He set the rusted, too rusted to be of much use, scissors down and left me to contemplate my
reflection. His shaky hands now focused on an ingenious contraption connected to what looked
like a cauldron balanced on the faint glow of hot embers. I’d come to recognise these contraptions as tea grinders creating the sensual mix of flavours from spices that make up a true Indian chai.
He shuffled back and distributed the chai to his visitors in a meticulous fashion, making certain that he saved one which he placed in front of me and then returned to contemplating my hair.
The others sat on lopsided wooden benches behind me. My travel companions, the first and second Idiots, interacting with the local crowd attracted by the presence of unexpected visitors. Another team who had followed us to find a bed for the night now divided their attention between the hazy action movie playing in the corner and the strange brown powder the Idiots were discussing with the locals. An Idiots pointed the powder wielding kid in my direction. I gave the kid my hand. He tilted the container to sprinkle the intriguing substance into my palm. The barber sternly stopped him. Disappointed the kid turned to find another victim.
Moments later an eruption of laughter did little to muffle the sound of someone sneezing with such force and consistency that one would be forgiven for thinking it was a steam train passing by. My comrades now all stood with their palms facing up, waiting to receive their dose of the magic brown powder. Taking their lead from the first victim, who was still stealing sneezes between fits of laughter, they too sniffed the powder up like they were in a hollywood movie. It took a couple minutes to kick in, but once it did, I sunk into my chair in the certainty that the crowd would soon become an angry mob of towns folk annoyed at having the peaceful night air shattered by snorts of laughter. Itching to experience it myself, I thanked the barber and paid his meager fee before joining the group to take my hit. The tears streamed down my cheeks and I clutched my stomach in agonising enjoyment as I was united with my team in
laughter. The name the 3 Idiots seeming more appropriate than ever.
The following morning as we left the dusty streets of Tharad, fitter for the excellent core workout we had received outside the barber shop, I stole a glance in the rickshaw’s rear view mirror and thought to myself.
– It will grow back.