Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mumbai Mumbles: Heir of the Hair Raiser - 3

( In the first part, after the Latur Earthquake, Chota with his father and friends, moves to Mumbai and lives off his father's feed.   In the second part, his father's untimely demise forces him to get into the same business as his - and he becomes the Heir of the Hair Raiser.  This is the third and concluding part... read on...)

... They were thinking of a name.   Finally they concluded something like -  ' Red Saloon for Men' - Estd.,  2010.

No customers, empty chairs!
 Aslam Bhai was pleased.    The boys started work.   They moved in with the rickety chairs and  the antique barber kit.   They were all set.  But they were in for a shock.

For the first two months,  they seldom had a customer.   There would be curious passers by - but not a single soul would turn up to lessen his overhead burden.  The idea seemed to fail.  For every night fall, hope started receding and despair took its rightful place.

Munna started to fidget everyday and Naser increasingly started mumbling.  The din of the uneasy, waiting mind grow into a small mutiny.  It started to get to Chota, the entrepreneur's nerves.   The wait seemed endless.

I never thought it would be so difficult.   With the show on, I took it for granted that somebody would turn up.   The idea seemed brilliant.  I have everything - customers, infrastructure, labor and place.  Even the name is done.   Why? What is missing?

I decided to talk it out with somebody.  I went across to the Amul Dairy shop across the road.   Avaara Chacha -  the owner of the dairy and our place, our only sounding board -  suggested something weird, or so I thought at that time.   But what a master stroke it was!

I asked Munna to start a paan -beedi dukaan just in front of our Red Saloon. 


The masterstroke -
a typical paan shop
Munna did not bother - he was used to sitting idle. All he had to do was sit in the paan-beedi dukaan ( cigaratte shop), as Chota told.

Voila!  Like bees to the nectar, like the wasp diving into the shining light,  the men folk - rich and poor turned up.   Gold flakes, Marlboro's and Wills started selling like hot cakes.  One thing Munna was good at, was making paan jarda!

These customers started enquiring on the new saloon and started lending their heads for a good hair cut.  From trickle, it became a stream.  

Weekends were busy, and it became busy in the evenings too.   Chota and Naser were busy doing hair raising.   Munna handed over the reigns to a small neighbour urchin, and that guy took the paan business to the next level.

I have always wondered, how at each stage, a brilliant stroke has appeared out of the blue at the time of despair.   Now, Naser is happy running the salon and Munna straddling both - the paan business and the hair raising business.  

I often remember the loss of my family in Latur and then my father in Mumbai.  Now I am left only with my brother and Naser, and of course Avaara Chacha.    They are now my family. 

Time is a great healer.   The pains of the losses are distant.    They have made me harder, like a rock - exactly, how my father used to be.  I always search for the answer, and  always found it.   I am a content man.   Should I be?

Competition was brewing.  Few other enterprising youngsters had started another saloon and spa.  Chota has seen them visit his salon as customers before.    Something had to be done to prevent attrition.   He had built the business brick by brick and he would not allow it die.


He decided to do two things.   The idea came from one customer. He along with his son were regulars.   His son was a replica of him, and a restless one.   Everybody liked the kid.   Naser was very fond of the kid.   Since the kid was comfortable, the customer did not want to go anywhere else.
Going by this customer's suggestion, firstly, Chota decided to paint the saloon red.   Chota, Naser, Munna and the other couple of employees all started wearing red T shirts.  

The revamped Red Saloon for men
 Secondly, a TV was mounted in the pedestal, high near the ceiling and a split A/C appeared.    6 new chairs came in - black holstered, swivel, adjustable-pedastal chairs.   Mirrors appeared on the walls.  

Additionally, Chota started offering massage services - head massage, dandruff treatment and facials.   New cosmetics and curatives appeared - ideas borrowed from Jamal Habib and Shenaaz Hussain.

Finally,on that Republic day in 2011, the new version of the 'Red Saloon for Men' was launched.   New customers and regulars thronged the saloon for a good hair cut and a relaxing massage.


If I were to retire, I would do now. It has been more than 18 years in Amchi Mumbai. Naser can run the show.   I am 29, but I feel emancipated, and full of content.   Munna is as stagnant as he always has been.   These days,  I talk to my customers and ensure things just go right.   I manage the cosmetics inventory and float around the shop, small talking with my customers.
Naser with the short haired
 customer - ( the author)
who asked for my story

One of these days,  I meet this guy - now regular customer.   He came into the shop one day, and it seemed like a regular cut.  Suddenly he said ' machine lagaao, bahooth chota karnaa hai'.   I asked Naser to use Number 1 machine.   His look changed - he looked like some villain.  We all suppressed our laughter.  

Next weekend he appears.  And next.  And next.  The same hair cut - short one.  We are used to his appearance now - we in fact await his arrival. 

One of these days, he asks - 'how did you guys start?'  I start telling my story of 'the heir of the hair raiser'.

-The One

Pics courtesy Internet, The One


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