Chatti or Zidane, it doesn't really matter man...

Memories of my dear father cropped up when I visited the barber’s recently. This was not the regular saloon that I usually visit, but fed up with the kind of service from my old faithful, I decided to try my luck elsewhere. I had espied another hair-cutting saloon, much closer home and, strange as it may seem, it resembled the one I was taken to in good old Calcutta by who else but my dad.  

One of the two middle-aged barbers resembled the one who used to not-so-delicately cut my hair when I wasn’t old enough to go to the barber’s alone; the ceiling fan whirred like it did in the good old times; and there was none of the alarming accoutrements of modern hair-cutting. There was the smell of Old Spice and Vaseline; somehow, both combined to herald the magic of old. The furniture looked as if it was sourced from Murray’s and, more than anything, the two barbers hardly spoke a word to each other or to anybody else. The one doing my hair (or whatever was left of it) bent down to whisper in my ear and find out whether he could use the ‘machine’ that was tucked away in the back lanes of the draw. Suddenly, I was reminded of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and wondered whether I’d need a password to enter the hoary portals the next time.

In life, things work mysteriously (magically, for some). When I was in primary school and still not considered old enough to go out alone, my dad would take me to the barber’s. It was all just a routine – chop, chop, chop. The barber was a wizened old man, my dad’s favourite. At the end of it, my head would resemble a clean slate and it would have indeed been the envy of Zinedine Zidane were he the poster boy then. I’m not sure whether I cried when I returned but my hunch is I did… at least initially. All my friends had well-cropped hair that was left to luxuriate over time. So, no wonder they burst out laughing every time I came home with my slate clean. When their laughter could no longer be contained, they decided to give me a name and so I became Chatti. No elevation in status, mind you. Just a friendly euphemism for a deep round container called pot. I tolerated it, there was no other way. So, when my friends were upbeat and liked to show their friendly side, they would chorus “chatti” and I would cringe with embarrassment – inside my home of course.

Looking back, it all seems so silly. But see how life plays out the scenes. Today, even if I wanted to grow luxuriant hair I wouldn't be ale to. Simply because I’m on the verge of being bald. It’s a sort of status I now seem to enjoy. Convenience apart, I feel Sexy. Imagine if I had felt this way when I was in school primary and had the gumption to tell my dad so! I can almost feel him turning in his grave… God bless him. That sort of feeling would have given my friends a complex, wouldn't it?

Nowadays I chuckle to myself when I see pictures of young corporate honchos doing the Zidane or, shall we say, the SN Eternal Romantic cut?! After all, didn't I start that years ago, years before Big B strode on to the screen with his over-the-ears hairdo? This post is of course for my father. I always miss him but know he is there somewhere close; must be letting out a loud guffaw. Also for my dear childhood friends who were my classmates in school. We travelled a common path for a decade or so before we went different ways… but old memories die hard. Here’s raising a toast to all of them (being Saturday, I mean what I say)… and to the good old days in Calcutta when life was much simpler and, well, sexier…


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