By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Aug 23 (IANS) Bashir Ahmed Sheikh, 63, has been visiting a barber shop in North Kashmir’s Ganderbal district for the last three days without any luck.
“All the workers at Rayees’ shop belonging to Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) have left the Valley. He is alone to deal with the rush of customers which he can not handle,” Sheikh said.
The bad news for Sheikh’s village is that Rayees has also decided to leave the Valley now.
“What do I do here alone? My two sons and wife have already left. All my workers have left. I have to cook food, wash clothes and do other household chores in addition to managing the shop. I have decided to leave. I don’t even know if my family has reached Muzaffarnagar safely because communication netwroks have been snapped,” Rayees told IANS.
Rayees has not left the Valley in the last 30 years since he started working here. Leaving after such a long time proves how helpless and sad he must be feeling.
The scenario is similar in Srinagar, Baramulla, Badgam, Kupwara, Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Bandipora districts in the Valley.
A rough estimate given by the local barbers’ association said that more than 43,000 barbers managing saloons in different parts of the Valley have left after August 5, since when the Valley remained under lockdown following the abrogation of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
“These people are unlikely to return in the near future. We don’t have many local barbers as the profession is manned entirely by people from outside the Valley,” said an office bearer of the local barbers’ association.
Interestingly, some barber shops run by the locals have come up in the Valley after the exodus of workers from outside though opinions are divided over their efficiency.
“Look at my hair… I went to a barber shop run by a local person yesterday. He has dressed my hair as if he was running a machine to remove weeds from a crop field. I would not need a hair cut for at least two months now. My head is bald at places while there are dense hair on other parts,” said Muhammad Shafi Bhat, 52.
On a lighter note, Bhat said that in addition to visiting Delhi for super-speciality medical care, Kashmiris will now have to go to the national capital for hair cuts as well.
Most of these professionals had continued to work in the Valley even during the worst period of violence in the early 1990s, but the pressure on them this time has become too much to bear.
Even salesmen at many provision stores those opened in parts of Srinagar during relaxation of restrictions said that razors and shaving blades are in high demand these days.
“This is again an exercise in futility. You may shave your beard or trim it yourself, but how can you dress your hair,” asked Abdul Gani Mir, 42, a resident of Fadpora area in Srinagar.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be reached at [email protected])