10 Taka

“Kaka, medium rakho. I hate the army cut”, I said while my father gave me stern glances, but remained silent. I had to take matters in my own hands. Arey, Rajat Kaka should also use his expertise instead of chopping all my hair down to the lowest extent, no?

Rajat Kumar Das was a man in full control of his destiny. ‘Double Deluxe’ Saloon had a steady footfall, and was now an adda for the 50-something uncles. They also installed a split AC (Kaka was reluctant at first, but guests were gods) and business had never been better. The smile he gave once a customer entered, followed by ‘Aashun, aajke kerom kaatbo?’ (Come in, how would you like your hair cut today?), and his way of interacting with them and remembering every single important thing in their life. Marriage, job, kids, Kaka remembered everything and people didn’t mind it one bit. Baba treated him like a small brother. He would get the measly 60 rupees rate reduced by another 10 rupees, so that there was always some money for chips.

Kaka called me Shonamuni. Maybe the warmth that emanated from the person created many memories that were less about haircutting and more about laughter, joy, and many chocolates. Those were the days.

It’s been 15 years since I saw Kaka. I now walk down towards the market, hesitant that a lot might have changed in this period. The sign is still the same, but it has lost its glow. I see two distracted barbers cutting hair, and talking on the phone the same time. Don’t drink and drive, they said. I ask one of them about Kaka. They don’t know who I’m talking about. Suddenly a small, almost bald man comes running. “Kaka kothaye?(Where is Kaka?)
"Baba passed away a year ago, but he told me someone would come asking after him. He left you something.” He reached for a nearby drawer and took out the objects: a Cadbury, just a month away from its expiry date, and 10 rupees. He also takes out a letter.

‘Shonamuni, if you are reading this, I’m up there, servicing Him. I just want you to know, no matter what happens, you will always be satisfied in your marriage, work and life, with a medium haircut.’

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