Like the tailor, the barber is an indispensable unit of society and occupies a safe place in spite of the gradually increasing mechanisation in every field of social life. In the past the position of a rural barber was very distinct as compared to his urban counterpart but today barring a few exceptions only a marginal distinction can be drawn between the two. In a few villages the barber is still a balutedar where he moves from house to house or opens up his improvised shop near about the village chawdi. Such sights are, however, uncommon and even in villages a miniature saloon in a tin-shed could easily be located.
In cities and towns although a few of the barbers move from house to house, a number of them either set up their shops or are employed in hair-cutting saloons. In the survey it was found that most of the establishments were both owned and managed by the owners themselves and it was their principal means of livelihood. Excepting in case of those who have taken up the profession anew, the occupation was a hereditary one.
Aesthetic sense was conspicuous by its absence in the arrangement of these establishments irrespective of the fact that a few
were equipped with a sufficient number of tools, mirrored walls,
chairs with fans and radio sets in few cases.
As could be seen from table No. 1, according to the Census of 1951 a total of 1,887 persons including one woman was engaged in the occupation.
The minimum tools and equipment required to start the occupation consist of a pair of scissors, one or two razors and a pair of cropping machines. The tools and equipment of an itinerant barber cost between Rs. 100 and Rs. 150. In urban hair-cutting saloons, the equipment consists of cushioned chairs, mirrors, fans, etc. The tools used are also of better quality. The cost of tools and equipment which depends upon the size of an establishment varies between Rs. 300 and Rs. 500. In urban areas the owners try to give the shop a good appearance by providing it with picture frames, tube lights, radio set, etc.
Besides the fixed capital invested in the shop and the purchase of tools and equipment, the working capital consists of the amount required for the maintenance of tools and equipment, for buying accessories and for paying the wages of the employees, if any. The capital is generally raised from ones own resources or is borrowed from friends and relatives. Generally these shops spend about Rs. 5 to Rs. 15 on raw materials per month.
The accessories of a village barber consist of a shaving soap and water and a razor. He barely needs cosmetics. The accessories of those in towns and cities comprise better tools such as cropping machines, a good mirror in a few cases and cosmetics such as snow, a quality soap, face powder and hair oil. The expenditure of the itinerant barbers does not go beyond Rs. 8 to Rs. 10 during a month. Many of the establishments in urban areas nowadays use some disinfectants like dettol, etc. The expenditure in the case of urban establishments varies between Rs. 30 and Rs. 50 depending upon the business and size of an establishment. Almost all the accessories are purchased in the local market.
Though these shops arc open throughout the day they are more busy during morning hours. The itinerant barber starts his work early in the morning and works till about mid-day. His income varies between Rs. 30 and Rs. 60 per month. In the case of hair-cutting saloons in urban areas the charges are gene-rally fixed by the union. In these saloons, where a karagir or a skilled worker is employed, he is generally paid on piece rate basis and his earnings come to about Rs. 75 per month. Of the nine shops surveyed only one was found to be employing a paid employee. The owners of these saloons had an income of between Rs. 80 and Rs. 200 depending upon the size of the establishment, location, etc.
In rural areas a few of the barbers were found to possess a small agricultural holding. This provided them with a small supplementary income. In many cases the women folk of the
family were found to be working on daily wages as farm workers
to augment their meagre income.