Roadside barbers losing out to beauty salons

March 29th, 2008 - 11:23 am ICT by admin  

By Nityanand Shukla
Patna/Ranchi, March 29 (IANS) Once the lifelines of ‘babus’ hurrying to work with a day’s stubble on their faces, roadside barbers in Bihar and Jharkhand are gradually becoming a rarity. They are losing out to beauty parlours and the hip generation of male company executives and students who prefer to shave themselves and get their hair styled in parlours.

Nanku Nai, a roadside barber here, has no one to carry on the family tradition. “My son works as a labourer. Despite my repeated insistence, he did not join my profession. I earn Rs.30 to Rs.60 per day and he earns Rs.90 per day working as a labourer,” Nai told IANS.

“The cultural revolution has changed everything. Those who get their hair cut from roadside barbers are looked down upon. Now people prefer to go to beauty parlours instead.”

Almost all the street-side barbers have disappeared from the three national highways connecting Ranchi to Patna, Jamshedpur and Khunti. Many of them are either setting up their own beauty and styling boutiques or moving out of the profession.

Ranchi has more than 200 beauty parlours, up from 50 just 10 years ago.

The roadside barbershops are popularly known as ‘Italian salons’ - some say the name is derived from the Hindi word ‘int’, or brick, as these makeshift shops often barely have a chair and a mirror next to a brick wall or under a tree. Over the past decade, they have been finding it difficult to compete with mushrooming beauty parlours.

Roadside barbers usually charge Rs.4 for shaving and Rs.6 for haircuts. They earn between Rs.30 and Rs.100 per day. According to an estimate, Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, still has more than 700 Italian salons, down by almost half the tally five years ago.

Suraj Nath Thakur, a 32-year-old barber, has set up a new haircutting salon at Kathhal More on the Ranchi-Khunti national highway en route to the Bihar capital Patna.

Suraj is a resident of Mayagaon in Ranchi. His father and grandfather were barbers in the village. They did not have their own salon.

The meagre earning from his makeshift roadside shop was not enough to run the family. Suraj decided to open a salon away from his village. “I set up my own salon 15 years ago on government land,” Suraj said.

Asked why he left his village, Suraj told IANS, “I did not want to lead a life like my father and grandfather. I am the first person in my family to set up a salon.” Suraj makes around Rs.3,000 to Rs.3,500 every month.

Indra Thakur, 55, however, still plies his trade near the busy Albert Ekka intersection in Ranchi. He has been doing so for the last 37 years.

“Even after all these years, I am not comfortable financially. There was a time, when people queued up to get their hair and beard shaved. Now we hardly have any customers,” Indra said.

His 17-year-old-son Pradeep is not a barber. “I don’t want to be called a roadside barber. I am collecting money to open a salon for myself. If I am not able to collect enough money to open my own salon, then I will opt out of the profession.”

Till a few years ago, more than two dozen barbers operated on the 200-metre stretch between Albert Ekka Chowk and Shahid Chowk. Sundays were hectic with more than 100 people flocking to the roadside stylists to cut their hair. But no more.

People like Sanjeev Shekhar, a regular visitor to ‘Italian salons’, is virtually a rarity. He said: “It feels funny to sit by the road for a haircut. But I still don’t like to go to beauty parlours.”

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