Four Dollar Hair-cut 1


Haircuts are expensive in the US.  The shops near the university charge 16 USD each time – that’s almost half a month’s rent I paid in Delhi!  But I guess with some looking around, there’s always a way out.  I found a way to have a four dollar haircut.

A hairstyling school near the university needs volunteers for their students to do some hands on training, and they offer haircuts at one-fourth the normal price.  After the students work on you, the teacher comes to give the finishing touch and I was told that the overall experience is satisfactory.  Last night, I decided to give it a try.

The first thing that hits you about this place is its sheer size.  I had never been to a saloon of this size.  There were mannequins all around and quite a lot of fancy equipment.  But there was also something about the social character of the place that catches your attention fast.  Life was easy paced and there were teams of women who had come to get their hairs done.  Jokes passed around, there was a lot of gossip and the air was festive and familial.  I sat and watched them for a while, and my turn finally came to take a hot seat.

My session started with a thorough hair-wash and pleasant conversation.   Both of us bitched about the university and how it’s divided from the town.  I was then led to the hot seat.  My hair had gotten reasonably long and the sides were curved dashing against the ear.  I told him that I’d like it reasonably shortened so that the curvy part is fully removed.  He then went round and round me a few times, took a comb and measured the size of the curve and confirmed what I wanted.  I nodded with satisfaction that he got me.  He then look into my eye with utmost sincerity and said, “but that will look funny”.  I started getting jittery when he continued, “well, it’s funny to cut just one side of your hair”.  I now saw his point and asked him to make it proportionate it elsewhere.

He then took several hairclips and put them on my hair and joked that I’ve a pony tail now on both sides, that is (when I told a woman friend about it, she told me that clips are often used when women have a hair cut).  He then went on with his work with great attention and care that I felt like I was in the hands of a master artist.  It was almost after half an hour that I heard the crunchy sound of hair being cut – till then he was doing it almost piece by piece.  An hour and a half later he asked me if I liked it and I had no idea.  Being the courteous sort of fellow, I told him that it looks good.  He then called his teacher who game me some ‘finishing touches’.

The good news folks is that I’ve my hair cut, my wallet has been saved from a massive assault and my friends tell me that it almost looks like I’ve not had a haircut.  All this looks terrific.  I’ll be home soon for a half-a-dollar haircut that I look forward to.  And in the meanwhile I’ve more cherished memories from my stay in the USA.


About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.


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