By Yusuf “Chubb” Garda
Bashir wanted to be a great barber. He wanted to be a star, and cut the hair of stars. He was forty years old and prodded along, cutting and trying and slowly mastering his craft. It was largely hit and run business .But his great consolation was that in Eleventh Street, Vrededorp he had developed a reputation of being a truly multi-racial barber.
His hairdressing salon was frequented by young and old Indians, Africans, coloureds, whites and Chinese. And Bashir was proud of this reputation of his.
Bashir was a lean fragile Indian with hands that trembled a great deal. When asked what it was, he would mutter: “Its nerves and its circumtances. Its nerves and circumtances”. How Bashir managed to cut the hair of his clients, sip tea, smoke a cigarette and hold a trembling scissors at the same time, was a miracle of his art.One day Jimmy the cricketer entered the barbershop and told Bashir : “Tomorrow, you have a special customer. Basil Oliveira, the England cricketer is coming for a haircut.”
Bashir started trembling, and muttered in reply: “I can’t cut his hair. He is an international cricketer. And I’m nervous. I may spoil his hair and that will create problems.” Jimmy tried to console Bashir that it was not such a big problem and went away. Jimmy then told Dolly that Bashir was very nervous and hesitant about cutting the hair of an international celebrity. Dolly now reassured Jimmy that it would be no problem at all. A haircut is haircut is a haircut.
Dolly had just arrived from England where he had had a successful cricket season for England against the West Indies. Dolly was lionised by the black public of South Africa. They adored his cricket, his upright posture, his glossy wavy hair, and his eloquent English tongue.
Bashir was nervous all of Saturday and wrung his hands continuously. When he went home at night, he sat in the arm-chair and tried to be calm. He knew that his shop was not a five-star salon, but his great consolation was that ten years earlier he had cut Dolly’s hair, although that was in the days before Dolly had earned international fame. “Nevermind”, Bashir told himself. “I’m going to watch him carefully and closely at the cricket ground tomorrow. I want to get the right line. Once that is done, its easy.”
Early on Sunday morning Bashir went to the Queenspark Cricket Ground and followed Dolly wherever Dolly went. At lunch Bashir positioned himself behind Dolly and scrutinised his hair as carefully as possible. He saw the elegance of his hairstyle, the sheen that added glow to his face. Having studied him carefully , Bashir was now confident . I’m ready for Dolly, he told himself.
That night he told Jimmy that he was ready for Dolly and that Dolly should come to him on Monday morning. The following morning Dolly entered Bashir’s hairdressing salon. The place was fragrant and elegant and immaculate. Jimmy introduced Bashir to Dolly and Dolly immediately put Bashir at ease with his warmth and smile.
Bashir took out his best linens and equipment , and started the task in earnest,as if he was playing a cricket innings and warming up before getting set. Hair by hair , inch by inch, as batsman piles up his runs, one by one. And so with a fines flourish and snipping of the scissors, and untying the cloth and waving it as a bullfighter rolls it towards a bull, Bashir completed, and said triumphantly : “It’s over.”
Dolly was quite happy, took out a twenty rand note to cover costs or tips. Dolly signed a few autographs for some youngsters hanging around in the salon in admiration. Bashir had a few photos of Dolly pinned on the walls and Dolly obliged with his autographs.
Bashir was quite happy the whole day and when he went home in the evening he felt a sensation of fulfillment and achievement. He had cut the hair of a great maestro. It was a great feather in his cap. His star was in the ascendancy.
A few days later there was a greater surprise for Bashir. He read in the Star that Dollys hairstyle was voted one of the ten best in England. Amongst English males.
Bashir was in his element. He had done it. He had cut the hair , and style the head of the one who had won an international exhibition. This was the crowning achievement in Bashir’s life. His confidence was invigorated. Gone was the trembling in his hands. No longer would he blame anything on “circumtances”. He had discovered himself . He had become a star in his own right.
Now, when anybody goes to Bashirs salon for a haircut, Bashirs asks , with greater confidence anf firmness : “What type of haircut?”
The customers usually reply : “The Dolly haircut please”.