‘Head message chahiye Sir?’ (Do you want a head message, sir?), the dark chap almost whispered in my ears, while cutting my hair.
‘Nehi’, (No) say I.
‘Acha lagega sir’ (it will feel good, sir), he said with a lot of self-assurance.
‘Kitna lagega’ (How much is it)?’ say I.
‘Oil message 70 hain sir’.
Well a simple haircut is for 50 bucks. 10 rupees extra for a message is not much, I thought.
‘Thik hain kar do.’ (Okay, do it), said I.
I am always a bit tensed when I am in a saloon. The metallic sound of the scissors against my ears and on my head makes me nervous. What if he becomes a bit distracted? There is high probability of my ears getting chopper off. What if he makes a dent on my head? Almost all my school life, I never ventured to a salon. I would be surrendering my head to my Mom, instead. I believed that if I had to trust somebody with my head, then I would rather put it in my Mom’s hands. Undoubtedly, she did a decent job with my hair. But it was soon that I was not able to blindly trust her with my hair. The result of the hair cut would be directly proportional to her mood that day. Days on which she would be having a rough day at home (lots of utensils to wash, the dog had shed a lot of fur, Dad had said something which Mom did not like, etc. etc.), my head would look like a badly mowed lawn with haircuts on those days. Every time after a haircut, I would look a bit different.
After a lot of introspection, I had come to the conclusion then that it is best to venture outside home. Since then, I have trusted my head to a plethora of eccentric gentlemen for purpose of relieving myself from some locks of hair. Over years, for haircutting, I have sat on roadside bricks and chairs, I have been to barbers who are poets and have read poetry out to me, while cutting hair, and motivated with my indomitable adventurous spirit, that is always a part of me, today I had stepped into ‘Ram Lakan Gents Beauty Salon‘.
I mentally calculated that for 10 rupees extra, he would not give me more than a couple of minute’s message. Even if it is very bad, for 2 minutes I can withstand any torture.
When the dark lanky chap started the message, I felt like a hammer falling on my head. I was dazed for some time. But the hammering did not stop. It just went on and on. I told myself that there must be some sense to all this torture. I should not question his expertise.
‘After he is done with this, whatever he was doing, you will feel so relieved’, I said to myself. ‘Have patience’, said I. And anyways, for 10 rupees extra, he will not continue for long.
But the hammering went on. He poked and punched, and grilled my head. ‘He is overdoing himself’, I told to myself. All this for 10 rupees? He must be a sadist and must be getting pleasure out of inflicting pain to people. I thought that I should just ask him to stop. Tell him that he is torturing me. But then I thought, what will the people waiting in queue think? Would they think that I am too feminine to take the message? Will they laugh at me after I leave? I decided to hang in there till the end. Whatever happens I should not cave in.
He stopped. I opened my eyes relieved. Before I could even release my big sigh of relieve, he started again. I stooped in and almost sunk inside the chair, while taking the beating. What if some of my nerve endings rupture because of this beating? What if I have a haemorrhage? What if I go into a coma with the last thing I would ever remember is the message at “Ram Lakan’s”?
At this point, I slightly derided myself. ‘What all are you thinking? What a nautankibaaz (person who does drama all the time), you are! Everyday tens of people must be taking message from him. Nobody says anything, and you are thinking of going into a coma?”
I straightened myself on the chair. However, he beats me, I will not bow down! I will take all the beating with my head held high! He suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes with disbelief. It is over? Apparently not. He told me to lean forward and stretch my hands forward. He started messaging my hands, then he came to my shoulders, and then he started messaging my chests. I could not take it any longer. I was feeling like laughing, I was feeling ticklish, I was feeling violated. I stopped him and said, ‘bhaiya chodo, aur nehi chahiye (brother, please leave, you don’t have to continue). He said,’bas aur thoda’ (just a bit more).
I understood that he will not leave me until he has made mashed potato put of me. He came back to my head, did a bit of ‘message’. Then he did something, which totally shocked me. He caught hold of my chin with one hand and scalp with the other and twisted it suddenly. I could hear a cracking sound in my neck region. The Doors song, ‘This is the end’ started playing in my head. Then I opened my eyes and saw that I was still alive. He was holding my chin and scalp in a way by which I understood that he will now twist it in the other direction. I have seen too many people getting killed like this in Hollywood movies. Heroes like Steven Segal have killed scores of people by twisting their heads, just the last day I was watching ‘Taken’ in which Liam Neeson kills at least a dozen in the same manner. I look at the lanky chap, holding my chin, with a look of “please don’t kill me”. He tells me again,’acha lagega bhaiya’(It will feel good). What if he overestimates the strength of my neck? What if he underestimates strength of his hands? What if? What if? What if? I just let go! He wrings my neck again, in the other direction. And I emerge alive!
Elated at my survival, I get up and give him 60 rupees. He asks for another 50. It is then that it dawned to me, that the message alone is 60 rupees. O god! Anyways, I was so happy having survived the torture that I gave him another 50, without saying a word. I came out of the salon a much happy man. I liked the world around me! Everything seemed so lovely! And I think it was all because of the wonderful message I just got!