Grandma's Tales

October 24, 2006

Cut out to be the boss

Filed under: Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:57 pm

When the girl at the hairdresser’s asked, “Would you mind if a guy cut your hair?” I had to think. This would be a first, but why not? “Why are you calling a “guy”?” I asked the girls. “He is the best,” they said. For making a customer feel important, there isn’t a better spiel than that. I smiled, and agreed. I was curious.

Murugan walked in. A short, dark, clean-looking young man, who couldn’t be more than 25. He seemed to hesitate a bit, but busied himself with preparations. He asked questions and gave suggestions, all in Tamil peppered with English words. After a minute or two, I thought, “What is he waiting for?” before I realised he was actually cutting my hair. I heard the faint hiss of the scissors but felt nothing at all. This guy is cerainly an expert!

It was time for the interview. With him. “Are you from Chennai?” He said he was from Puducherry. Why did he choose this job? “My father,” he said. “He owned a barber’s shop in Puducherry. I would spend time before and after school at the shop. I learned by watching.” Did he complete his education? No. “I dropped out after class IX. I wasn’t good at studies.” So why didn’t he take over dad’s shop? “It wasn’t doing well. He had to close it down.”

His brother got a job as a mechanic in Chennai. Murugan followed him. He began by working at small, wayside barber’s outfits as a helper, then came to know Green Trends was scouting for boys like him. He applied, got trained and here he was. “I have more than 15 years’ experience,” he said evenly.

During these years he married, sired two kids and lives in a portion of his brother’s house in central Chennai. “Two kids!” I gasped. “I’m twenty-nine,” he said, a tinge of annoyance in his voice.

Then I had to ask. “Aren’t you sorry you didn’t complete your education?” He sighed. “Yes, yes. You know why?” I could guess. “I have put my kids in an English medium school. And I can’t help them with their home-work.” The wife, she can’t help? “Which educated girl would marry me? My wife is a school drop out too.” So they go for tuitions? “NO, no, no. I can’t afford it. But you know, my wife’s sister is a B.Com. She comes in the evenings to help the kids with their work.”

Is the pay good? “Yes,” he said. “I have a two-wheeler. Ok, bought on EMIs. But I’m saving hard. Will soon open a parlour of my own. I have learned the ropes here.”

Murugan’s tale is typical of Tamil Nadu. No matter what your trade is, there are ops for training and jobs. Get a toehold, work hard, climb up, save and start something of your own. Upward mobility with which the government has nothing to do. But make sure the kids go to an “English medium” school. There can be no compromise on that. The future lies in English.

The haircut looked great. Murugan signalled to one of the girls, who brought a card. On it were dotted lines for “preferred hair-dresser”. “I’ll write “Murugan” here and please bring it with you the next time,” he said.

“Will you get a bonus?” I asked.

“It’s good for business,” is all he would say.



  1. 🙂

    Were the girls (who asked you if its okay) hairdressers too? And they still granted that he is the best?

    Comment by swami — October 25, 2006 @ 12:37 am | Reply

  2. Hi swami,
    Thanks for stopping by. I too was surprised when they suggested Murugan. Green Trends obviously employs greenhorns who don’t dare cut hair. They do other stuff. As I said, they are new and expanding their client database. Or is it market share?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 25, 2006 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

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