I still remember how my mother put an embargo on cutting nails in the night. Forget about a haircut, there was an official ban on Saturday as the day is dedicated to Lord Shani and considered inauspicious and dangerous. However, the permissible day was fixed on Sunday. But I had to stay away from home for my early career with defence. My billet had become a home away from home and all those rules and regulations were savagely suppressed with the tune of blue uniform.
Memories of those days of ab-initio training at Bangalore were still vivid. The first and foremost thing to do in defence was to take a haircut. Since the trend was hippie on those days, we were shattered on the very first day. It was a buzz cut and we all looked perfect square or oval shape faces. The bottom line of the effect was that we were set apart under combing free zone. On top of that, we were demoralized with such induction cut. Military says this kind of hairdo for new recruits is utilised traditionally to prevent the spread of head lice.
Our Squadron Commander was very particular about trainee’s haircut. His hostile action at the Parade ground threatened us but intention was good that instils a sense of confidence and responsibility in military discipline. On parade, he used to inspect the flights in open order formation very closely. A flight must have shining boot to tight ironing dress and a forage cap on sharp haircut. Being Sunday is reserved for P staff; basic trainees had no choice but to fall in queue. No matter what the pretext falls, ab-initio has to cut haircuts on Saturday and my childhood habits go against the wishes of mother.
With that one of the most drastic military-inspired trends with Khaki Uniform, we often run away for MG Road on every book out day and I never missed any single Sunday during Jalahalli days. With that high and tight haircut and Khaki, we were easily spotted outside that was a bit of a let-down to our morals. To avoid such displeasure we adventured out along in civvies and even dared to bunk out for a city ride. One fine Sunday, we jumped over the boundary wall and happily marched through the residential areas. We felt as free as a bird.
Suddenly, we were shocked to hear “Tham” (means to stop or stand still) behind us followed by command “About Turn” and our Warrant Officer who was instructing ab-initio trainees at Parade, stood with authority. We automatically came to Attention (drill command in military parade) and felt a huge barrier challenged in front of our advancement. “The flight looked bright and wore a colourful outfit with Blue-Jeans and T-Shirt today but remember that Khaki (the uniform during training) is also a colour” and he let the hostages (we) go. We almost run away at a gallop from him thinking of a possible punishment at parade on the very next day. The silver lining of that worst experience was that he didn’t report it since we had probably taken a proper haircut a day before i.e. Saturday.
Trainees are given a freebie to the hair saloons and we were forced to visit the facility. The barber was also not happy with thousands of trainees and made an easy cut with clippers in haste. Many often started arguing in a barber with such unprofessional service and behaviour. Some of our friend could manage a decent look. We didn’t understand in the beginning but later on we chalked it out. It was a tip to the barber that makes things done better.
My call to the nation for combatant service ended a decade back. But military has inspired many habits that made us for source of inspiration. The crisis has begun now as I just can’t seem to keep long hair. Old habits die hard as I go for a cut every fortnight. But the war against Corona has disrupted the world. People have learned from these dreadful days of danger that human beings need nothing but to protect themselves for fear of unseen pathogen. Being worked in essential service sector, I go out to my work and rarely bother with lockdown woes.
But one instance I wanted to share my new adventure. Long lockdown made things worse since barber / salon closed down. A self haircut would have been beyond the skill set of most people. I can’t resist myself without it. It might end up leaving it in a mess. Finally, my wife came to my rescue, took scissors and reshaped it over an experiment on my curly hairs. Unlike my trainee days, my lockdown hairdo was not as bad as my new barber at home is a perfect home maker. I wasn’t worried as many celebrities go for quarantine buzz-cut these days and was fortunate to have another buzz cut free after a decade of military.