City Hangout – Bougainvillea’s Shaving Stall, Chelmsford Road
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Pavement shaving stalls are just about everywhere in Delhi—unlike western cities where the tradition has died out. These are patronised, among others, by a vast populace of hardworking male migrants who live alone in the city, far from their families, making an earnest living as labourers, rickshaw-pullers and street-food hawkers. Each shaving stall, with its bare minimum of a mirror and shaving brushes, has its own ecosystem specific to the locality and its clientele.
But the one at central Delhi’s Chelmsford Road might be the city’s most picturesque shaving salon. It lies under a gloriously dense bush of pink bougainvilleas. The flowers make such an overwhelming impression that the astonished eyes register the modest stall underneath only a moment later. The entire setting looks unreal as if it is the set of some Bollywood romance in which the hero is playing the barber.
“It’s a very old stall,” says owner Muhammed Isthiaq. The 51-year-old barber has been manning the booth since 1980. “My father (Muhammed Ishaq) started it some 40 years ago… he died three years ago.”
Mr Ishitaq’s family lives in the village in Bulandshahr, UP; he himself sleeps on the pavement close to his beautiful establishment.
“The stall has always been on this spot,” says the gentleman, but clarifying that the bougainvilleas came later.
The bush originates from a private residence just behind the pavement wall.
“I never thought bougainvilleas to be particularly beautiful,” says the barber as he casually flicks out a pink petal from the shaving bowl.
The ground under the chair, too, is littered with the flowers. “They keep falling, and yet the tree is always lush.”
The gentleman can give you a shave or haircut or both, else you can simply lounge in the salon; perhaps treating yourself and the barber to the yummy chai available at a nearby shack.
Capital’s most beautiful barber stall