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     Volume 9 Issue 42| October 29, 2010 |

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Gruelling Grooming

Sohel Kasem

“Hello, have you seen how long their hair has grown? They look like cave men! Are you going to do something about it or not?” This was a usual accusation hurled at my father when we were children.. My father would give a forlorn, helpless look at me and my brother, and wait for a second call; and if that was forthcoming, he would look at us and say, “Boys, you heard your mother, let's go.” He would then lead two very reluctant boys, young men as we constantly reminded him even though we really were just pint-sized kids, to the neighbourhood's barber shop Intezam's. I still remember Mr Intezam, a no-nonsense person, wrapping a cotton sheet around us, which had already been used at least a dozen times, plonking us on a wooden board across the chair (as we weren't tall enough) and quickly getting to work lopping off the curls that we had tried so hard to cultivate the month before. My brother wanted sideburns a la Roger Moore, I just wanted the barber’s hands off, but to no avail. Intezam, the barber, only knew one style and that was the short back and sides. Half an hour later when we felt like two sheep whose wool had been brutally shorn off, we would trudge back home. Mother would be absolutely delighted. For another month, anyway.

How things have changed! I wouldn't dare call Babul, my current hairdresser, a barber. It would be too demeaning. Babul is a very sophisticated and well dressed, he's a pro; and a very busy one at that. His clientele includes expats, MPs, leading businessmen and a whole lot more. I am one of the stragglers in this group, probably lucky to make it. Since one has to reach him only by appointment, the only way to get his services is to call him on his mobile and wait for him to give you a time. “Oh, next Tuesday at 6 pm?? Ah, but today is only Thursday, and so I wanted to get a haircut today,” I venture, but with no luck. “Its ok, Tuesday it is then. Thanks so much,” I conclude.

Anyway, my hair, or what's left of it now covering my crown, is no longer jongli (wild) as my mother use to call it. So just a trim round the edges will do, I think, as I reach Babul's very chic and modern five star workplace at 6pm. “Sir, today, I would like you to try out our new addition our pedicure treatment”, Babul says. And even before I know it, three attendants in matching outfits have already put my feet in a bubbling mini bathtub. This is then followed by half a dozen different creams, solutions, rubs here, and rubs there. Oh, wow, this feels good…

“Sir, while Chunnu is doing your feet, would you like Killer to do your manicure?” This was not a question, just a piece of information in advance, as Killer had already started on my hands. How could one refuse someone with a name like Killer?

“Sir, why don't you have a facial, as well? We have a new range of facials, newly imported. You will have a bright new glow”, he declares, and the Facial Team lurking round the corner swing into action almost immediately. Now, pardon my ignorance, but I thought facials were for women only, like Elizabeth Taylor in 'Cleopatra' in days past, or more recently like Jennifer Anniston in 'Friends'. The look on Babul's face shut me up. Clearly, I was way behind the times and had a lot to learn. What the heck, I thought, might as well go the whole hog. If you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound.

Now there are manicures and there are facials, I am informed. Like sushi, I thought to myself. This is the five-star facial. And all with the latest imported stuff, as they reminded me so often. First there is the wash. Then there is the scrub followed by the steam treatment. Then comes the suction pipe and the cucumber slices on your eyelids, so you can't see what is happening. Then there is the facemask. While all this is going on, Babul keeps asking gently about my kids, “How are your kids, sir? How are their university classes going? Are they coming this summer?” Babul is the nearest equivalent to the proverbial bartender and keeps up with the latest both on the family front as well as the world at large. He frequently gives me his views on the current political, social, economic and sporting news. An erudite and worldly man, indeed.

With a charge of Tk 5,000 for two hours, Babul dusts me off and bids me goodbye to attend to his next high profile client (they call us clients, not customers). I make my way back home. On the way, a chilling thought strikes me: What happened to my haircut? Wasn't that the reason I had gone in there in the first place. Intezam, where are you? I need a haircut!



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