Monday, June 6, 2016

The annual vidwan

Growing up at Suprabha, our home on Murrays Gate Road, meant regular home delivery of haircuts. 

We boys were sat on a stool in our disused garage, and Ekambaram, tall, slim, balding and Hitler-moustachioed, came dressed in his three quarter sleeved white shirt and veshti, and a neat little box of instruments, not very different in appearance from the case our family doctor carried on home visits. Ekambaram had no pretensions to aesthetics. 

To him the hair cut was just that, and the less foliage he left on his poor victim's head at the end of his ministrations the more successful was his mission. My father used to joke that Ekambaram inverted a pot on your head and snipped all round it.
Ekambaram was versatile. On Deepavali morning he was one of our earliest visitors. With his nagaswaram. He was, in addition to being the worst barber in the world, the worst musician as well. 
Normally tight-fisted in the best Mylapore brahmin tradition, my family rose as one man to shower cash and new clothes on Ekambaram. Rather than any philanthropic urges, we owed our generosity to a strong desire to get rid of the assault on our ears.
Watch this space for more on the old practice of barbers doubling as nagaswara vidwans (some of them excellent exponents of both arts).

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