Sorry! No heated arguments are entertained at this barbershop in Jleeb. Not because the TV-set placed at a corner plays Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab channels. However, the young barber has the final word in any debate that might crop up. Raju, the 31-year-old Indian hairdresser, a graduate in commerce, subscribes to glossy magazines and Hindi film periodicals stacked up on a sofa.
In Raju's native south India, professions like hairdressing are mostly reserved for certain castes. Raju, a middle class Hindu would have ended up in a sedentary job but fate had something else in store for him.
Those days I worked as an accountant," says Raju when he recollected reading an inspirational newspaper report. "It was in one of the Sunday Times of India's issues that I read about a clerk who learnt the art of haircutting and opened a shop in his village. If he could do that I thought I might as well do the same.
A ride of fate
Raju, who had come to Kuwait in 2004 expecting to land a desk job soon ran out of luck. After working as an accountant for a private firm in Mirqab for ten months, he was transferred to the company's warehouse in Shuwaikh. "To be honest, I wasn't happy as a storekeeper and the money wasn't lucrative," he says. A taxi driver once told him that his job was so 'hectic that he didn't even have time to cut his hair.' Raju derived his inspiration from here.
Raju's next step was to learn haircutting and make some money during free time. Although pulled back by self-doubt as to whether he would make it, his determination made pushed him ahead. "I decided not to discuss that I am going to be a part-time haircutter primarily because I didn't want anyone to tell me 'Hey, you are not from a barber's family.
When Raju approached a familiar salon, the hairdresser agreed to take him in as an apprentice. He was surprised when one of the main hairdressers asked him, "Why don't you work here full time?
Raju didn't achieve success overnight. "It took me more than a week to snip the scissors," recollects Raju. "I was first asked to do some shaving first then a close crop-cut for children. Using a machine is easier than handling scissors, one would think. Not for me. I use the same control tactics." Now that he has donned the new role for three years, he will be all the more confident and happy. He gets six to eight customers a day; 16 to 20 on weekends.
So how has life changed? "Better pay, less expenses," he says. "Most of our customers want a medium type of cut, what we call 'brush cut'. When I started I had nightmares as to how I would create beehives or even spiky hairstyles but now I can create just about anything," smiles Raju adding, "The best part of the job is I enjoy it".
One of Raju's bitter experiences was when a customer once demanded that he massage his head. "I said that it would cost half a KD". Infuriated, the customer complained about his rude behavior to the boss who was seated in the next chair. "The boss, who had been watching all this, winked at me.
When this reporter probed what he would do if customers stopped getting regular haircuts because of baldness? "I'll concentrate on the face," he said. "Today men also need to get a facial done.
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