Had my hair cut on Saturday in anticipation of my trip to Brazil later today. While I think I can get away with a beehive in the UK during summer, the thought of sweating away under it all in Brazil seemed unappealing. So a quick visit to my regular barber, up the Bethnal Green Road, was in order.
What’s special about this place is that I’m usually the only white face in there. It’s run by two Bangladeshis, one of who is an old man with a henna-tinted beard. The place is quite basic, with walls that don’t look like they’ve seen a clean for many a year. I’ve never been to Bangladesh, but I occasionally pretend that this must be what Sylhet (where many Tower Hamlets Bangladeshis come from) is like, especially the chatter which takes place between the barbers and their customers.
There’s also a bit of camaraderie there too. When I popped in last November for a trim they closed the shop for half an hour when some friends arrived, bearing boxes of fried chicken. The radio programme, consisting of South Asian music was interrupted with the sound of the muzzein cutting in and calling people to prayer.
I’d forgotten that we were in the middle of Ramadan and they hadn’t eaten or drunk since dawn. I was invited to join them but I declined; it didn’t seem right to eat when I’d had lunch a few hours earlier. Within minutes of putting away their first meal for nearly 9 hours one of the barbers was behind a chair, slapping it and making it ready for me.
But there’s also a slightly mischievous reason why I go there too. My hair is thick and grows all over the place. While the older man never seems to have any problem cutting my hair (if he does, he doesn’t show it), his younger colleague always looks exasperated. Tongue out at the corner of his mouth, he spends ages grappling with the chaotic nature of my hair, trying to work out why it doesn’t fall neatly as it does for most Bangladeshis.