By Jo Lynn Chong
When it comes to continuing a family legacy, how many of us would be willing and able to do so?
Ipoh-born Selvaraj (or Raj), 31, operates a barber service that has been around for almost a century. The business was started by Selvaraj’s great-grandfather from under a huge tree beside the Kinta River. With him were about 40 other barbers. They were only equipped with a mirror, a pair of scissors and a chair. Try to imagine that humble sight!
Around 50 years ago these itinerant barbers were collectively moved to the then newly-built Ipoh Town Council shop lots. Presently, only three barbershops remain, including Raj’s. His shop, located in the better-concealed parts of Ipoh Old Town, serves Ipohites of all ethnicities and from outskirts namely, Batu Gajah, Kampar and Gopeng.
During an exclusive one-on-one, he told this scribe, “I like being a barber. It’s an interesting job.” He recalled showing a great interest in the profession when he was still in Form 3. “Many people think that being a barber is easy, but it is not an easy job. All hair is different. When you make a mistake, you have to know how to explain to the customer. You cannot show an angry face.” Raj has experienced being kicked and bitten by some of his younger clients, the youngest being a one-month-old baby!
Many of Raj’s customers say that they like his traditional style of cutting. In contrary to the modern barber methods, which involves electric shavers, Raj’s equipment is a pair of scissors, comb and a clipper. Raj uses a mixture of Dettol and water when he is shaving and trimming, a method used by barbers of yore. Not to mention, Raj’s homemade cologne, which is favoured by many, plus a soothing head massage. Raj proceeded to show us his excellent skills when he shaved the eyebrows and sideburns of one of his customers.
Raj makes it a point to make his service as affordable as possible. A haircut costs RM7 whereas a haircut and shave cost RM9. Raj offers his service to the poor for free. A similar service at the more established barber shops costs between RM12 and RM15.
Raj is not considering moving his shop elsewhere but harbours plans of opening new outlets. Do pay a visit to Raj’s barbershop when you are in the mood for a soothing traditional haircut.
His shop opens daily from 9.30am to 8pm and is located at No. 3, Gerai Gunting Persiaran Bijeh Timah, 30000 Ipoh. Raj can be reached at 010 563 3341.