Off the Top and Around the Ears

Kohinoor Gents Parlour

Before living to India, I would probably have avoided that faded green door, the one leading to a hole-in-the-wall establishment labeled “Gents Parlour,” but now I go regularly, making sure to carry some small bills.

Kohinoor Gents Parlour is where I get my hair cut in Jodhpur, and it may be one of the world’s cheapest barbershops. For a plain, no-frills haircut (the only kind I ever get), they charge just 30 rupees. At the current exchange rate, that’s about 55 American cents. You can barely buy a plastic comb for that price in the States. It’s a fraction of what I would give an American barber for the tip alone. Although the guys at my favorite barbershop in my hometown do a great job, they can’t compete on price. They charge $14 for a normal haircut, which seemed reasonable until I came to India. Now it seems exorbitant. For the prices to even out, I’d have to get at least two Indian haircuts per week, or one American haircut every four years. That would make a simple trim as infrequent an occurrence as voting for president.

Why is the Kohinoor Gents Parlour so cheap? I still haven’t completely figured it out. Ketaram, the senior barber, whom I assume is also the owner, clearly doesn’t make a lot of money. Even if he clips eight customers an hour, a very liberal estimate, he’ll only bring in $4.40. That’s a high salary by Indian standards (minimum wage for skilled labor in Rajasthan is $3.43 per day), but much of it will go back into the shop. With scissors, hair products, rent, and that heated shaving cream that only barbers seem to have, the costs add up.

This man will gladly cut your hair for just 30 rupees.

This man will gladly cut your hair for only 30 rupees. Getting him to smile for a photo is a different matter.

Of course, Ketaram can make due with fairly little income. Although not everything in India is as relatively inexpensive as a haircut, prices are pretty low. It’s easy to prepare a meal for an entire family for less than two dollars, and a three-bedroom apartment can cost less than $200 per month. But even with that in mind, a 55-cent haircut still seems ridiculous.

On Sunday, I got what was probably my last haircut at Kohinoor Gents Parlour. I’ll be leaving India exactly one month from today, so the next few weeks will involve plenty of other “lasts” as well. During these final days, I’ve resolved to appreciate the details of this city, the little things that I won’t be able to find anywhere else and that ultimately I’ll miss the most. That’s why I’m writing about my barbershop. Back in the States, as hair gradually elongates from my scalp and begins to droop over my eyes, I’ll pine for the days when I could get it trimmed for just 55 cents. And that green door will be a world away.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Off the Top and Around the Ears

  1. I enjoyed this one! This is why I get haircuts so rarely. It’s just not sensible to go more often than every couple of months, if that. Looking forward to have you back amongst us Bostonians and our expensive haircutteries.

  2. Stephen Paul

    As your departure dates hastens and you soak up the last of your experiences in a different and (mostly) wonderful culture, you will appreciate your journey even more, and have sentimental regrets about your l leaving. Be thankful you had the opportunity to gain the insights that you shared on these blogs. When your return to India (and you will!), it won’t quite be the same, but I am sure that you will again appreciate the differences that you find there, although you may not be sharing them on a blog. Enjoy your journeys.

  3. Madu

    Ben, enjoy the remaining days, for this trip. During my visits to home, I do enjoy these Parlours, mostly for relaxed facial shaves. And pretty much all of them tend to give a good head massage for extra 50 cents.

    Have fun!

  4. Irony how Indians crave for the few dollars haircut when a foreign national is sad that he will miss the few-cents haircut!

    I enjoyed reading your posts and the news that you are leaving India is sad to hear.

    Hope you will return soon, meanwhile if you are passing by India, do let me treat you with a coffee (a cheap but amazing filter coffee) 🙂


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