Roadside barbershop in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Cookiesound.com.
Barbershops scare me. This is quite obvious if you look at photos of me over the past decade, or even more so if you are familiar with my grooming habits, which are practically non-existent. I have always opted for the path of the Jeff Lebowskis, Grizzly Adams, and Cousin Its of the world, who prefer to view root canals as preferable to the cutting of hair — be it on one’s head, face, armpits, or other hirsute areas on the human male body where evolution has been slow to fully eradicate.
I usually give into my senses and eventually let somebody hack away at my ever-greying locks. This is done almost entirely to save my better half the embarrassment of being wed to a modern day neanderthal. But for me, finding a satisfactory haircut equates to witnessing a glistening unicorn prance down Lollipop Lane while dispensing fresh pints of ice cold IPA from its magical horn. Not impossible, but not all too common either.
More common than a good haircut.
My distrust in hair cutteries goes back as far as I can remember. Growing up, it was always good ol’ Mom wielding the shears and clippers to keep her boys’ hair at acceptable length. When she wasn’t working her magic behind the chair, it was either myself or my brothers laying waste to my head in the form of closely shaved sides coupled with a jheri curl mullet in the back. This was fine as an awkward teenager, but as an overweight married man and father of one, it has become too difficult to pull off this approach. I began to pay so-called professionals to butcher my hairdo time and time again, ruing the laws of nature that inexplicably allow one’s hair to grow throughout their lifetime.
Upon moving to Bangladesh in 2002, I first gave into the torment of scorching midday heat radiating from everywhere and sought relief at the local roadside barbershop in Rangpur. Crafted out of the finest corrugated tin, the interior was outfitted with three swivel chairs, a long mirror mounted on the wall, a functioning ceiling fan, and two middle-aged Bangladeshi fellows with smiles stained deeply with years of chewing betel nut. I took the plunge and they rewarded me with a pleasant, satisfying haircut that not only removed heat-trapping curls, but included the highly enjoyable Bangladeshi head massage.
That was to be my last haircut for the remainder of my Peace Corps days as I availed the opportunity to grow my mane wildly without recourse from professional obligations or good taste.
However, now that I have returned to the land of Bangladesh, I am pleased to report that I have discovered an oasis that is truly a cut above the competition for men’s grooming: Top Care. When I subsequently realized that this saloon was located in Unicorn Plaza, I felt the universe coming together in my favor in an ominous and hilarious twist of fate.
Upon entering, my haggard appearance drew the attention of all in the establishment. Without the need to utter a single word, the chief barber directed me to his chair, covered me up in towels and a cool-looking cape, and asked how much length to take off. Two words, “ektu alpo,” or “a little something,” was all that needed saying. At last — a barber that can somehow read my mind!
He also took the shears to my thicket of facial hair, transforming my proud sludge-metal beard into a collection of whiskers more manicured than George Michael’s before a night ride to Hyde Park for a booty call.
Fifteen minutes later, I was ready to emerge from the barber’s chair a new man. Little did I know, he had only just begun. The soft-spoken hair cutter asked if I wanted the head massage, evoking my maiden Bangladesh haircut in Rangpur, to which I responded immediately with beaming affirmation.
Rather than embark upon a couple of minutes of half-hearted scalp rubbing, the dude threw in a neck, back, shoulders, arms, and hand massage — complete with the knuckle-crack at the end. During the bliss, I began to wonder if this is the reason women schedule hair appointments so frequently. Solving this mystery, Mr. Barber caressed my knotted temples and several hours worth of Dhaka-headache melted away instantaneously.
After removing the towels and cape, the barber finished the job by applying an overwhelming dose of cheap aftershave — more than enough to make any 14-year-old boy tremble with unbridled jealousy at a junior high school dance. This made my heart smile as I sauntered up from the chair to the payment counter.
Having no idea how much these services would cost, I began to feel a small bout of buyers remorse setting in. Somewhere between the haircut and head massage, I snuck a brief glance at the menu of available services and fleetingly recalled some larger-than-expected numbers.
Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. I paid, leaving an assumedly generous tip, and I walked out into the buzzing Dhaka streets feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and looking halfway decent from the neck up.
My baby daughter and I revel in delight as we reminisce about the rad haircut I got in Dhaka several days before this photo was taken on the beach in Thailand.
In sum, I highly recommend the reader to drop whatever mundane tasks you are wasting your time with and travel to Dhaka immediately to seek out Top Care’s barbershop extravaganza. In the meantime, I am currently researching methods to grow hair quicker so as to give myself an excuse for a return visit. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section.