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Barbers-in-Residence: How Desis are Dealing With Their Overgrown Locks

Barbers-in-Residence: How Desis are Dealing With Their Overgrown Locks

  • With salons and barber shops closed, men and boys have turned to their family members for some much-needed trimming

Kunal Patel has been the ‘barber-in-residence’ for his father and his younger brother since the lockdown orders took effect in March. For the past three months, the 21-year-old has been diligently cutting their hair every few weeks, all the while ignoring his own disheveled and overgrown locks. Kunal is a senior at Rowan University in New Jersey. 

Since then, his mom, Neelma Patel, an entrepreneur and a chef, has been offering to cut his hair, but in vain. 

However, last week, when mom found her first-born struggling while giving himself a haircut, she had to take matters into her own hands. 

It wasn’t an easy task, but mom prevailed. “I convinced him to let me cut it,” she says. Neelma Patel worked her magic and gave Kunal a haircut and trimmed his beard. “And then his whole mood changed after we were done,” Neelma says of her son. 

Yash Sinha after his hair cut. Top image, Sandeep Sinha of California uses an Amazon cardboard box to seat his son Yash, 11, for an at-home hair cut.

Stories and scenes like the one at the Patel home in Columbus, New Jersey, have been repeated in a lot of homes since the shelter-in-place and lockdown orders took effect. With salons and barber shops closed, men and boys dealing with long locks have turned to their family members for some much-needed trimming. 

It’s no surprise then that going for a haircut is among one of the first things most men want to do once the lockdown restrictions are eased and salons and barbershops open. Women are also headed to the salons — eyebrow and upper lip threading, hair coloring, keratin treatments, touch ups and haircuts — the list is endless. 

Ashay Hajarnis, 12, of Hillsborough, N.J., after he got a haircut from his father at home.

In the meantime, what happens when parents turn into barbers and hairdressers? Are the kids always game, or are they apprehensive of their parents’ new avatar? Most parents, however, think they have mastered the art, thanks to the several DIY videos on YouTube and other social media. While some manage to convince and coerce their kids to a haircut, there are kids who do not even entertain the idea of having a parent touch their hair. 

There is no data that suggests whether men or women are better at giving these at home haircuts, but most Indian Americans said it was the women who donned scissors to trim the mane of the men in the house. There is also an equal number of men who turned hair stylists for their boys. Some men are used to regularly trimming their hair and beards at home, lockdown or otherwise. So a familiarity with the process and the gadgets made them an ideal candidate for the deed. 

Add to that little creativity and ingenuity, and you have a makeshift salon at home, like the Sinha family. 

Sandeep Sinha, an Information Technology professional in California’s Bay Area, used an old Amazon cardboard box to seat his son Yash Sinha, 11, in for his haircut.  “The ‘in the box’ idea is actually my ‘out of the box’ thinking,” Sandeep says. “With those flaps angled upwards, all the hair fell inside the box making the cleaning job later really easy.”  And not just the box, the Sinhas made use of the packaging paper as well. “The idea to use the packing paper as a wrap around was Yash’s,” Sandeep confesses. “All in all, a very satisfying haircut,” he notes. “The final result wasn’t bad either.”

Ridhi Parmar of East Brunswick, N.J., used her time at home during lockdown to learn how to cut her own hair.

Innovation is what came to the rescue of Amanda and Dinesh Ramchandani, small business owners in South Brunswick, New Jersey. Taking a cue from an Instagram video, the Ramchandanis used a bib to cut their 4-year-old daughter Kiran’s hair. And for her brother Collin, 5, dad used his clippers. And after he finished his son’s haircut, Dinesh said he trimmed his own hair as well, with a little help from the wife who “helped touch up the spots as needed.” 

Ashay Hajarnis, 12, of Hillsborough, New Jersey, got a haircut from his father, Sameer Hajarnis, an Information Technology professional, because his hair “was getting really long and irritating.”

Ashay said he was a bit skeptical at first, but then once he realized that his father was doing a decent job, he was relaxed. Ashay says he usually gets a haircut from a shop named Fantastic Sam, but during the lockdown, he had to make do with “Average Sam” (a short-form of his father’s name Sameer). 

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Sameer, meanwhile, is glad that it all worked out at the end. “[My son] had no confidence in my hair cutting skills,” he says.

While most have turned hair stylists due to the circumstances, some are making the most out of the necessity by experimenting with haircuts and other beauty treatments. 

 Kiran Ramchandani of South Brunswick, N.J., with her brother Collin, prior to her hair cut. Below left, Kiran Ramchandani after her haircut. Her mom, Amanda Ramchandani, cut her hair in a bib, taking inspiration from an Instagram video she saw.  Right, Collin Ramchandani of South Brunswick, N.J., got a haircut from his father, Dinesh Ramchandani.

Tanya Deepesh, 23, a Clinical Trial Associate at Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Jersey, used the lockdown to learn new skills, like cutting hair and threading. Having an eager clientele helped. 

Tanya trimmed her father Deepesh Vellore’s hair and then gave her mom Chitra Deepesh and sister Tanvi Deepsh a haircut. But that’s not all. Tanya gave herself a haircut too. In fact, an at-home spa day with hair trims and other beauty treatments has become a favorite weekend pastime at Tanya’s home.

What about a self haircut? Many say they wouldn’t even attempt it in dire situations. It’s not something that seems easy to master, they say.

Unless you ask Ridhi Parmar. The 23-year-old assistant buyer and planner from East Brunswick, New Jersey  used her time home to learn how to cut her own hair. “Honestly I had a lot of fun doing it,” she says. “It didn’t turn out perfect, but only I can tell the difference.” Ridhi says the hard part is knowing where to stop. “I wanted the hair to be even, so I kept cutting off more.” 

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