He hits you hard on the head and you make eye contact with about half a dozen spectators keeping close watch of the assault. An attempted reassuring smile ends up as a grimace as he lets loose another well directed blow to the head.
The assault artist, whistling a recent Hindi film song, now merrily uses his knuckles in a series of short wicked raps on your head that sends a clear message to all in the room — that the producers of the next sequel to Ip Man, if it is an Indian version, need not look any further for the main cast.
Barely out of his teens, he’s full of studious intent while letting rip some quaint manoeuvres, this time none of it like anything you would’ve seen in a martial arts film. Like a carpenter, he folds one fist and holds it against your head like a hammer and uses the palm of his other hand to let loose a volley of blows all around the circumference of your head. Then, it is the turn of both your earlobes to come under attack—he very scientifically pulls at them, one after the other till they yield a curious clicking sound and you are left with the feeling something embedded in your lower skull has just got freed.
Then it’s time for his tour de force. As if bored with all these dry runs on your upper torso, the youngster pours some strange smelling lubricant on top of your head that is not unlike the coolant used in cars and then begins his inimitable cook-kneading-the-dough act. Just as the flesh covering the various portions of your skull start hurting he goes to work on your eyelids like an accomplished pianist, to the collective gasps of appreciation from the eager customers waiting their turn at this open session of sado-masochism.
Naturally all this come immediately after their locks are shorn, as if to lend a sense of solemnity to a religious ritual.
Welcome to the most sought after youngster in our neighbourhood who hails from Gopalpur near Bhubaneswar. To the uninitiated he goes by the name of barber, but for the discerning he is a cross between a physio and a beautician. The reason for the rather large gathering at his shop: he had been away on vacation for almost two months, his first break in the last couple of years. As what was to be a one-month break got extended to 60 days, many of his regular clients kept putting off the inevitable monthly visit to the barbershop, resulting in a sudden spurt in the neighbourhood of men with shaggy hair and in some cases, unkempt beard. Wives, mothers and even colleagues in office could not be blamed for suspecting a love affair gone awry.
For the last few days, ever since word spread that he had returned, there has been an impressive assembly of SUVs and sedans across the road where young Suresh runs Choice Saloon. His success, as any economist would point out, is built around some sound fundamentals. Kochiites, for long used to pricey head and facial massages with tubes of branded creams and potions in attendance that comes at a stiff cost, cannot have enough of this young naayi from Odisha who offers a combo offer of hair cut, followed by facial and a head-n-shoulder maalish at a phenomenally competitive rate of `150. No wonder scores of us burned fuel for many days in search of a Suresh-in-absence even as our hair grew longer and beard wilder.