I woke up this morning and figured that the vegetation on my face and head was in dire need of pruning.

I’ve been trying to grow my beard out to look like one of those on men who I believe are direct descendants of Thor. However my genes have put a spanner in the works and my beard has ended up looking like that of a Somali pirate whose mother is Chinese. Sparse, coarse & directionless.

Mired by defeat and itchy desperation, I headed for the local barber shop.

Time in small, non-prosperous areas of towns inhabited mostly by government employees, seems to move at a glacial pace. One factor that causes such a mental illusion is the near absence of change.

The road widths remain the same as they were more than half a century ago and the shop facades wear signs of decades of ageing. The lassitude in the air hangs thick, and the only obvious changes are quasi-modern (and more often than not, ugly) additions to houses.

The barber shop though, has resisted any and every change for more than two and a half decades.

Named “Modern Hair Dressers” (yes, it’s splashing about in a thick soup of irony), the establishment wears a properly weathered look. The paint is peeling, the wooden shutters dislike the idea of fitting in, and the only modern product, a few boxes of L’Oreal hair color, are stacked on top of a wooden beam to stop the rain-water ravaged false ceiling from collapsing.

So I step in and greet the man who gave me the first hair cut of my life and then continued to do so well into my teenage years. He is by no means a man you’d look forward to having your evening drink with. Let alone therapeutic conversations that I hear of men having with their barbers, this particular human being is a man of very few words.

Greetings exchanged, he asks me if my family is doing okay, and when did I come into town. That’s that.

It’s spectacular that he’s been cutting my hair for close to two decades and I do not know his name.

Thinking about it a bit more, I think he charges Rs. 25 for the haircut and the other Rs. 25 for the smile he has to force on to his face when he sees me.

Anyhow, there isn’t a lot of affection that my heart holds for him either. This gentleman, along with my father, was the reason why my head would give freshly mowed grass a superiority complex.

My haircut, unlike the fancy bangs that the human spawn of today sport, was styled on one basic principle. The only bit that should remain on my head was what the combination of comb and scissors couldn’t get rid of.

I’ve always wanted to grow my hair, but such has been my conditioning, that the moment I have it spilling onto areas that it hasn’t grown out of, I HAVE to get it chopped off.

And now that I haven’t a lot of area on my head that it grows out of, I have given the 80s rock star look ambition a sad burial.

Thanks Modern Hair Dressers!

Anyhow, I step into the establishment and see that the chair is still upholstered with the material that the state bus transport corporation decided moved on from a decade or so ago. It’s tattered along the edges and as I place my butt on it, I am transported back in time when the table on the right hand side held aloft a radio.

I remember the tinny sound of the device, playing old songs while the lady on air announced that the particular segment was “fauji bhaaiyon ke liye”. I never understood the significance of why the segment was dedicated to that particular target audience. But then there’s a lot about this country that can’t be explained.

The radio set though has been removed since. Maybe the proprietor found it a bit too cheerful for his taste.

Regardless, I decided that this time the man will not have a choice to decide on how my hair should look. I had to put my foot down. So I opened my phone and showed him a picture I’d screenshotted off Pinterest. THIS was the style that I wanted.

He looked at the picture and nodded his head in affirmation. I checked with him if he wanted to look at it again. “Not required”, was his response.

Fair enough.

Fifteen minutes later he was done.

My hair was styled exactly the way it used to be when I was eight.

I looked at him for any signs of obvious regret or failure.

The statues of Easter Island display more emotion.

I asked how much I owed him. “50 rupees” was his answer.

And for that princely sum, I’d been thrown back into my childhood. Whether I liked it, or not.