Cut Cut Cut

Its a small barber shop in one of the oldest localities in Mysore. And my regular haircut saloon for the last two decades. As I went there for a hair cut, the main barber salutes with his usual exclamation "Saar". He has 3 other co-barbers who are employed there from a long time (no attrition here sir!). "Your father and brother are not seen nowadays?", he asks me concerned about the reducing business from my family. "Oh is it?" I mumble, not sure what to say. "What?" the co-barber asks him. "Vallu thammudu...", he translates my incoherent answer into a weird combination of telugu mixed with kannada. I just say "Medium, comb-able (not too short)" Too easy, he has done that for years!

I just wondered how this place looked in the 80s. Quite unsurprisingly, its exactly the same. Two huge mirrors placed on either walls, parallel to each other. It was almost like magic for me when I had first visited that shop as a kid. Reflection in one mirror, acted as the image for the other mirror, and recursively, there are multiple images. I used to wonder how many images can exist like this. It was during my PU, I learnt the formula to realize that with 180 degree separation, the number of images is infinite!

There is an old portrait of Mysore Maharaja, which shows the obvious respect he has for the king (lot of old timers still consider him as their master!) There are 2 or 3 photos of his deceased elders (no, these are the places which dont think that such photos ruin the ambience) The usual board on the wall that says "Olaga players available for marriages, upanayanas and other auspicious functions" (Traditionally, the barbers are experts at playing Olaga - a type of wind instruments used during traditional marriages in Karnataka)

An old radio playing a very very AM channel. The ad aired is for some computer institute - which is a conversation between two people.
"Sunil, what are you doing after college?"
"Oh, then why dont you join blah-blah-blah institute for hardware and networking course?"
"Whats the use of that?"

"You not only get good training, but there is an assured job placement"

"Oh is it, thank you very much. I will join today itself"

The advertisement is so 70s, that it makes "Washing Powder Nirma" and "Vicks Action 500" look ultra-modern. A few local guys keep visiting the place, updating the barber on the happenings in their lives, lost friendships, loan dealings and local politics. He listens to their stories without any boredom, hums along line by line to the radio song, while performing his craft with scissors. No matter how ordinary a person is, parallel processing comes very naturally to Indians.

He is done with the hair cut and I ask him, "How much?" - partly because I was not sure how much I had paid last time and expecting a probable price change. "You give saar", he tells - he is still from those old days where quoting the price explicitly was considered greedy and rude. I remember and give him the same amount I had given last time. Yes, the price has not changed. So he is. You may say that India is changing and changing fast. But, some places just remain as they are, probably to show us what India was a long time ago.


  1. Venu said...
    where is this place..i had filtered out and arrived on one place (which is also close to your home). Once you mentioned about the maharaja poster and all, I just had to go back to guessing !

    Meanwhile I still remember the days when I used to go for the "cut" only to my favorite barber shop in mysore.

    Even if I skipped going to mysore for a month, I would still bear the long hair entering my ears, but wouldn't get it done in Bangalore :)

    I finally decided to do away with the above and now I am officially referred as the "porcupine" !!

    The bugger barber in Bangalore did screw up big time :(
    krupa said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    krupa said...
    very nostalgic!
    When I was a kid my mom would take me to "Golden Flower" where the lady would give me a lollipop so that I would let her cut my hair in peace :)

    One of the beauty parlors I used to visit- a run down place with every wall speaking of neglect; scary looking dolls...with grotesque expressions; posters of ugly women with unimaginably bad hairstyles..and a very fat lady! She gave the best massages! It looked like one of Fellini's sets ;)
    Anonymous said...
    Why is it that you haven't mentioned the amount you paid? Just curious to know the price, with you saying that nothing has changed in this place.
    Bit Hawk said...
    The place you guessed is Xcellent Men's Parler I suppose. But, this one is a different one (in Vidyaranyapuram) I also would not get a hair cut in Bangalore (had only once in the last 6 years!)

    I think it will be great if you write on your Fellinish parlour experiences.

    @i (I dont think you are Shilpa Shetty, I guess you are Chitrangda Singh :D)
    The price is 25 rupees, yes just 25 INR!
    Directionless Wanderer said...
    an excellent post .... the AM ad thing was funny as hell - typical of that part of India that perhaps has remained somewhat behind in all the media/IT/advertising/jobs blitzkrieg we are seeing today .... again, I completely agree about the average Indian's parallel processing - add to that some multi-stage pipelining! :D

    Here in Mumbai too, there are lots of such establishments that are still in the 80's & offer cheap services .... sometimes, I find these more appealing than the spotless clean, high ambience mega malls etc
    Anonymous said...
    Chitrangada Singh!!! I'm totally flattered. And my doubts of you putting in ':D' didn't reduce my happiness :)

    25 rupees is what you spend on your haircut! I wish i had maintained one such saloon for my hair cut since my childhood. A haircut gives my wallet a hole of Rs.350 :(
    Ramesh Natarajan said...
    Nice post...

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