Saturday, April 01, 2006


The barber is located on the side of a small dusty street, next to a small passageway beside a tiny warung tegal. It’s a nine square meters room, divided into two by a not too clean wooden board. The room is cramped with a television set placed on the table next to the two big mirrors attached to the wall. Two chairs with leather-like covered are placed in front of the mirrors, and a far from comfortable bamboo sofa is positioned behind those chairs. The price list is glued on the rusty wall between the two mirrors: Dewasa = Rp. 6000,-, Anak = Rp. 5000,- Jenggot = Rp. 2000,-.

Despite the disturbing odor that strikes your nostrils and the hissing sound of the television set that hit your eardrums, clients from neigbouring areas drop in to this place. They must be his longlasting clients for they use the silent language to communicate. He nods his head every time he notices the arrival of his clients and the clients sit on the wooden sofa patiently waiting for their turn to arrive.
After my second visit I noticed that his name is "Ucup". He’s a quiet man in his thirties , a simple looking guy, far from being invaded by the modern culture. I dont know if he had ever dreamed of becoming a barber . It seems to me that being a barber is not just the way he earns his living, but it seems like it's part of his destiny. He scrutinized every single inch of the clients hair just to make sure that they are properly cut. He checked it from a distance, and trimmed the unwanted parts. A glaze in his eyes will give us a sign that he's almost done. A few seconds to admire his work will end the whole proces and he will then continue with the next client.

One day while he was cutting my son’s hair, I tried to fill the gap of silence and asked him a couple of question. Then I arrived to the average number of his clients. To my amazement Pak Ucup humbly explained that his clients reach up to the average of 50 people a day. My head worked like a digital calculator and my brain almost jumped out of my skull when I realized that he earns more than a university graduate employee. I mentioned the number just to make sure that it was the right number. He shyly nodded his head and smiled cordially demonstrating his two big brown teeth.