Going for a shave in Kathmandu
So many of the streets are dotted with local shaving joints. You seem not to notice them at first but when you’re on the lookout you’ll realise that they’re everywhere.
I walked down a rubble-framed road in Gairidhara on my way to meet someone for a coffee. A subconscious stroke of the chin made me realise my unruly beard was in need of a trim before it became a natural habitat for other life forms. When it gets too long it takes on a reddish tint that doesn’t look particularly dapper. I’d been in Kathmandu for a couple months and this was to be my first experience getting a shave.
So many of the streets are dotted with local shaving joints. You seem not to notice them at first but when you’re on the lookout you’ll realise that they’re everywhere. I stepped into the parlour (which was a small room, with four chairs and mirrors lining the walls at precise angles) and proceeded with some expert body language to state my intentions. After a few purposeful strokes on either cheek, I was placed in a chair like a kid on his first day at school.
The nimble young barber lathered my face up until I looked like Santa Claus in a lime green bib. The shaving process itself smoothly balanced precision, comfort and speed. I glanced at my bottom of the range Nokia on the shelf and saw that I still had 5 minutes to get where I needed to be which was fine. After the barber made the final stroke I made to leave and as I did he sprayed me unexpectedly with water. I sat still. He then started to scrub my face with a nondescript cooling block of some kind. I kept my eyes shut and next to follow was a face massage. I imagined that I was now probably late for my appointment but couldn’t care less. All too often shaving is a mundane process involving stuttering electrical equipment and hair all over the floor. I started to understand that this was the Nepalese man’s substitute for the beauty salon.
After my face had been coated in balm and my brow had been kneaded and pinched in every direction I slowly opened my pleasantly tired eyes.
Content with my experience and late for my appointment I was ready to go. Before I could though I was offered a neck massage (which I agreed to). The minutes ticked by and with my arm raised receiving therapeutic attention guilt started to wash over me. I told my local barber (as he would thereafter become) that I had to go to meet someone. I would return for the full session soon and highly recommend this experience to any bearded man in Kathmandu with half an hour to spare.
Author – Nick Monro