Yesterday was my off day. I met up with Patriot in the morning at a coffeeshop in Tampines for coffee and a late breakfast. We chatted a while before we split up.
As usual, I went to Bugis and Sungei Road area for a stroll. I had my lunch at Jln Beseh HC. I walked to my favourite barber shop along Jalan Besar Road directly opposite Sim Lim Complex. That Indian barber shop only charges $6 for a hair cut with a good back & neck massage with optional twisting of your neck thrown in! When I reached there it’s no longer there. The premises is taken over by some trading company.
I was disappointed and walked back to Kelantan Lane where I parked my bike. For more than 5 years, I had my hair regularly cut there. The area along Jalan Besar is quite a big havoc. The downtown line construction is on full swing. All those old shop houses are being propped by metal bars and pillars just in case they collapse due to the heavy tunnel drilling and pilling going on nearby.
The main road of Jalan Besar is also chaotic with detours and road blocks here and there! What a mess. Full of uneven patch-ups and undulating road surface also. Hopefully the downtown line will complete on schedule so that the noisy environment and dusty atmosphere could go back to normal.
When I came back to Kelantan Lane to get my bike, I saw this corner barber shop open which is behind the keysmith shop. Most of the time, it’s closed. There were few old men sitting there reading newspapers or napping. An old barber was about to finish off with an equally old customer.
I decided to check it out. I asked around for any extra barber since that old barber was occupied. It seemed that the old barber is the only barber in the big spacious shop. Other barber shops elsewhere usually have a couple of barbers ready and on standby. I thought those old men sitting there reading Chinese newspapers with two nodding their heads on their chairs having a nap were waiting for their turn to cut their hair. No, they were just old friends to that old barber. They were whiling their time in the shop only.
Out of sudden, it’s my turn. The old barber I found out later was 80 yrs old – must be oldest living barber in town; called me to take on the barber chair for a hair cut. I didn’t ask the price. I just told him to turn on the radio louder. The radio was tuned to FM95.8 and it’s about 3.30pm. My favourite 20 mins of wuxia story telling board-cast on Jinyong’s 神雕侠侣 was about to start.
Every week day from 3.30pm at radio station FM95.8, a male Chinese from China reads a short section of Jinyong’s 神雕侠侣. It’s now nearly 300 sessions (285th session I think). I usually try to follow. If I’m working, I’ll use an earpiece to listen a while. I really like this Chinaman’s animated style of story telling with so much gusto and also his imitating the female character’s voice and adopting a serious stern voice when he takes on as the author’s commentator. His passionate rendition of the all time classic best seller exudes so much life and action till the listener is spell bound
I then settled down on the huge barber chair with my eyes closed and concentrated on the next session of the story coming out of the radio. That 80 yrs old barber sure took his own time to trim my hair.
My hair was trimmed even though he took his own leisurely time cuz there was no other waiting customer. Those ancients numbering 4 to 5 of them were his friends just keeping the ancient barber company only. Coupled with old school setting, the whole place seemed like a museum! Really langgar!
The barber chair was suddenly pulled down and I had to lie almost flat. That’s the next step where he proceeded to use his blade to shave my face, ears, nose, chin and even my eye lids! Next he took a pair of sharp scissors to trim my nostril hairs. When he was about to dig my ears I declined. He then pulled back the standing lamp or lamp post away from my ear. That was meant to light up the dark orifice of my ear canal.
Upon his signal that the haircut was over, I stood up and gave him a $10 note. He returned me $4 change. I felt it was too cheap for that kind of services. I then pushed back another $2 to him. I decided to pay him $8 instead of $6! He was so pleased and kept smiling. That made our day – for him and me!
If you happen to pass away Kelantan Lane next to the hawker centre, just drop by for a cheap and good haircut but don’t expect any back or neck massage usually given by those Indian barber shops.