutes, and the shaving is also done in no time.
Then he settles me in for the head massage. I realize that I’m carrying a mild sinus headache and wonder whether I should stop him. “I have a slight headache”, I tell him.
“Don’t worry, Sir, your headache will fly away once I start”
I’m skeptical, but I’m also beginning to worry that I could still find myself at home just in time for the plates.
He starts by pressing lightly around the temple area to the back of my head in a loop with his thumb and index fingers of both hands. Not bad, I think. He follows it up with a string of quick but light slaps on the sides. Not bad at all.
And then, an open-palm heavy slap falls exactly on the top of my head. I cringe in pain. Another one lands in quick succession and then another one. I twist my head leftwards in an attempt to evade the fourth one but I catch it on my right ear. A rumbling rush of air escapes my ear with a whistling sound and something spins inside my head…
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself…
“Sir, sir,” I wake up to Mages’s voice, “What happened, sir?” He’s concerned.
I slip down from the tall chair and stagger to my feet, feeling extremely woozy.
“I’m going home. I’m not well”.
I don’t reply.
I look at my head in the large mirror. The few patches of black which were there when I walked into the shop are now gone and I’m greyer than ever. I look old – like my father-in-law’s long-dead older brother.
I fish inside my wallet, hand him 70 rupees, and step out of the door. As I walk home, the waiting plates don’t bother me. At least they won’t kill me.