Saturday, January 29, 2011

Haircut Culture

There are perks in every adventure. Today I did the one thing I always enjoy doing when I go to Delhi….get a haircut.

I know this sounds odd but I hate getting a haircut in the states. The barber or hair stylist never know exactly how to do it, seem to be offended when I make a suggestion, charge me $12 or more and expect a tip. I started going to a barber college in my town where, they still don’t know what they’re doing, but at half the price. My tip goes to some struggling single mom, high school student or kid who is not on the fast track toward a university degree.

In anticipation of my journey to India I let my hair go way beyond the need for a trim to coincide my arrival in Delhi. I found a guy in a Muslim basti (some would call it a slum, more likely a term for poor neighborhood) who is a master at his craft. He knows exactly how to cut my thinning dome and I never have to worry what it will look like when he is through lowering my ears. We don’t speak as I don’t know Urudu and his English is limited. He tops off my trim with a strong massage to the scalp, neck, shoulders and arms. All of that for the grand price of $.70. I usually give him an extra $.30 cents for a job well done.

As I sit in the dark small two chair shop I think about how, as a Christian, I am surrounded by community of Muslims on a narrow street in the heart of a Hindu city. The feel of my haircut adventure is part of the appeal. The foot paths that snake through the village, all the men with beards and prayer caps; women in full covered and black veiled dress, the sounds of kids playing and the blaring call to prayer over a loudspeaker makes my haircut more than a grooming exercise but a cultural experience.

It will be three weeks before I return to Delhi, but you can bet I will be making my way to the barber in Nizamuddin before I fly home. Partly because I want to avoid, as long as possible, the barber college back home. But mostly because I enjoy the culture of the Muslim barbershop and the bonus of getting a great haircut at a great price.