The barber shop traditionally was a man's last bastion of serenity. A place away from domestic chores and feminine wiles. A place to talk about man stuff. The barber often multi-tasking as a shrink.
My genes tell me that haircuts are one thing that I don't need to set aside money for in my retirement fund. A few more haircuts and soon that's one thing that won't need to be ticked on the to do list. Which is how I explain spending a ridiculously high amount for haircuts.
I don't know if I want to name the place I go to. Simply because I am sure they would like folks with thicker manes to be their brand ambassadors.
It's an airy, glass and chrome place, young folks in black, lounge music that I recognize from the gym.
There are no barbers here. There are stylists.
I had a 'stylist' for the last couple of years. S was the exact opposite of the swarthy barbers of yore. Over time our conversations became interesting. The usual stuff ... jobs, clients and bosses...the state of traffic ...religious fundamentalism. Yes, pretty much barber shop conversations in the modern salon. Then she left for a break.
So I walked in today to meet a new stylist, R. A 'junior' stylist just as S was before she became a 'top stylist'.
"Have you come here before?"
I looked at the young girl like the kids of Sound of Music did at a new governess, scowled and said "Yes. For a couple of years. Always to S".
So the process began. Wash, snip ... you could have cut the silence with a butter knife.
And then the usual conversation starter at Mumbai.
No, not the weather.
"Where do you live?"
"Oh, next door? I live at New Bombay. Never know what it means to reach work at twenty minutes. I just take the train to Wadala. Then to Andheri. Then another here. An hour and a half each way versus three by road."
"And what do you do?"
"You do? I used to work in market research too".
Then the ice broke. Turned out that R had worked for two years in the same agency that I used to before this!
"You have never come across a hair stylist who was a market researcher before have you?"
She said she had enjoyed research. Liked the 'corporate' world. Felt that the agency was one of the best places to work at.
"Corporate and yet cool".
"So why did you shift?"
"Well I always wanted to be a hair stylist. Research was fun but I didn't see myself at the desk all my life.
I wanted to try it out. Took a while to convince my parents. Being a hair stylist is not regarded to be a career yet here. Not like abroad where they respect whatever you do. Even if you are a janitor. But eventually my parents agreed. They said well you are grown up now. Even funded my course"
Then she looked at me proudly and said "I am a trainer now. And financially not too far off from my market research salary. I have done good".
"So what do you do in research? You are a food blogger too? You cook? I love to cook. I baked a cake the other day. For the first time. I followed all the instructions. Came out so easy. I was surprised."
And so our chat continued about the need to follow one's passion. The merits of blogging as a pressure valve. And about a former colleague, a legendary workaholic ... the other side... the need to have a balance in life"
Yes, chats on life in the salon continue well into the twenty first century.
Even if they are now with your stylist.