Barber’s Training

For years I went to Asha Hairdressers (Naranpura Ahmedabad) and the same barber gave me a haircut. A barber talking to you while cutting your hair is a special pleasure for most men. At times he could cross his boundaries or pass on to you an appalling piece of information. In my native place we had a large ancestral house and the patriarch, the grandfather, would entertain all of us kids that would have gone there for the summer vacation. Mangoes, fun and games; running away to movies and getting the beating upon returning are the sweet memories. The family barber had a key role to play. He would get the news and carry some to spread. Especially about matchmaking and other social gossip he was the source. One day I asked my barber at the Asha Hair Dressers, “Tell me Pashabhai, how are you trained to be a barber?”He answered “Are Saheb , I remember having been slapped many times”. “How come?” I asked. He started narrating, “Saheb, we would be given a small, face sized matka. The maroon colour and the glaze would be fresh on it. This matka would be painted with white lime and we would be given a razor to scrape off the lime without making a single scratch on the red color of the original maroon surface of the matka”. I said, “Oh, so this was an exam!” He retorted “This is the problem with you city guys, not an exam; training saheb training! Anyway, after scraping the entire matka, we had to show it to our father. If one had made even a small scratch on the red surface of the matka, a heavy slap would be planted on the cheek.” “But that is cruel” I would say. “No, no, no; it was training. While getting the training I had to go with my father to all his clients whom he gave a shave or a haircut. I would carry his little bag. I had to watch him shave and behave to please the ego of the client. It was a very tactful act to be performed. “After some time, we were asked to sharpen the razor on the flint stone and the leather belt before shaving the matka and slaps would be panted again and again; training Saheb; training….”