Neighbourhood Video Project: Saloon Culture in Public Spaces, Girangaon 2
Duration: 00:07:39; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 20.308; Saturation: 0.117; Lightness: 0.300; Volume: 0.171; Cuts per Minute: 7.313; Words per Minute: 102.516
Summary: Girangaon, which translates as the village of mills, first began to take shape in the 19th century. Girangoan stretches over thousand acres from Byculla to Dadar and from Mahalaxmi to Elphinstone Road. Throughout its history it has been known to have witnessed extensive industrial action and frequent strikes. Most of the workers in these mills were migrants (about 84 % in 1921) who came to the city to work and often returned to their village in old age, in periods of sickness or unemployment and, of course, each year to help with the harvest. There are over 53 mills within Girangoan, most of them shut down.
Although Girangoan has traditionally been a working-class district, the prices of real estate have soared over the past decade and the chances of further 'developing' overcrowded and expensive South Bombay – the business district – diminished. Hence, Bombay's most powerful builder lobby turned towards this area.
In 2004 Majlis in conjunction with The Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti organized filmmaking workshops with young students from Girangoan. The idea was to facilitate an exploration of the neighbourhood through filmmaking. Two groups were formed and each group chose their area of interest: one made a film on Bharatmata Cinema, the other a film on local men's saloons and hair-dressers titled Kato Magar Pyar se. It is a short and fun film for which they seem to have to interviewed well established saloons as well as street hair-dressers. Among them are citizens from various backgrounds, some playful and spirited others less so. This is an interview with one of them.
Lower Parel, Mumbai
The camera stumbles upon an informal saloon set up in what appears to be a residential complex. There is a man in a green shirt, seated, who is having his beard trimmed by the barber. There is a lot of common open space between buildings. This make-shift set-up is next to one of the buildings, under a tin-sheet awning. The wares are placed on a wooden plank. They use a hand-held mirror and all paraphernalia fit into a small box which has an image of Ganpati and Hanuman pasted on the inner surface of the lid. This on-the-go, mobile appearance of the business set-up suggests that it functions without license and is thus rendered precarious. It makes you wonder if there was a more concrete set up ever which may have been demolished or if this has always been an on the move salon. And perhaps it's the very precariousness of it all which indicates to us that it can fashion and re-invent itself in different corners of this working class neighbourhood.
It seems to be late afternoon when the filmmakers begin to interview the customer in the green shirt. He appears a bit nonplussed or perhaps short in his answers. He says that this is his regular barber because he can afford the rates here. He seems to be on familiar terms with the barber.
Lower Parel, Mumbai
(man in green shirt): ask
I: What is your name?
I: Do you stay here?
R: Yes, I stay here.
I: Do you get your hair cut in this area?
I: Do you come here everyday?
R: Yes I come every day but I get a trim once in 7 days.
R: He's my like my neighbour. He's poor, it's his means of living. I don't have the means to go to a salon. This is a working class area. We can't afford to go to salons. This, on the other hand, one can pay Rs. 5 or Rs. 10 and get a shave or a trim. Do you need any thing else?
I: What is your name?
R: Hanuman Sakaram Chauhan.
I: Where do stay?
I: You stay in Malad?
R: Yes, and I commute here to work.
I: You come here everyday?
R: Yes, everyday.
R: (cannot discern)
I: Where in Malad do you stay?
I: So, how long since you've been in Mumbai?
R: It's been about 15-20 years.
I: Do work at this spot only?
R: Yes, this area has a lot of Malvanis.
R: It's been 15 years or thereabouts. I used to work at a salon earlier. It was sold. So one my acquaintances used to run a place here, once he left I began to run this place.
I: Did you take any courses in hair cutting?
R: No, I learnt on my own. Yeah, I didn't take any courses.
I: Where did you learn?
R: No, I learnt here. I was in the village 10-15 years ago.
I: Have the prices are increased everywhere?
R: Yes, prices will go up after the 1st next month. Yes it has some and it does impact work. People wonder once in a while, O the prices are up, do we really need to go? Let's just do it at home ourselves. So yeah, these things have had an impact.
I: So how many people visit here in a day?
R: I don't keep a count but about 100 or so I guess.
Lower Parel, Mumbai
The interviewee, tells us little bit about his background. He commutes from Malad to Lower Parel everyday and has been living in the city since the last 15 -20 years. Although he worked at a salon before, after it was sold, he took up working at the current place. Like other small occupations that involve selling services on the streets like boot polish and massages, this set up too is much like squatting. The residences around probably belong to members of a class more prosperous than his. I wonder where these residences would fit idiomatically in redevelopment schemes that have shaped recent Lower Parel. He indicates that he has over 100 customers a day, during the time of the interview there aren't many there except the previous customer in the green shirt.
I: What sort of a relationship do you share with your customers?
R: Well we're all from neighbouring villages, so it's nice and nothing else. Not related or anything.
I: So what's the special reason for your large volume of clients?
R: What kind of reason can I give! (laughs)
Man in green shirt: (in jest): what kind of concepts do you have? Do actors visit here or mere mortals!
R: No, nothing.
Man in green shirt: (in jest) Do you provide massages or do hair-colouring?
R: No, I mean I don't do massages but yes colouring I do.
Man in green shirt: (in jest) he's too shy for massages.
I: The government has come up come with some schemes, do you benefit from it or think there should be some scheme?
R: Yes, one should benefit but they ought to do something for one to derive benefit.
I: Have there been any new schemes from the government?
Man in green shirt: What has the government ever done? (sniggering)
R: (smiles) Well, it's been about 50 years now and therefore I'll just continue to work.
I: Have you ever been harassed by the municipality?
R: No, there's no trouble from the municipality. Once a month I pay because it does get dirty here. But otherwise there's no harassment of any kind.
Most of his customers, he says are Malvani. They are all from the same or neighbouring village as his so there a little degree of familiarity but that doesn't extend to any filial bond. He tells the interviewer that he pays the BMC (municipal body) once in a while but is not subjected to any harassment by the BMC officials. While he agrees to the notion of benefiting from possible government schemes in good-humoured kind of way he doesn't express much faith in such a possibility.
Lower Parel, Mumbai
I: You've been working here for so many years, don't you feel like building a nice work space here?
R: I should be able to visualize it! It's beyond my means. On the basis of this business I'm able to feed 8 people!
I: Who all are there?
R: My wife and I stay here and two children and there are four more members back in the village. I have to take care of them as well.
I: What do your children do?
R: They're studying. One is in the Std. XI and the other in Std. VI.
I: What does your wife do?
R: She goes to work at the hospital sometimes, if there is work.
I: How much is the daily earning?
R: About Rs 100 to Rs. 125, maybe Rs. 150.
I: How do you feel about this work?
R: I like it, but at this age what else can I do?
I: So, you have about 100 to 125 customers in a day?
R: Yes, about 100-125.
I: Who all come?
R: A lot of people come, but one can't be asking all their names, who are you? Where are you from? What's your religion? I can't be asking all these questions.
I: How do you guess where people are from though?
R: That you estimate a guess on the basis of their name or language whether they're from U.P or South India.
I: So, everyone comes here?
R: Yes, they do.
I: thank you.
On being asked if he would like to get a better place for a salon, he says that those aspirations are beyond his means. He tells the interviewer that his aspirations are circumscribed by his limited skills. With 8 dependents to support he has enormous responsibilities along with his wife who works at the hospital. Finally the interviewer asks about the ethnic make-up of his customers and if he can distinguish among them. He replies, again playfully, that on the basis of their names or speech he can venture a guess whether they're from UP or South India.