40 years and Beyond: The Life of an Unofficial High Court Barber
The ring of a cycle bell announces his arrival. A 71 –year-old, the man is dressed in a half-sleeved shirt and pants, both carefully ironed. His innocent smile does not betray the simplicity of his heart, for he would never hold any malice against anyone. With an ever-welcoming smile, he would graciously invite you to his humble shop, a gesture which is difficult to ignore. He is P. Sasidharan (pictured in blue shirt), the unofficial barber of many Chief Justices and judges of the Kerala High Court for the past several years.
Remarkably, Sasidharan has been in the business since the past 40 years. Years passed, but the dedication and enthusiasm with which he carries out every task doesn’t seem to have declined. “Happiness that I get from serving people, putting a smile on their faces is the one thing that keeps me going,” says Sasidharan. He is still willing to go to his customer’s house for a haircut.
Originally from Thiruvananthapuram, Sasidharan’s father Narayanan died when he was 8 years old. He shouldered the responsibility of his family and started working at a cycle shop where his work was of fixing punctures. He then went on to work in a tailor shop, the salary from which, however, was insufficient.
“I found Maniyan, a distant relative of mine. He took me in and started training me in the art of cutting hair,” tells Sasidharan. He further added that, “It took me six months to learn the craft and even then I was doing two jobs at the same time.”
Sasidharan decided to move to Ernakulam in search of a better income in 1968 along with his guru Maniyan. He was just 20 years of age at the time. He initially worked on daily wages with different saloons and he even took contract jobs in Central Jail for a few years. It was in 1970, with the help of a Kerala High court watchmen, who gave him a loan of Rs. 2000; he opened a saloon on his own and called it “Premier Saloon”. He paid this loan back by paying Rs. 10 a day.
Back in 1972, Sasidharan found his first customer in Justice Bhaskaran Nambiar. This was just the beginning, after that he has groomed and given haircuts to a dozens of judges during his career.
“Shri P. N. Sasi, son of Narayanan, residing at Gandhi Nagar, Kadavanthara, Cochin-20, has been my barber for several years. He is efficient, smart, and courteous. And knows his job of hair cutting very well, I give him my hearty recommendation.” This is the certificate that was given to him by Justice Bhaskaran Nambiar. The certificate proudly hangs on the walls of his saloon.
“I want to die doing the job that I love,” Sasidharan firmly says. He was never a greedy person. But even then, whenever he was in need of money, there were people around him at all time to help him. First, it was during the time of his daughter’s marriage. According to him, Justice Sukumaran and his wife Justice Usha were much generous and helped him in that crucial period. He was treated like their family and even after they retired, the couple was in touch with Sasidharan. He was in desperate need of money four years back, when he had to have an open heart surgery to remove a block in his heart. This time the Cochin Diocese Bishop, Sasidharan’s friends, lawyers that he knew and judges were all there to help him get through that tragedy.
You’ll find one more certificate hanging on his wall; it was from the former Kerala High Court Chief Justice, Jawahar Lal Gupta. It says, “If tailor and barber make the most of a man, Mr. P. Sasi E.W.S, 628, Gandhinagar, Kadavanthara 682020 has done a decent job so far as cutting my hair is concerned. I have too few. Yet he could find them and give them shape. He is a good and dedicated worker, I wish him well.”
N. S. Unnikrishnan, is an engineer who has become quiet acquainted with Sasidharan. Unnikrishnan who lives in Guruvayoor has been a customer of Sasidharan for the last 30 years. Sasidharan travels all the way to Guruvayoor every three months just to cut his hair.
“I like to make people happy, that is what keeps me going and if they want me to go all the way to Guruvayoor now, I’ll pack up and leave right away,” says Sasidharan. Things have changed after his heart surgery, even though he is cheerful and merry, he has got to take care of his health. Sasidharan adds, “Nowadays, I don’t go out as often as I used to. My mind is still strong but my body isn’t.”
His work is not just about judges, bishops and other prominent personalities. On any given day he is just another barber, cutting the hair of anyone that comes to his saloon. C. V. Rappayee, who is a 62 year old care taker of Link Manor apartments in Cochin has been the customer of Sasidharan since 1996. He says, “It is all about the satisfaction that I get after Sasidharan cuts my hair. He knows the shape of my head, he knows how to keep my hair accordingly, I trust him and above all his small talks and his honesty is enough for me to stay with him till the end.”
When asked about which job he would have preferred if he had a chance to do it all over again, he says, “I’ve never thought of doing anything in my life. This is part of me, this is my life.”