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Friday, December 29

Watermelon and Rinku Master

Often knowingly or unknowingly I end up comparing my childhood with that of my 3 year old son Neo.
And wonder, gape, marvel, cringe, ponder, meditate at the differences and very often the similarities!

And this week-end when I took him to the kid-salon - 'Watermelon' in Bandra, I couldn't not think of 'Rinku Master' - my default childhood barber in Patna.

Some comparisons I made in my groggy head as I sat for Neo's turn.

1. Watermelon is quite a hip place on the top of a kids apparel shop called Ruff Kids on Hill Road, Bandra. It's got chairs shaped as toy cars and personal TVs for the tiny monsters while they get their hair-cut.

Rinku Master was a 8X8 place with few wooden chairs, dirty towels(by my new hygiene standards imposed on me by my cleanliness obsessed wife and MNC office environs) and Vividh Bharati on radio.

2. Watermelon to my horror had at least 8-10 hair-cut options ranging from the humble back-to-school cut to 'mellow-spikes' and 'action-spikes'!! Between Rinku master and my conspiring father, there was only one-cut through large tracts of my childhood. It was called 'katora(bowl)-cut'.

3. All the cuts cost an average of Rs 150 at Watermelon. Rinku Master charged me Rs. 5. I guess he still charges Rs 5. LOL. The only inflation proof economic activity in India other than the price of 'Raddi'(old newspapers sold by weight)

4. It was my father who invariably accompanied me for these joyless hair-cuts to roadside saloons. And the brief was always one-line and fixed in stone - "Ek dum chhota kar dijiye", "Hero cut nahin chahiye bachche ke liye"

Cut to Watermelon in Bandra. Except Neo all the kids(and now its a more gender balanced salon with cute looking girls in the waiting play area as well)
are accompanied by their Moms(what a welcome change!).

And the one-line brief has been turned on its head. It's the moms who are egging a hassled barber(ok hair expert) to give their child one of the 4 'spike-cut' options available on a proper designer menu!

5. Rinku had all duplicate brands. Maybe 'Godrej' cream and hair-dye were the only original products he housed. The rest were all cheap local imitations. Even the dettol was a diluted, dirty and unreliable concoction! Watermelon has all the fancy brands, which would cost more than the brands which a middle class father would use for himself!

6. I had my first plastic at the age of 25 when I passed out of B-school. Neo had his first loyalty card at age 2! And the first loyalty bonus reward of Rs.75( at Watermelon) at age 3!! It would be interesting to plot his plastic-engagement over the years:-) I have a feeling by 25, he might just renounce plastic/ or nano-embeds or whatever...LOL

7. But with all the technology, the hair expert never even bothered to ask Neo's name or smile even once( maybe he just had a bad morning/ hadn't crapped); on the other hand, years later when I had stopped going to Rinku Master, he still enquired about me. Through my father, he kept a track of my studies, and my first job, and then my wedding and once confided to my father that he wanted to cut Neo's hair as well.

And all this without a well-designed loyalty card and advanced tracking mechanism:-)

8. Like any child I hated getting a hair-cut and so does Neo. Some things will never change!

These and many thoughts keep swirling as I engage in many activities for Neo that I had done years ago. When the world wasn't so branded. And people talked less of loyalty and consumer delight and satisfaction surveys. Yet many-a-time delivered on all those parameters...

In the meanwhile, Rinku Master lost many of his clients who climbed the aesthetic and the make-over and the hygiene consciousness curve!

But the brand stays in my heart years after I stopped using the service.

Maybe it's nothing more than middle-age nostalgia about the 'good ole days'. Or maybe it's the beginning of the need for 'Simplexity' - well more about it later in another post:-)

Happy New Year to everyone and especially fellow planners, friends, family and colleagues!


jigs said...

hey manish, nice one! I'm sure most us have a master Rinku of their own. I clearly remember mine. He used to call himself Naaii chacha. Guess he owned the generic in the process! :)
Nice point about relationship management.I'll visit the place next time I'm in Bandra.

meraj said...

absolutely refreshing post...you forgot to mention a few rinku master kind of brands...

a) hindi film tabloid in pictures and hindi, the legendary Mayapuri (a sort of north Indias answer to Sun)

b)a brand of blue colored shaving products, very strangely named Vi-John (pronounced 'vee jon')

c)Phitkiri (a product which is a Brand in itself) as the antiseptic to be used after shaving...

and interestingly all these Brands are still avaialble at our (as Jigs rightly said) Rinku Master's shops.

interestingly, my father's family had a Kaila master in Bhagalpur where all his six brothers used to get the haircuts done and on my summer trips to the city, he would be ready with his scissors. i heard that he died two years ago, but his son, continues with the family profession

what a nostalgic trip you put me into, manish....

harshal said...

Happy '007 to you and your loved ones. Shaken & Stirred.

What a lovely heart warming post. Yep, we did call it the "school cut" back then. Good to see that you're back and in brilliant form.


Manish said...

hey guys...it was gud being away from the real and the virtual worlds for a while...

i had thot there wud be severe withdrawal symtoms, but luckily it didnt last:-)

the forest, the beach and the long car and train journeys helped me lower my entropy...

Harshal, see u in Kamla Mills tomorrow! Happy New Year to all of you!

Hope we do better planning at work and in our personal spheres!

Pooja Nair said...

Truely heart warming! i having lived the army life of having to move to a new station every 2-3 yrs missed out on the experience of growing up with one barber.

But thats damn interesting about watermelon! i have seen kids create a total fuss when getting a hair cut. This place must be a boon for parents! :)

Manish said...

hey pooja, yes do chk out water-melon...
and i glanced through your blog late at night...very nice stuff and layout! you write with a rhythm, love it...

will read your posts in detail today. keep writing!