The barber

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There is always something cheeky when a new barber lands a shaving machine on your head, worse still on your chin to shave your beard. It is a cold moment for us men. Suddenly you become tense, nervous and very impersonal. And the intrinsic value you have for that barber at that moment reels out of you, gets replaced by extrinsic feelings.

I have always had some nervousness with getting myself into the hands of a new barber. But I always fall prey anyway, and regret it often.

A man’s beard is something he treasurers like a couple of boobs. Just like women, who love keeping their hair smart and attractive, so do us with our beards, and some foreign jackass playing around with it may be as well be playing with a coin in a toilet’s opening.

For the longest time, I stayed two full weeks without shaving my beard. For once I resembled an old porcupine. Or an old frog with spikes on its back. I had people on the road look me like a mobile hedge. I felt cheated, I felt like I was not human anymore, and wished I could become a lion with its enormous mane. I would spook all the other animals in the jungle. And they will despise me, but I will always have the lion’s share always.


For those two weeks my barber had travelled ocha. You know these guys from Central who for some reason can close down their business any time because they heard that business is booming back in their cradle land? So for a few weeks they will close their business down, go make a few more bucks and then smile back, like a luhya who just heard that his neighbor has cooked 5 pots of tea.
This prompted me to solicit services from a fresh barber. I could not put up with the uncomfortable itchy feeling that comes as a result of a big beard.
A large beard becomes the subject of all conversations. Either you will be terribly scratching your chin when talking, and that will attract the attention of your kindred, or you will be talking and the other fellow will be seriously engaged with your beard, doing a number of imaginative possibilities, hell knows what. And that will turn your beard as the focal point of your conversations.

I usually go to church on Saturdays. Church is a place you need to look presentable before your God. That being the inescapable norm, I try my best to look both physically and spiritually clean, to make an amble space for the Holy Spirit. That is why I would have my beard in good shape.

Therefore I decided to go up and down in search of a barber. I hit a mat from home to Kawangware. You know Kawangware? It is this popular place famously inhabited by Kisiis. You can’t go a few meters without coming across a Kisii guy with a wheelbarrow full of sugarcane. It is the Texas of Kenya, you know what am saying (imagine it’s a nigger talking-u kno waa am sayin?)



From my hood to Ongwaro is 10 bob. But the reverse is 30 bob. And that busy highway is managed by some brothers, who for some reason were born with money-loving syndrome.

The first barber shop I spot is decent. It’s upstairs. Have you noticed the new way of building business premises currently? They use this big containers, customized to being shops. And that’s where I find myself.

It is a newly built shop. On the left is a lady wear shop. And for some reason, all I could see as I passed by was a huge line of mothers union lingerie. I still wonder why mother union exists in the market, because I retraced a few steps back to confirm my fears.

And the huge lady lowers her glasses and brawls

Karibu customer (insert bass there)

Asante sana (soprano), labda siku ingine.

Hutaki kununulia mrembo kitu (more bass).

Mmmh, ningenunua lakini cjui size yake ya waist (scared soprano.) I feel like freeking out.

Kuja tu. I will help you with that.

For a moment, she looks like one of those sugar mummies I used to see in some porn movies when I was a kid. I don’t know whether to get excited or say no! But again her big body looks so saucy and juicy.

I fight that thought, and in front of me she stands, stretching one mothers union.

Hii ni comfy, najua ataipenda.
I take time looking at it. And I imagine my girlfriend in it. Mmmh!

Tufanye ivi, next time nkikam kunyolewa ntakuja na yeye. Waonaje?

She obliges reluctantly but I get some relief. Mothers union! anyway, ladies know better.

I enter the kinyozi. It is empty and cold, and for once it feel I need to get back to the mathee and have some warm and longer conversation, explore more mother unions, and maybe get a hug. It is then when a young slim guy jets in. I feel cheated again.

It was like craving for pizza or ice cream, and then when you get your hands on some, to your shock it tastes like a broken promise. I expected a big guy, at least who looks like he can handle my beard.

Wewe ndo unanyoa? I kindly enquire. And he shakes his head. He bears a complete outlook of a Maasai. You know those conspicous features of a Maasai? The tall figure, slim and feeble talk.

I think to myself, what a chanukad Maasai. You hardly find a Maasai barber. That’s a misuse of profession to them. I almost said
But again decided to go slow. The first thing that you see on his face is humility. He looks so humble, like he can never hit a girl, hehe.

Unaona venye nywele yangu imenyolewa? I ask. We are all talking through the mirror, looking at each other through it. And again he shakes his head. I add
Nataka unyoe ivo alafu ana ndevu pia. For once a word escapes his tight lips.
Sawa mkubwa.

Huwa unanyoa na ngapi?


Okay, sawa.

The good thing I love about this shop is hygiene. The shop is clean, in a mint condition. New stuff and professionally colored. A nice cabinet with a few chests was before me as I took my seat. The mirror is large enough to even see my whole torso. I also noted that it teamed up as a salon as I saw this thingamajig that is put on women’s head to relax or do whatever to their hair.

A stand stood on the right with all nail polishes, and some treatments all in different compartments. Up on the left there were shelves that had towels. A clean white carpet lay lazily, in an effortless manner, hugging the floor dearly.

The barber sets to work on my head. On the first touch of the shaving machine my heart starts to regret.

Dude, this was a bad idea.

You can always differentiate a real barber and an apprentice by the way they hold the machine, and the direction of shaving. Usually you shave following the direction of growth of the hair so as not to irritate the skin and disturb the hair follicles. And apprentices will go the other way round. They will irritate the skin and make it sensitive. Once you sense that, you don’t wish him to go further, but you let him go ahead anyway.

I snap another look at him again. This time round I make a discovery. He has many girl genes with him. His faces looks fragile and girlish.

To break the boredom and the silence in the room, I opt to start another manly conversation.

Hii keja huwa mnalipa ngapi?


60,000? Ivyo mnalipa rent kweli.


Yeah, kila mwezi huwa mnalipa ngapi?

Ooh, ni ya mwenyewe. Huwa hatulipi.

At this point I really get convinced that he is a damn Maasai. He is so dumb. Can’t get things easy and quick.

Ooh. Ka ni ya mwenyewe basi apo sawa.

We talk and talk. Every time I could look up the mirror, he was doing a great job despite the poor start. I liked his slow way of doing stuff. Brushing off dirt from the machine after every 2 seconds. Brushing my hair after 5 every seconds.

At this juncture I imagined of the mushrooming barber shops. Decent shops with all the necessary tools but full of foolish barbers. They will ask 400 bob but ensure they did a shoddy job on your head.

Every young guy thinks he can be a barber, so they think that being a professional barber is all about an attractive shop, latest equipment, nice chairs, and a very conspicuous cut that stretches to the mid-head. They forget that the devil is in the details. The hair on the head.

It is better off you shave me well other than giving me a rat-munched haircut full of massages, lotions and etc.
My girl can massage me, leave that part to her. That extra 200 I can add 800 bob buy her a cool present

When he was through with my hair, I had to direct him on how to shave my beard. Many barbers will just shave you what they imagine you may want. Which is not the case.

Huwa unapata macustomers wengi?

Si sana.

Nafikiria ni venye hii joint ni mpya.
He again shakes his head.

I have gone to Kinyozis with user-unfriendly barbers. Sometimes you get bored in that you want to get a sucking remote, change his mirror to a small TV screen, flip through the channels and carefully land on Telemundo, watch some soap operas; another sucking thing but they are less boring you know.

And he razed my chin so well. After he was through we shared a few jokes that brightened our evening though he rarely talked much.

When I get a chance to dominate a conversation, I can really bully someone, but in a good way. That evening I was happy that I had that opportunity to drive the occasion my way, to satisfy my desires, but also to share happiness.

Before he wound up his work with a wash, he suggested to me a different hairstyle. He drew a star on a book, and another one.

Ukikuja ntachora wewe hii. Hii yako iko na kila mtu.

Mmh, nkikuja next time utanichora. I answered although I knew it won’t happen. Only that I had to comfort him, because if I were to say no he could have become emotional. And would have troubles comforting ‘her’.

Am sorry girl. I was not serious about it. And she would cry more and more and fall into my arms. That would be trying moments for me. That means patting her back, holding her in my arms and caressing her back.

Mimi natoka Rwanda.

Ooh, wewe ni Mrwandese?


Again all the pieces fell into place. He talked less because he knew very limited Swahili. I felt like asking him,

Is your mother a Maasai? And he would ask

No, why?

Dude you really have Kenyan genes, Maasai ones to be specific.

Hehe (he would laugh.) No I am pure Rwandese.

Boy, you don’t look like one. But was wondering how a Maasai would end up in a Barber shop instead of being a gate soldier of herder.

I was remorseful about all the judgement I had made about him, and reversed my way of thinking.

He finished with a warm wash, application of so many lotions and powder before releasing me. Two full hours one head?

I know my barber will have shave 40 people in two hours.

I took my wallet out and fished some 150 bob and handed him.

Hiyo 50 bob ni tip.

After all he had done a great job, and made me feel like I should switch from my Barber to him immediately. He smiled

Asante sir.

Nimependa services zako, ntakam next time.


I left a happy man. But what made me happier is the fact that I left him smiling and very friendly.

You cannot find happiness in things that you buy, or have, or wish that it could come in other forms such as money. You find happiness by sharing happiness with others.

Happiness Is Only Real When Shared

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”
Charlotte Brontë

  • “Happiness must be shared. Selfishness is its enemy; to make another happy is to be happy one’s self. It is quiet, most easily won in moments of solitude and reflection. It comes from within.” –William Ogden


Whenever you go to a barber, don’t just sit there like a fat pumpkin. He is human, engage him in some little talk. Maybe he has had a crazy day with customers who made him even have suicidal thoughts, by sharing a joke or a few words you may help him unwind. You never know when you are saving a dying horse. Just keep talking, and sharing the happiness. It is then that you will gain happiness.

Make someone happy today by either sending them a text on fb, whatsapp or just giving the a buzz and tell them that they are special and you miss them.



-Photo credit: gazette

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About Mzangila

Mentor, media consultant, photographer, editor, poet, writer, and counselor.

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