Saturday, February 3, 2007

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Some of you may have noticed that I don't have a lot of hair. Indeed, I have been told I'm follicly-challenged, which is interesting because I'm not.

This afternoon, to check the spelling of "follicly," I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary and discovered that a follicle is the tiny sac in the skin in which hairs and other things take root. I always thought a follicle was a hair; but there you are, once again I discover that I don't know everything after all.

So I have lots of follicles; maybe as many as I had when I was born. It's just that hairs don't tend to grow in them any more (*sigh*).

I do, however, still occasionally need the services of a barber. So off I toddled this afternoon to one of the local establishments with the intention of combining business with pleasure--go for a walk and along the way get my hair trimmed.

The first barbershop I tried had a customer in the barber's chair, so I sat down to wait my turn. The customer had a magnificent head of hair and the barber was meticulously clipping away, one hair at a time, with a pair of scissors. After ten minutes of watching this, I figured I'd be there all day, so I took my leave.

About half a mile further down the road I found another barbershop (there are lots of them in India because the men are very fussy about their appearance and they just about ALL have full heads of hair). Here the place was empty except for a little boy who was busy cleaning things. I assumed the little boy wasn't the barber and he didn't understand a thing I was saying, not even my stabs at Telugu, so I was about to take my leave when in came the barber himself.

He looked at me strangely, like I was from another planet. I'm not sure if this was because I'm Caucasian or because I'm bald. Like, "What's this guy doing here? He's bald as a coot!"

Anyway, I tugged at my poor excuse for a head of hair to indicate why I was there--like he couldn't figure that out for himself! Then I asked him in what I thought was my best Telugu: "Kitna? --How much?"

Like the little boy, he appeared to have not a clue what I was saying. Again, I'm not sure if this was because my pronunciation was horrible, or, as is more likely, he couldn't believe what he'd heard. Like, "Whoa, did this white dude just say something in Telugu, or what?"

Turns out that "Kitna?" is Hindi for "How much?" In Telugu it's "Enta?"

Anyway, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a few rupee coins. Holding them out to him, I said again: "Kitna?" This time, his understanding assisted by my visual aid, he thought for a moment, looked me up and down, and then, using his hands, flashed ten fingers at me twice.

R20 (20 rupees--45 cents). "Not bad," I thought. I can afford that.

So we struck a deal, he sat me down in the chair, draped me with a white cloth, and got to work. The whole job took about five minutes, just like in America. The only difference was that this guy not only cut my hair, he also took care of everything else--eyebrows, ears (inside and out), mustache, and nose (also inside and out--too much information?). He even put a fresh blade in his razor to take care of the back of my neck.

For Jane Debacco's benefit (and for Marilyn's, too, since she'll find this a hoot) I'm going to say that again in my best pseudo-German:

"Ir trimme mein augenbraue, und mein ohr haar, und mein schnoz haar, und mein schnozbart!"

Yeah, yeah, Jane, I looked the words up in an online English-German dictionary and now know that nose is actually "schnauze" and mustache is "schnurrbart," but Marilyn and I much prefer our own coinage of "schnoz" and "schnozbart."

Back to my story, the barber finished the job and whisked off the cloth with a flourish. I stepped out of the chair and gave him a R100 note. He rummaged around in a draw to get me my change. I was feeling generous, so I gave him a R10 tip (22 cents). Hey, that's a 50% tip, you guys! Gimme a break, OK?!

And remind me to get a haircut immediately before I leave India. It'll be my last chance to take advantage of a great deal. A haircut in America costs me $15 any more. That's R675 at the current rate of exchange.

No comments: