A lot of things have changed around us over the last decade or so. I can’t imagine where people went for coffee 15 yrs back because there was no Cafe Coffee Day or Barista. Shopping experience is no more on a road overflowing with people bargaining their lungs out, but in a Mall, over flowing with people (some things never change). This list also includes transition of cinemas to multiplex and the arrival of 20-20 in cricket.
While all these things were changing, our good old barber shops made way for hi-fi salons, having hair stylists instead of barbers, wearing matching uniforms. You are greeted as soon as you enter and are requested to wait in such a manner, that you feel waiting is a privilege. The waiting lounge has a comfortable sofa and trendy magazines. In comparison, when you entered the old barbershops the floor would be dirty, the barber would say “sir abhi time lagega, wait karna padhega”, as if to say “our way or the high way” straight out of The Matrix. There would be a waiting corner equipped with a single uncomfortable bench, sitting on which made you feel punished. Invariably a friend of one of the barbers would be sitting on the bench with a hindi news paper, gossiping about whatever he reads.
On one of my recent visits to the local barber I noticed some peculiar behaviour and started wondering whether others also feel the same or not. So on my last trip, I entered the shop and was asked to wait in the waiting corner where the barber’s friend was already sitting. As I sat on the bench (punishment for coming late), it made a creaking sound as if to tell me “Bhaagne ki koshish ki toh……” and I saw corroded nails surrounding me ( the barber’s goon had got me trapped, bollywood personified). I had no choice but to wait so I picked up a Hindi newspaper and began to read. My first observation came when I was called by the barber for my turn and I realised that I had been reading the paper for the last 20 mins. It had me hooked with stories about wives beating husbands and whacky celebrity gossip. Why did i get so lost reading the paper? Did it have something to do with the place? Why else would I be interested in such stupid things??? I brushed the thought aside and sat on the barber’s chair.
The barber started cutting my hair and switched on the TV, turning to the local channel showing movies. Sanam Bewafa was playing and Salman Khan was on the screen. This immediately started a debate between the barbers and the friend about how real is Salman’s body and is it better than SRK‘s body. One of them said “yeh sab camera ke effects hain asli body toh Sarukh ka hai”, the other countered with, “Arey Salman ka body toh bahut saal se hai, Sarukh ne toh abhi banaya hai” then suddenly my barber turn to me and says “Sir aap batao aapko toh pata hoga”. I didn’t know how to react to that. I just shrugged and wondered why they thought I would know this. Was it my paunch that had given them an illusion of a 6 pack???
The debate ended thanks to a dramatic scene in the film which caught everyone’s attention. Pran was telling his son to calm down and not get carried away in the heat of revenge. He said that revenge will be taken but the way he suggests. Then he asks his son the whereabouts of his dog (I am serious). The movie shifts to another scene and everyone gets back to work except me (duh…I didn’t have any work). In the next scene a bunch of boys are playing football and the ball goes into some bushes. One of the boys goes to pick up the ball and is attacked by a ferocious dog. The boy dies on the spot and his body is brought back to Salman’s house where everyone is devastated by the incident. Somehow nobody is surprised how Pran got his dog to kill the kid.
The next scene answered why. In the next scene Pran’s son is celebrating the kid’s death with a private dance performance from an item girl. The lyrics were “Angoor ka dana hoon, mujhe sui na chubha dena, sui jo chubhai toh ras tapkega, main kiss……main kissmiss ban jaungi”. I was amazed at the educational song but just then a horse (Yes, you read it right) entered the scene of the movie and started hitting Pran’s son till he was dead. At this point my barber told me that my haircut was done, but I didn’t wanna get up. I was so engrossed in the film and wanted to see if the two families had any more pets. This interest would not have developed had I been at home (which was my second observation). Hell, I wouldn’t even be watching the film if I was at home. Then why was I so interested in the film at the shop.
May be there is something about the good old barber shop which made Hindi newspapers addictive and crappy Hindi movies so damn interesting.