By Nissar H. Gilani
During my young days, I would wait until my hair got a bit more before i would get a hair cut. One fine afternoon in summer 1967 I had an appointment with next door barber who was running a popular and successful saloon under trade name and style, “Salman hair cutting saloon”. M. K, as he was popularly known was soft-spoken, easy going man and had been barbering for years in the same shop. He had recruited good employees and was keeping up with the latest popular hair styles and trends. He would always assure to keep both clients and employees happy to reduce turnover. Even those days there were many locals competing to be barbers, unlike today. SALMAN hair cutting salon, stood out among the crowd. Clients would prefer it’s cleanliness, good bathrooms, high quality service at an affordable price. As a result of this Door bell /street barbers were facing tough competition.
As we know barbers have always been an institution, they mostly are good talkers and keep the clients in good humor. They are well informed. In oden days they used to be match makers for the most eligible bachelors, besides would perform small surgeries. But Mk was quite different than his counterparts. Anyways as my hair cutting was in progress, suddenly there was some excitement among the small crowd on the street outside. We heard whistles, shouting, unwelcome comments, hissing sound. M.K. shook so badly, I thought for a while, I was getting nicked , panic gripped and customers disappeared. I and M.K. ran outside.
To our excitement, we saw a young lady (Mem sahib of a former bureaucrat) driving a fiat car. She was repeatedly honking. It Presumably surprised the on lookers. The concept of women driving a car invited disbelief and paternonising awe. People 1ooked at her as if they had never seen anything stranger than a woman behind the wheel. Though driving is liberating but driving as a woman, especially in Kashmir, those days was stressful and hard. She apparently was scary, drove fast and left .
As the scene was over and we came back to our senses and M.K resumed my hair cut, and there was business as usual.
Nissar H. Gilani can be reached at email@example.com