Business thins out at Goa's traditional barbers

Laxman Arondekar, from the Indian resort state of Goa, has got to a point in life where he knows what he wants from a haircut.

Younger men can keep the latest trendy styles and swanky unisex salons, the 70-year-old says. For him, nothing beats a short back and sides and conversation with like-minded customers at the local "barberia".

"I know the barbers and they also know what kind of haircut I want," the retired civil servant told AFP in the state capital, Panaji. "There is a sense of friendship.

"They are also cheap, as some of the new salons are charging more than 100 rupees ($2.2) for a cut. That's an expensive proposition that no middle-class person can afford."

Goa's "barberias" date back to Portuguese times and have become as much of a tourist attraction in the state as historic churches, imposing ramparts and the other vestiges of 450 years of colonial rule.

But where they were once found in abundance in the bustling side streets of Panaji, the traditional hair-cutting salons are now becoming as thin on the ground as hairs on the head of a balding man.

Only a handful of barberias remain and are readily identifiable by names like "Indiana", "Real" or "Nova Sucursal", the old world feel of their fixtures and fittings, and the barbers in their traditional white uniforms.

At the Barberia Indiana, overlooking the murky Mandovi river, the same Japanese-made barber's chairs are still being used as when Vithal Kawthankar first started working there more than 30 years ago.

Tourist web sites and message boards frequently vaunt the quality of the haircutting experience in Goa, with one traveller calling it an "indispensable part" of a visit to the state.

Wet shaves using a cut-throat razor for as little as 10 rupees, haircuts from just 20 to 30 rupees as well as the old equipment and locations in protected colonial-era heritage buildingsare all cited as big draws.

"We get a lot of foreigners coming in for a hair cut," said Kawthankar. "They like the unique feel of the place and its sense of history."

The Barberia Indiana has been a fixture in Panaji for the last 80 years but how long it and other places like it will remain is unclear.

The oldest barberia in the state capital, Barberia Central, burnt down two decades ago and has never been rebuilt.

Datta Sakhalkar, who owns the Barberia Real and is now in his late 80s, remembers that customers were charged just 0.25 rupees for a shave and 1.5 rupees for a haircut when he started in the business nearly 70 years ago.

His salon is like a museum, with the same water pumps and five chairs still in use. The scissors, combs and mirrors, too, are all originals. The only modern-day addition is a television mounted on a stand.

Like most of the barberias, the shop is closed on Saturdays as it is considered an unlucky day for a haircut.

Competition and social changes have left Goa's barberias struggling.

Ramesh Chalwadi was one of many hair stylists who came to Goa from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s in search of work. Now he owns two salons in Panaji, both called "Dilkhush".

These newer, air-conditioned barbers' shops, with music and stylists in the latest fashions and with trendy haircuts, are a sign of the growing preference for style over functionality.

"We thought we wouldn't be able to get the customers... but we managed, as we started offering massages and also facials, which weren't offered by the barberias," said Chalwadi.

"Now, most of of the barbers in Panaji are from Andhra and many of them are related to one other."

For modern men in Goa, as increasingly in the rest of India, it's no longer enough just to have a neat haircut like their fathers or grandfathers. Now, it's all about the complete package.

"The newer salons are better as they offer facilities like massages," said Mayabhushan Nagvekar, who works in the media in Goa.

"Men, too, want to look better now, so they can get facials which aren't offered in barberias," he added.

The barberias as a result have become a tourist novelty or a habit that older folk find hard to break.

"Business has certainly gone down," admitted Kawthankar. "We used to have queues stretching out of the door. But now we have to wait."

Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss