Once upon a time Barbershops in Kerala was very volatile with heated political discussions. It used to be a place where people meet irrespective of social, financial or economical barriers. Every one frequents this place for one reason or the other. Teachers,
Professors, Government officials, College students, people from all lifestyles visited these shops one day or other. Saturdays and Sundays were hectic.
A typical barbershop used to be at a prime location in the town or village where ever it is.They used to stock almost all the prominent dailies, weeklies and monthlies belonging to different political parties. The shop is decorated with wall-to-wall mirrors and two or three Barber’s revolving chairs. There will be a centre table and side benches. The radio Will be blazing old Tamil( a Dravidian language in India) songs or Hindi songs( official language of India, mostly people from North India speaks). The side dressing table was decorated with artificial flower arrangements. Ashtrays overflow with cigarette buds Moreover, Beedi ends too (country cigarettes made of raw tobacco).there are many many little things there for an observer’s mind. A couple of spare combs and a tin of cheap talcum powder for the use college students... Almost all the students visit here for a last minute hair dressing before they go to their classes in the nearby campus. Some students Will be touching to blacken their scantly sprouts down their nose. Our barber sir shall be suggesting a tip or two for the benefits of the students regarding the growth of moustache.
As an observer, I like to sit in a barbershop listening to the discussion and man at work.During my college days, I used to visit this barbershop once in a month. The name of the Shop was College Hair Dressers. The owner Mr. Krishnan him self was the service provider. If I do not pen sketch Krishnan it would not do justice to this story.One cannot say he is handsome, but he was well dressed, with clean white Terlin or Terri cotton shirt, he wore pants or dhoti ( a long white cloth in double folds that is used to cover from hip to the angles under the shirt) he usually wears a full sleeve but the sleeves raised up to his biceps. A handkerchief is a must between neck and collar of shirt he wears. Lips darkened due to smoking Beedi regularly. With a slipper on feet, his dressing is complete. In those days, I was shy and an introvert by nature. College gate would never have opened for me unless grace of luck was not there blessing me. My father had other plans for me. He said he could not provide me for my higher education, as his financial condition was poor and wished that I should study stenography and go to Bombay, which I hated very much. Under the circumstance, I had to depend on my uncles for a meager amount of money for my initial expense in the college. Some how I secured enough for one year and joined the college, so I was not having any pocket money and luxury of a college boy. I was not supposed to have the happiness of a college scholar. I should thank god for giving the concession of a student at least. I never had a shoe or slipper to cover my feet Old and baggy pants and loose shirts provided by my uncles were my glamorous dress. Therefore, I was shy due to my shabby looks, inferiority complex sprouted in me unaware. May be I shall write my life sketch one day. Now let me return to my barbershop Story.
All the above words are polished out of my memory lane. In Kerala, politics and newspapers are two things that are unavoidable for a Malaya lee (the language spoken in Kerala is known As Malayalam, hence, Malayalee). Now a day the name shortened to Mallu.He starts his day with a glass of black coffee and his favorite daily. Newspaper reading habit is widely spread all among the people. In olden days, local Beedi manufacturing shops in the town used to have a Newspaper reader by turn. He shall be reading the newspaper loudly for the benefit of others. The time wasted by the reader
Is being provided for by listeners’ equally contributing form their daily wages. Those small Beedi rolling shops and barbershops in Kerala contributed much for political awareness among workers that is why Kerala owns one of the rarest distinctions for having voted and elected a communist government in to power by democratic means.
After 28 months, the same system de-seated the same government from power due to their misrule.
Time has changed. Many monsoons came and gone. Rivers flooded several times. Time Slowly put marks on my face of passing years. Old age slowly starting to creep on my body, hairs turned gray. While sitting on this easy chair old memories creep in .My old barber Krishnan also became very old, I saw him crouching in front of his shop. The glitter is gone. His old customers only visit him now. His sons did not take over his business. They all got educated one son became an engineer, another, a politician. Who knows, he may be a minister in the coming days. He married away his daughters to government officials. He is happy and still smokes his Beedy. Occasionally I meet him over a cup of tea. Still very enthusiastic about politics including world politics, his arguments against George Bush, his Iraq operation. Adventures of Bill Clinton? Pervase Musharif and his bundle of lies. Fidel Castro’s illness. What will happen to china? If they liberalize their economy. He has a clear view about international politics.
After a long stint in banking job outside Indian sub-continent, my coming back and settle down was not very comfortable. When I was in gulf In United Arab Emirates, working as a bank officer, I was needed back home. My relatives needed me, my government needed me. A non-resident Indian is considered as a golden egg laying goose.
Once when he returns, he turns him self into a NOT REQUIRED INDIAN. All turns a blind eye toward him includes the government too.
My friend Krishnan is not like that, he remembers me and recognizes my identity as a person. Oh what a pleasant surprise!