20-23 September 2010
I thought I should feel like the way I did when I was in school while writing on this subject. They would give us some subjects like 'an hour at a bus stop' or 'a visit to zoo'. The language classes were the most boring those days. Now I don't feel getting bored while writing it because there are no rigid and serious faced teachers to evaluate them and give the marks. The actual experience was more exciting than writing about it. It is a visit to a barber in a small town from Africa after all and not the one from India.
After I arrived here I had not decided when I would get a haircut. I had got my hairs cut short so that I would not require cutting them immediately after arrival to Ghana. Like most of the men in India, I am used to a typical hairstyle. I used to live in Pune before coming to Ghana and though I don't like the city much, I shall definitely say that the barbers there are really good. The workers from the barber shop near to my house in Pune knew me and my hair cut so well that except for the first time, I never felt any need to tell them about how do I want my hair cut. I always rested assured on the chair and they took the control of my head for some time and did their job without any special instruction.
After arrival to Ghana however it seemed there is only one hairstyle everywhere. Every man has his head shaved and when some substantial stubble is seen on their heads, they simply head to the barbershop to clear that stubble. There is very little skill in the job and any man in the town seems to be able to do it. It is just the question of setting the shop with a chair, a mirror, electricity connection and the most essential shaving machine. That means there are barbershops on every street in the town. Unlike India where barber shops will have pictures of some Bollywood stars painted on their signboards, barbershop sign boards in Ghana has only one type of picture. You'll always find a picture of a man with short curly hairs and a small French styled beard. At the side of the face of this man there is always a picture of a shaving machine.
I think due to stiff competition in the business most of the barbers in the town seem to be either idling or operating two businesses at a time. Barbers here along with barbering (cutting of hair is called as barbering in the local English) may sell grocery, mobile phone recharge cards, fruits, vegetables etc. The barber to whom I went operates an internet café and barber shop at the same place. It makes a bit of sense in browsing the internet if you have to wait long for your turn for getting barbered ;).
During my first month in Ghana I did not require any haircut but in the second as the hair started to grow I started to become uneasy as I seldom allow them to grow much but I did let them grow for a while. In the third month however they grew so much that I got used to them. I once looked in the mirror and realized that I shall start looking like a Hippie in the next month. I decided to cut them but did not cut them for almost a month because I was not sure about the skills of the barbers in the town. I asked some other straight haired male volunteers for the best place. They answered that there is no such thing as a best place. They do it in the same way as others. I asked my Indian friend when I visited him in Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana. He answered that he gets it done in Accra, the national capital and is five hours journey from Kumasi. Accra is the only place where one can find some skilled person to get it done and they charge very high for that. When I heard these responses to my question, I decided to find my own solution to the problem.
I frequent the internet café attached to which is this barbershop. The barber there always looked clean and with smiling face. I asked the guy if he could cut my straight hair. He confidently said “yes”. When I entered his barber section, I saw that there is nothing special in the shop. There was a simple stool on which I sat and looked in the mirror. He started to run his electrical shaving machine and I could not think of any instruction with regard to the way I wanted my hair cut. I just told him to keep the hair short. He did the job with his machine by cutting hairs from side and back of the head. When it came to cutting of hairs on the upper part of the head, he was trying his best to do keep some hairs so that it will look like my earlier hairstyle. It was all being done by the same machine. The whole thing was looking very bad. I instructed him to just go ahead and cut the hair completely the way he had done at the side and back of the head.
After finishing the job I asked him whether he is capable of cutting hairs with scissors. It was a new knowledge for him that in India hairs are cut by using a scissors. I should say that he did his best though it did not turn out the way I wanted it.
Now don't tell my wife and I am not sure whether they were really genuine, but on the next day, I received complements from many women in my office for my new hair cut.