Hairstylist R. Raja has been a household name in Allahpuram, a thickly populated neighbourhood in the Old Town of Vellore Corporation, for providing short military haircuts for persons with disabilities free of cost for a decade now.
His saloon, Jayam Saloon, on an average gets at least five persons with special needs everyday. On Tuesdays, the official holiday for saloons in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Raja, a school dropout, runs his shop on request by persons with disabilities. Regular customers are politely asked to return the next day for the haircut. “They [persons with disabilities] too need better hair care especially from dandruff. I never allow them to wait even if some customer would have come before them for a haircut,” says 40-year-old Mr. Raja.
A native of Seduvalai village near Pallikonda in Vellore, Mr. Raja spent his school days in Allahpuram before migrating to Chennai in 2000. He worked as an assistant to a well-known hairstylist, G. Ramesh, in Nungambakkam for a decade.
Mr. Raja learnt the nuances of hairdressing only when he did haircuts for children with disabilities in private charity homes and orphanages. He was paid a nominal fee. When he opened his salon in Vellore, he decided to give free haircuts to them.
Initially, he went to houses without affecting his regular income. A few years later, he set up his own salon in Allahpuram and continues his free hairdressing for persons with disabilities at their houses and in the saloon.