(Story till now: I had persuaded Alka to go short and in the process had also got Kiran's hair to a pony tail style. We had gone on a vacation and had come back with a bald Kiran who was pleased with her new look that she had kept a crew cut boy style through out school.
Read on: Karan, my son, narrated his ideas and the experience of his school friend)
My son Karan was always asking as to what was this philosophy where only he had long hair. Especially when his sister had all the time in the world to do whatever, he always had to think twice as he would have to manage his hair. One day he asked me as to why is it that only he had long hair in the family and all others had such an easy going. He further went on to say that in his class it was the boys who had short hair and the girls had long hair. He had friends form our faith who had never grown their hair as their mother's would not take the trouble of caring for long hair. Just last week one of his friend's had got his hair shorn off and was so happy about it. Actually he had confided in Karan that he was going in for a cut over the weekend. And to Karan's surprise he came back on Monday -unrecognizable. Even the teacher was flabbergasted to see a new face in class.
And he narrated his story during the recess to Karan. He could not go to the barber shop in his long hair but his mother was always telling him that it such a bother to care for his hair. She decided to take him for a haircut earlier too, but the boy had chickened out. So this weekend the family had planned to go to his village. It was there that his mother got him to the barber shop. Actually she asked the servant to take him there. The boy was very scared as to what would happen. But he decided to go on as there was no one whom he knew so intimately at the village who would laugh at his change of appearance. Once at the barber shop he was to wait before the barber actually noticed him. And when the servant told him the reason for the boy to be there the barber declined to cut the hair as he feared the wrath of the village elders. On being told repeatedly, by the boy too, that his mother had sent him and wanted it cut he reluctantly agreed. The boy had managed to summon the courage to rebel against tradition and decided to sport short hair. But was just too nervous to do so. The barber told them to come later when there would be no/lesser customers. On reaching home the mother was just about to ask him why he had chickened out again, that he blurted out that he was called later. She felt relieved. When they went a second time, there was no one in the shop and the barber asked him to sit on the chair. He just wanted to open the hair when something came over him and the barber got a big size scissors and placed them just below the top knot.
And 'SCRUUUNCH....' went the sound. The top knot fell off and was placed in the lap of the boy. He took it home as a souvenir!
Now his short hair fell all over the head and face. A very strange feeling came over the boy, but it was the lightness of the head that impressed him. Now the barber spun the chair and he found staring at himself into the mirror. He swept the cape of white cloth around him. It was very light, cool and thin muslin. He tucked it in at his neck lifting his bob sized hair out so it sat onto the cape. He went over to the till to take his last client's money as I stared at my irregularly cut bob length hair with a full blunt fringe hanging into my eyes. He stood behind me and looked at me in the mirror making eye contact. "So what are we doing?" he asked. "New to the scene aren't you?" I sat in terrified silence looking at my reflection then managed a timid nod. The servant appeared at my side as if to give me confidence.
"I didn't think you'd have the nerve. What are you having done?" he thought.
The barber moved his free hand to the back of my head and pushed my head forwards a little roughly. I stared at the mass of hair in my lap as I felt the clippers on my neck. Bzzzzzaaaa, bzzzaaaa.
I felt them sweep up the back, the motor blowing warm air over my nape. Bzzz, bzzzz.
The barber continued working all over my head, leaving the fringe and the area in front of my ears strangely untouched. I realised my hair was going to be short, very short but what was he going to do. I was getting to enjoy the feeling of the clippers and then the barber got his sprayer and wetted my hair. He then went all over the head with the comb and scissors and cut the hair short. Every time some ends were snipped I felt that he might nick his ears or the skin. But it was not to be. Very carefully he tapered the nape hairline as also the front. He combed the hair with a side parting and finally made my sideburns nice and clipped. He straight razored the cheek and the area around the ears. The cool air of the fan was so soothing and refreshing for me. It was a new and enjoyable experience.
Last part was the brushing off the excess hair from the back and he took a puff of powder to powder the neck so that the hair bristles do not prick. As I got off the chair I was surprised to see a large volume of hair on the floor. I was so surprised that this was the hair I carried around even though a greater part was with me as a part of the top knot. I took it home and handed it over to my mother as a souvenir. She was overjoyed to see my new look and gave twenty rupees to the servant who had accompanied me, as a gift.
She then remarked, how clean and handsome I look! It was joy all around as she ruffled my hair and took me into her embrace and said that she had fulfilled a wish after so many years. She would be free from the hankering after the hair. Needless to say, after I took a head bath to get rid of the hair clippings I felt so light and clean that I never regretted having the hair cut. Instead, I kept wondering why I had waited for so long even when my mother wanted me to cut my hair. Sleeping at night was so nice, though I had to get used to the fact that there was no top knot and I could just run my hands through my hair. It was all so new and full of pleasure.
Next morning was a new morning for me and I spent so much time in front of the mirror styling my hair and wondered how much of variety I could get. I wondered how my school mates would react. But the whole of the day I was actually preening myself and my mother was always running her hands over my head whenever she got a chance. In school, most of the friends (just as the teacher) could not recognize the drastic makeover and their jaws dropped when they recognized. And many girls giggled and went gaga over him. The white scalp showing in areas where the hair was shorn short and clipperred close were the tell tales that he had long hair once.
So absorbing was the way Karan narrated the story that I went back to my childhood days when I had also dreamt of such an incident to happen. Alka was hearing all this and Kiran was also all ears. She recounted how fine and clean she felt after her cut! But Alka did not respond. And I appreciated the boy's courage and his liberation silently! Karan seemed at a loss because it probably did not get the response he desired.
Later that night I talked to Alka about Karan's narration but she would have nothing of it. She said that mother was already hurt and we should not do anything else to further grieve her. I tried to tell her that we looked a comic family with all kinds of hair styles from clean cuts to long haired. She remarked that 'Variety is the spice of life'; and it was because of Karan that we were reminded that we have Sikh antecedents. So the matter ended.
After a few weeks I asked Karan how is it at school and how was his 'shorn friend'. Karan was more than pleased to talk about him. He also went on to say that his friend had a new style every week, because he had to get his hair styled after the first cut. Now he has a brush cut a little longer hair than Kiran had. He said that because he had worn his hair long for quite a long time it would take time for short hair to settle. So he would decide on a style later. No matter where he went his favourite would be the village barber who had 'liberated him'. And he had again gone to him for a skin cut which was so close that the skin showed and he would go for a clean up after a fortnight.
Then Karan confided in me and asked if he could also go for a haircut. I was happy but I decided to play on and told him to ask his mom.
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