Surrealism is alive and well on Bangalore’s streets; especially in Devara Jeevanahalli and the adjoining parts of Pillana Garden, all of which feel slightly removed from the frenzied movement of the city’s main roads; here there be cattle markets, second-hand shops, rental stores. All in all, typical Indian suburbia; but there is something far more hairy at work here.

Walk down to the Ambedkar statue from Bilal Masjid Complex, then turn right towards D.J. Halli, and you will find that after every seventh building stands a barbershop.

One could be forgiven for feeling more than an occasional need to visit a barber, to exchange more than hair; but didn’t someone find a better substitute for human hair in the manufacturing of wigs, or does D.J. Halli aspire to revolutionise the wig-making industry? Or maybe the place has a barber community, a hair force, seeking to take over the world, one shave at a time? One cannot but try to come up with a reason for this abundance of barbershops.

Such intense competition may have spurred barbers to shave out all but the most enticing names for their shops. For instance, outside Bilal Masjid, is a provocatively-named ‘Hair Café’. Not the most appetising of names, or the easiest to digest.

It belongs to one Surfaraz Ahmad. Although the owner was unavailable, his cousin, Chand Pasha, was on hand to elaborate: “We wanted it to stand out, and named it after our relatives’ shop in Mumbai,” he says. The café, a cut above other similar enterprises in the vicinity, opened last week after shifting from its original home behind Bilal Masjid.

Chand Pasha is also the owner of a similar enterprise: the Kohinoor Men’s Beauty Parlour.

This is some sort of a trend, perhaps the kind that spurred Hair Metal in the early 70s; all of a sudden hair salons aren’t content with being salons anymore, but have begun to push the envelope. Men’s hairdressers? Acceptable. Men’s Beauty Shop? Hmm. Men’s Beauty Parlour?

One such example is a corner shop, the Mohd Tabrez Gents’ Beauty Parlour, run by Mohammad Aslam. It was he who insisted that “this is the latest trend”.

Other milder examples are Apollo Haircutting Salon, and the Unique Parlour, and the Men’s Beauty Parlour, which may have been the first to adopt this sobriquet, and all within a stone’s throw of each other. It had no first name; being simply, in essence, a Men’s Beauty Parlour, and populated by chai-wielding denizens who could give Clint Eastwood a run for his squint. Some boast caricatures of India’s more famous stars, with that finger-gun posture, “Hair’s looking at you, kid,” or was that too Bogart?

Clientele

From what Mohammad Aslam says, there is no single category of clientele that visits these parlours, and no single hairstyle demanded, a common view among the locality’s hairdressers. Spike-cut to crew-cut, they’re all on the menu. Surprisingly, there’s not much competition either. By design of fate, or by shear dumb luck, every barber gets his fair share of… hair.

Another question one may immediately ask is, where do the customers come from? Mysteriously, they come and go, almost as if these are those opium dens of antiquity, ducking in and out of these shops while the barber gives himself hairs.

So none of the shops stands in danger of going under; they all break even and there is no competition, either.

It’s a singular case, and finding these shops is quite a hairbrained way to kill an afternoon, but Bangalore has its oddities, and this one deserves mention, particularly for the number of bad puns applicable.

After all, such trends are ‘hair’ today, gone tomorrow.

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