A barber's shop is the oldest networking point, where personal news, comments and gossip of every kind are generated and exchanged in plenty. From the rustic shop erected on a dilapidated structure under the liberal shadow of a village tree to the ultramodern air-conditioned saloons, the conversation starters are undoubtedly the men with scissors.
There is a short wait, if you are lucky, and if not, then after rummaging through "antique" issues of gossip magazines, you proudly occupy the coveted chair, even if for a short time.
Just as you wriggle in the chair, waiting for the back support to be adjusted to the fallible arrogance of your neck, the scissor man scans your face deep enough to read your mind. His work becomes easier if you are an old customer, because then his memory stick simply opens old folders to be updated with new conversations. His inquisitive mind hesitates a bit, albeit shortly, if you are a new addition to his long list of who's who of the area.
Invariably, the starting point is, "Saar (sir) coming after many days. Hair have grown long. Where were you?" Even if you try to convince him that you are back as per your normal schedule, it's of no use. "Ha ha, saar, your hair tell they have not been taken care of for a long time," he retorts, moving his fingers over your haired skull with a look that warns you of increased velocity and ferocity of the movement, if you contradict his assertive judgment.
For a new entrant, the starting point is always different. His horoscope gets generated by titbits of information that is drawn out of his reserved memory, even before the first spray of the tap water from the nozzle, which looks like a salt depository, finds itself wetting his hair and then trickling down onto the face.
After gathering the initial information, the scissor man starts his own record player, churning out his achievements. Adorning the walls of the shops are photographs of people ranging from mohalla leaders to film stars, with the entire "crew" proudly standing next to them, holding their "armaments". As the haircut starts, the clips of your family, your office, your car and many other things are downloaded from your brain's hard disc to the expanded memory of your personality shaper, faster than the speed of falling hair.
This scene is not the exclusive property of your hot chair. Dissections of every kind are being done on chairs next to yours. Personal, public, film or social points are scrutinised with such continuity and intensity that you don't know when your haircut is over and the next person's starts. Just as the scissor man holds his shaving blade to clean up the back of your now arrogance-free neck, you wonder if science could one day invent a machine which will shape our hair at the press of a button and will have no interest either in your family or neighbour's possessions.