So here is a review of Haircut Salons, I have visited.
Madras is known for throwing nasty surprises to new comers from unexpected quarters. It is a relatively inexpensive place for many things but not for haircut. I seriously think a haircut here costs twice as much as most other places. People infact make too much out of a trivial thing like a haircut. I generally think its a big business opportunity for people who want to invest in this sort of business.
Many people from Travelling Haircut Guy in Pondicheri (the guy who walks on the road and sells haircut service by shouting on top of his voice) to Ramesh in Nungambakkam have given me hair cuts. This is just a mention of the salient few.
Kerala Saloon: There is the famous Kerala Saloon in Pondy Bazaar, near the police station. It is traditionally the "cheap & best" category. The kind of place, where fathers patronize. The barber there acts as if he already knows how to cut your hair and your preferences are 'optional' information for him. You can already see him mentally tuning out your cries for "short on the sides" as he puffs the poorly aimed water spray in your face and hair. But you know what! the cut in the end will be much better than what you ideas would have resulted in. The people there have seen everything and know everything. The hair cut is like Rs.35 or something. Compared to the going rates, its peanuts. You get all the tabloids from Dinamalar to TOI here. Spending time waiting for a haircut is a breeze. Since this salon is full of our friendly neighborhood mallus, they talk to you like you've known them for years and soon the conversation takes deep philosophical undertones. Its all fine until you realize you forgot to bring any money. Then you get suspicious frowns and stares while you are allowed the '1-phone call' home. Things get back to normal when they see your angry father bring in the moolah. You are recognized as a 'regular' and they all join him in regretting the decadence of the younger generation. Only negative: Does not have A/C. Sometimes you do have to tell them to put new blades. Just as a precaution. The rest in the list dont need to be said anything of this sort.
Ramesh Hair Stylists: Extremely expensive. As babs would say "friggin' expensive". Located in the plush Nungambakkam high road, right next to Gemini flyover. A hair cut and a shave costs more than 200Rs. There is no fixed rate here. You can never see the menu or know the rates in advance. Unless you are a 'regular' and he knows you by name. It is quite like the autorikshaw of the haircutting world. The rate starts at around 200 and it goes up depending on the barber's estimation of your worth. Truth be said, the haircut you get here is the best you will ever get anywhere in the world. Talented bunch of folks these people. The funny thing is, they keep dropping these hints. When they are cutting your hair, they talk to each other and say "last customer. very generous man! gave 100Rs tips". They say it not once but several times, until they make sure you got the point. In reality, their reaction is the same if you tip them Rs.100 or Rs.5000. They always give a look, which tells you that they feel they deserved something better. If you stay long enough some movie star may pop in for a cut.
Oddessey: I have blogged about this and I have pampered myself shamelessly here. I have a fondness for Thirunelveli. The 'annachi' here is from Thirunelveli. Its located in Arya Gowda road, West Mambalam. Its all like a family there. The service is good. For once you get to hear tamizh being spoken in Madras. This is really a rarity. The price is really high its Rs.100 for a shave, haircut and oil massage.
Ramesh II: This is too expensive. Way beyond belief. a Haircut alone is Rs. 150 or upwards. They give the bill in a box. Once my father opened the box, saw the bill and said, "I don't want to buy the box. A haircut will do just fine" and did not laugh back when the hairstylist laughed. The best thing about this place is the porn. Seriously! I am not kidding. Its got all sorts of porn books in the waiting area. Penthouse, Playboy, Debonaire and some really wierd stuff. It totally sets the Sunday morning mood. I have to warn the guys who are reading this that it can prove to be an embarassing disaster if you are not appropriately dressed. Since you would want to know the address now, its in Brindhavan Street Extn, W. Mambalam, last time I saw. The haircut here is bad. He gives unsolicited pimple advise, which really ends up screwing your wallet more than your face.
What do you tell them?
If you are interested you can leave comments on what you tell barbers to do, to achieve certain results. I have told my usual but unsuccessful dialog for many years. To me this whole haircut thing is random. The barber is no Einstein. Its not as if he has put his Harvard University degree up there to say he is an ivy league barber. To be politically incorrect and brutal. I am thinking the very fact that he is a barber could in all probability mean he is some sort of a loser, who is probably very very frustrated in life. I would be if I was a low-paid often-yelled-at barber. Most of them are. So it really boils down to how he feels that day. Most probably, he hates his work, hasn't washed after he dug his nose in the morning, never had a habit of washing his hands after he goes to the potty, the thought has never crossed his mind in his life, ever. The funny thing is - you know all this when he smears powder or shaving gel in your face, lips and nose with his hand. Beyond all this you know that he probably does not want to be doing this right now and needs to be somewhere else. For you to get a good haircut, he needs to be in a charitable mood.
P.s1: Teju's Hair cut post is here. Very interesting