The barber, in whose salon I had to wait for hours for my turn as a kid, was seated forlorn on the bench. The walls must’ve been painted recently, and the place looked even more spacious which I remarked to him as soon as I entered. Right after I settled in the salon chair, he asked me why I don’t come to the salon these days. He said it must be around four years. I dodged it with a lame excuse.
Wrapping the hairdressing robe around me, he began narrating what I believe was a slightly fictionised tale of how a school-going kid went to one of those fancy, air-conditioned salons, got a fancy haircut, and was almost thrown out of school. He was of the opinion that these air-conditioned salons were only cheating people. They have a TV, a sofa, but aren’t the scissors the same, was his argument. He seemed like a critic of the undercut too.
I paid him with a hundred-rupee note, asked him how much and he said 80. As if there weren’t enough dilemmas in life, I began working out how cheaper this was compared to the air-conditioned one I’ve been going to for the past four or so years and if the difference was significant. He must’ve sensed this.
“Is it too much? Tell me if it’s too much -“
“60 or 70 would be reasonable,” I mumbled.
He didn’t seem to hear it.
“Is it too much? If it’s too much I can-“
“No, no. It’s fine.”
I realized the salon wasn’t the same place it was years ago. Back then, it was a messier place with loose newspaper sheets shared by people occupying every inch of the bench. It was a real frustration to wait. Today, it looks newer, cleaner and more spacious. While that salon of yesteryear felt all young and alive, this one feels like it is greying.