Sunday, February 05, 2006


I went for a haircut yesterday. Nothing unusual in that - other than the fact that I'm usually pretty lax when it comes to matters tonsorial. I have been needing a trim for a while, but have been putting it off. My main fear was that my lack of communication skills would result in an overly short cropping. After the event I realised that I shouldn't have been so concerned: my last haircut, a bargain Tesco value trim, was the very short cut I feared.

The local ATM has been down for the last few days so I walked to the next nearest one. ATMs over here often have a security guard in attendence. This one is no exception. Slightly less usual is the guard at my second choice ATM is sometimes accessorised with a shotgun. Not today however. On leaving with my money I realised that there were a couple of barbers opposite and steeled myself for the cut.

The nearest was Saddam's but it looked a bit busy so I went to the other one. Some hand gestures confirmed that haircuts were indeed available at the shop with barbers, scissors, barber chairs and people in the process of getting their hair cut. I sat and waited my turn.

Entertainment was provided by the Panasaonic [sic] radio blaring out Hindi tunes. It is always fun to examine the branding on goods in India. A previous entry mentioned the unlikely combinations on erstwhile couture clothing. Electronic goods don't escape the Indian treatment either. In this case we have the mispelling - a common occurrence. I can't decide whether it is a cunning tactic to keep Panasonic's lawyers at bay or simple ineptitude. Other variants I have seen are Panascanic and Shrap. We even have an example at work. Like the barber's Panasaonic it's a cassette/radio. This time the manufacturer is Nokina, whose logo coincidently uses the same font as a certain mobile phone company. Correctly spelt fakes are available too; cameras being a common example. Go into a camera shop and be dazzled by the array of cheap Canon and Nikon machinery on offer.

Back to the barber. Once it was my turn I sat in the chair and with more waving of hands and some limited use of actual vocabulary (bahoot chota nahene) I was reasonably confident of maintaining some length on top. The confidence was well placed, as a short time later I had a perfectly acceptable cut.

Next he asked if I wanted a shave. OK. Lathered up with whatever passes for badger hair over here I awaited the cut-throat. No namby-pamby safety razors over here. I was expecting this, but still kept very still whilst he attacked my stubble. What I didn't expect was that my stubble was so Desperate Dan-esque that it required a two pass attack. The end result was closer than my Gilette Mach 3 manages.

This wasn't the end. Did I want 'the machine'? The machine resembled a hand whisk - but with a rubber blob in place of the whisk. It would undoubtedly be marketed as a personal massage device on the UK high street. Usage involved my face being smeared with various potions and the vibrating rubber thing applied to my face. It felt very odd when jammed up against my nose and ears. Once finished with the machine the barber proceeded to whack me on the top and sides of my head a few times before giving me a few vigourous slaps to the back. And that was a haircut Indian style.