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Shaving Sessions

One of the most enduring memories of my child hood were scraping, probing, groaning and blood letting sessions that grandpa undertook which could loosely be describes as having a shave. The whole tedium started with gathering all the implements of ordeal and stacking them on a table outside in sun. A convex mirror was of particular interest to us as it magnified the face in most grotesque manner and made hunting of lurking hair follicles inside nostrils and ears and unshaved patches around neck easier. A rubber bowl, a cake of shaving soap and brush and small box containing the razor completed the array. We gathered around the table as grand pa sat down in front of mirror, spread a towel upon his chest and regarded his blown up face in the mirror in a philosophical manner. Sometimes he dipped his fingers in moist water in the mug and opening his mouth moved them on his stretched cheeks much like a matador having assessment of the bull he was up against. Then the shining razor came out of the box and was gravely rubbed on the oil stone in the spirit of sharpening of sabre before an infantry charge. Next the rubber bowl filled up with lather as he moved the moist brush in it round and round and ultimately shifted a large blob of it on to his face with a dexterity which filled us with wonder. Soon, every inch of the skin was submerged under white foam. Then he picked up the razor and holding it delicately scraped the skin with concentration of a monk. As the shining skin appeared and splodges of used lather were transferred to the edge of the mug we stared in surprise. Some times he scraped the skin too closely specially around chin which made him to shudder and groan and filled us with laughter which we stifled my swelling our cheeks and looking at our feet. A drop of blood appeared which was wiped away with the towel and injury gravely examined in the mirror. A flat piece of alum appeared in his hand next which was rubbed upon the moist skin accompanied with painful squeals . This left no doubt in our mind that be beards that holy men kept was to keep away from the torture of having to shave. Next, mirror was picked up and cavities of the nostril and the ears were examined closely. A thin scissor with an elongated snout shaped much like proboscis of a Gharial appeared next in grandpa’s hands and he delicately smuggled it’s tip into the nostril. It was positioned at the base of unruly, large hair follicles which jutted out of these cavities like wild growth. They were chopped off with crisp snips. But every once in a while when the inner walls of these cavities were snipped accidently, a shudder progressed through his frame filling us with a mixture of mirth and concern. Those days are long gone and shaving foam and 3 blade razors have taken over this male bastion robbing it of drama , dexterity and heroics. But when ever I see an old style barber under a tree in open wielding an razor and hovering over the lathered face of his customer my mind goes back to that patch of sun in the lawn of Grandpa’s house where heroics were indulged in and I and my brother had a rollicking time.

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Hemant Chopra

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Ushasurya
Ushasurya
1 year ago

That was a nice nostalgic ( was it ? ) flash back…describing in detils the nuances of the shave !!
I recall the barber ( I must have been around four) coming to my grand hather’s home backyard and shaving his ( grandfather’s ) face !! And of course giving him a hair cut too, leaving behind a “tuft” of hair hanging !!
He would then tonsure my grandpa’s elder sister’s head with those tiny bristles…she used to tell me how long ,jet black and flourishing and gleaming her hair long was before her husband died !! It makes me feel sad today!!
So strange Hemant…that she has to shave her head bald but an unknown man could touch her and remove the hair!!
Aw!! No female hairdressers those days!!

Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi
1 year ago

That was a close examination of a real close shave- that used to be a real close one in a literal sense :). Our father used the Gillette razor in which the blade was sandwiched. Writing about my father’s this routine is on my long list of articles to write. Nostalgic indeed. They all kept the equipment in an old box of Morton Sweets.

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