Brucini started seriously travelling after attempting to move to Queenstown, New Zealand, in 1996.Inspired by drunkenly meeting a world of travelers on a Kiwi Experience bus, he changed his plans and roamed the world for a year. ...Find out more!
I have a fetish for having my hair cut in foreign countries. The lack of communication with the barber is an attraction. When I can communicate, I don’t intercede with instructions. You have to let go and hope for the best when you don’t know the cutter’s skill level. Getting your hair cut then is an intimate performance accentuated by an unpredictable outcome when you are travelling.
Easily the best haircut I have ever had overseas was in Jaisalmer, India. I could have cried with joy after the cut. Instead I wrote about the experience. Here it is.
I was 2 months without a haircut or shave. Now was the hour for deliverance. Some time on a Jaisalmer afternoon, I approached a red and white striped fronted barber’s door, next to the “Government Authority Bhang Shop”. Little did I know I was about to enter a house of cultured dreams.
I went to this emporium not because of word of mouth nor mere reputation. No tout was commissioned to send me here. I’m of the opinion it found me. The small weedy man standing in the doorway watched me approach. Oh that glint in his eye when he saw my hairy visage approaching! This hair artiste saw in me a lump of marble from which beauty would be carved.
A freshly shorn man was leaving, I immediately liked the look of his work. It had a style, an obvious cut, a life of its own. I climbed into his elevated chair, no words spoken, to this day I know not his name. Our union felt like Montague and Capulet drawn by deepest need. That slicing blade, resting within his soft aloe palm, was nothing without my hair, my manky beard, the mousy brown flopping disrespectfully over my ears. He wielded a blade (”Look, a new blade just for you, sir”) like a 30 year veteran at an abbatoir. His skill was not the result of chance, it was refined genetics. He didn’t work these streets to merely survive, he had obviously evolved and prospered.
Simply, he was my barber. Technically, he may have been a Shiva-loving snipper. But for those moments when his imagination stirred and he twirled the (lack of) styling prospering atop my pate, he was my buddha of the blade.
We couldn’t converse easily yet we talked hair in the universal language of client and stylist. A beard trim and a tidy up around the ears please, was what I needed. He nodded, hucked up some phlegm and spat enthusiastically into the street. “Excuse me, sir”. Always so polite. No excuse needed though. The sound of hucked phlegm has its own sweet melody, its own sweet science, in India. Like pissing on the nearest wall while waiting for a bus.
His real genius lay with the comb, scissors and cut-throat blade; the ability to cut from my grubby chin and cheek growth, enough, but not too much. When I think all is lost, he reveals a delicate eveness prepared by the eye to be worshipped by the eye. One of the reasons I love to be slashed at by a meticulous clipper is that I wear glasses. Glasses removed, I cannot see to intercede like a petty town council against the architect’s vision, until all is complete, finished, finalised. Glasses replaced, it’s only then that I see his work, the end of his dreams cut from the hairy morass of unkempt fibre that I once sported. No more cheap alley sniggers from the Rajput-led moustache and beard police. Now only reverence, worship of a vision splendid.
He circles my head like a desert bustard looking for more prey, homing in on those irreverent strands too long over my ears. This hair, like a fighter plane heading for the Pakistan border, is there then gone. Supersonic removal. The footwork so nimble, wrists so flexible. As I stare vacantly into the street at a pig about to eat a dead puppy, my maestro trims the last hairs from my moustache’s lip line. His blade is finally applied to my moistened fuzzy neck fur. The cleanest lines, defined, refined. This hair guru to maharajas, merchants and malingerers alike, is of the people and is the people.
He flows into those scalps he dutifully massages after winnowing all the dry split-ended chaff from untold craniums. He happily slaps and cracks - “Now a little reiki” - because he knows it’s the little bit extra which is the difference between mere barber and blade buddha. A quick bit of pressure point technique and calculated pounding to neck and shoulders and I’m floating. “Facial massage?” I decline, too much delirium for one day. I rise, press some rupees into his hand, wobble my head knowingly in time with his, and leave. Happy days indeed.