The Chand Raat – 2008


So I decided to finally go to the saloon and get my hair done.  The Saloon, well actually it is still an old fashioned barber shop but they like to be called “Saloon” nowdays. The one I go to is located near Hashmani Eye hospital near Old Numaish area. Just opposed the Imam Bargah Ali Raza, the one that got bombed a few years ago. This saloon is air conditioned, they are the experts but I really don’t care much about expertise or styling what I like about this place is that it is very clean. They use washed and dry towels for each customer. They use Phenyl to wipe the floor, and anti bacterial soaps for the staff to wash their hands. The place looks a lot like hospitals.  

I left home late afternoon thinking that I will be smart to reach there before Eid’s Chand is announced. The barber shops, saloons and beauty parlors get extremely crowded on chand raat. But during the whole Ramadhan such places remain deserted until the Iftar. So being the smart guy I reached there early, and then I realized that I wasn’t the only smart guy in the town. 

The saloon was full of people, there was no room to sit on the velvet seats in the waiting area. Instead of feeling awkward, walking from one corner to other, I decided to sit and found a place between a skinny memon teenager and a beefy pathan guy. The Pathan guy was wearing Shalwar Kameez, was smelling of onions and garlic, and he looked just like Taliban. May be he is a suicide bomber ready to attack the saloon where people get their beards shaved. According to taleban shaving your face is unIslamic. So they bomb the barber shops in Tribal areas of Pakistan. I checked out that Pathan guy once again through the mirror on the wall. I specially paid attention to his upper waist portion, this is where these suicide bombers wear the explosives belt. The Pathan guy had a huge belly, and it was obvious that there are no bombs inside his kameez, just the hideous gorilla sized belly. With his long beard, belly, fatness, and stinkiness, I wandered if he is married or not. If he is married what his woman thinks when he tries to kiss her. But then I don’t know if kissing is allowed in Taleban ideology or not. Women are the most weird of all species in the world. May be she loved him with all his shortcomings. May be she is more ugly and terrifying than the poor pathan guy. 

The staff at this saloon is very professional. They usually don’t waste any time, but there is no barber in the world who wouldn’t want to chat with his clients. I hate such barbers, and the question that I hate most is “What you do for living”? Once when I was in Islamabad and went to a saloon there the barber asked me this question and I told him that I don’t do anything. He wasn’t satisfied so he kept asking and finally I told him that I am a writer. This question is usually an ice breaker for these barbers so that they can initiate a chat about your career, then they discuss whatever is on the television mounted on the wall in all barber shops, then they discuss politics while shaving your chin with a hand on your throat, and finally reaching the agreement that Pakistan is totally fucked up when spraying your face with water. This barber then shared some of his Urdu poetry with me. I told him I have absolutely no interest in poetry at all. So he asked then what you write. I told him I write stories for children, articles for internet magazines. 

Ohh you write Omro-Ayyar and Ameer Hamza kind of stories? He asked me. Well I told you every thing you say to a barber is returned to you in form of another question. He was asking for my home address when he was giving my hair the finishing touch and I end up leaving the shop giving him not only my address but also my telephone number. 

So the staff here is no different from anywhere else, what I like about this place is that they have already asked me all the questions. But they can always bring the current affairs. There was a news report on television about people rushing to the markets to buy new clothes, accessories and gifts for the eid. They were showing women, one of them was telling the reporter about how things are so expansive this Ramadhan. She was 40+ and over weight like 90% other women of her age group. Her face was glowing, she not only spent thousands of Rupees and countless hours while shopping she also got interviewed by Geo Television. Wow, she must be feeling lucky, and may be concious too her make up had long been evaporated. I am sure her friends would let her know how old she looked during her 30 seconds interview. 

Every one, particularly men have an opinion about women. The most common is that they are all stupid. Watching this woman on television the owner of the saloon commented. “Aunti you should have prepared for eid before Ramadhan why you waited till the last days?” Then a client who was bored while waiting for his turn said something, then the pathan guy shared a stupid joke about stupid women. 

It made me think, that sexy guys with hanging jeans, the fat pathan, the staff, the owner, and the little boy who was wiping the floor, they are all the same from inside. May be I am the only unique individual in this place. But then after two hours when I finally got my new fresh look and was about to leave my seat I reached the agreement with my barber. We both, just like many others before us, agreed that yes Pakistan is totally fucked up. I realized that we are all the same We are the common men. What I didn’t like is that I am one of the common men. I should get my hair done at that gay hair stylist’s saloon at Peal Continental.

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