The exhilarating feeling of the first shave is a boy’s big step into adulthood. For Bimal Chadha, it is a Battle of Panipat every time the razor meets the cheek.
I recall my first shave on my 18th birthday. Dad, a Fauji was a stickler for not allowing me to shave. The unit barber, Shaukat Ali, would visit every fortnight for a clip of my beard. Under the strict watchful eyes of Dad. Even if he visited when Dad was away he was mortally scared to go beyond the clipping. “I am under orders of Sahib,” he would retort in a harsh tone. My younger brother when he was growing had to undergo the clipping too.
So, when the big day arrived for me to go solo, it was a ceremony. Meanwhile my Chacha, who flew Air India, sent me a parcel to arrive a week ahead. It lay packed for the day.
After the evening tea, we all gathered at the dining table. The parcel was opened and its contents were laid out on a white towel. It consisted of a brand new Gillette one piece razor in a shiny gold rimmed case; a pack of Gillette blades and two extras with it; an Italian bristle brush; a bottle each of Old Spice After Shave lotion and talcum (to absorb the blood for the small cuts) and a giant tube of shaving cream, same brand.
I was thrilled enough to scream out, ‘Thank you Chacha’. The lotion and the other paraphernalia smelled heavenly.
Hot water was brought in a new plastic mug with a few drops of Dettol. Dad held my hand guiding me how to.
When I pulled down the razor on my skin I was scared but it was a funny, new sensation. The splash of After Shave was tingling and burning on the little cuts. It turned cooling soon. Dad quickly poured the talc on my palm to rub it on my face. A pinch on the drops of blood sealed the droplets. I was smelling nice. Everyone clapped in unison to announce my step into adulthood.
Thanks to you Dad, my beard is soft like baby skin. It takes me 5 mins by watch. I have never allowed any barber to put a razor on my cheeks. Yes, my fetish for After Shave continues.
I thought of repeating the same to my son Akshay, a hosteller in Mussoorie. But he beat me to it. The brat had started shaving on his own in school. I have no idea of the strokes of his razor, resulting in a hard beard.
When he is shaving in his bathroom I hear him the ask servant to place a mug of hot and cold water. Hot water running in the basin. His shaving time approximately 20 minutes.
Shaving over, there is bloodshed. When he emerges it seems he has returned fresh from the Battle of Panipat.
Out of compulsion he wears a full beard. Shaving once in a while to look clean again. Every occasion is bloodshed.
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