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Enter these haircutting saloons and asking for head massage is like a sin. The haircuts are conventional. There is no air conditioned cooling. But the staff entertaining you is as unique as the saloon itself. One can say they are antique. Welcome to Barberias! Goa’s unique haircutting saloons in Panaji which have managed to stand tall despite modern era unleashing harsh realities and high-tech grooming salons at them.

Meet Vithal Kawathankar, one of the foot soldiers who owns a barberia, which today number less than five in the capital city of Panaji. Vithal proudly says the kind of hairstyle Honey Singh (singer) propagates these days as a style statement, is the one Vithal had been stylising as a trend ages ago for his customers.

“It was a favourite at our saloon. Short at the back and sides!” says Vithal.
Goa’s `barberias’ date back to the Portuguese times and have become as much of a tourist attraction in the State as its historic churches, imposing ramparts and other vestiges of 450 years of colonial rule. Once found in abundance on every street of Panaji and Goa, they are now thinning out. Only a few have remained and they can be easily spotted with names like “Indiana,” “Real” or “Nova Sucursal.”
Visit Barberia Indiana overlooking the Mandovi river and one will find the same Japanese-made barber chairs still being used as when Vithal Kawthankar first started working there more than 30 years ago.
Tourists arriving in Goa to look out for an incredible adventure vouch the experience of having a haircut or a shave in these barberias as most exciting and learning. Despite sky rocketing prices at a modern day salon for an ordinary haircut, a sit-down at any of these barberias would cost next to nothing: Wet shaves using a cut-throat razor costs as little as Rs 10, and haircuts from just Rs 20 to Rs 30. Most of these barberias boast of a steady stream of foreign clients, who are also fans, and who sometimes visit simply to inquire about the owner and offer sizeable tips to the barbers.

Modern times have also extorted a price on business. Some of these barberias have a history of agony to tell. The oldest barberia in Panjim, Barberia Central, burnt down two decades ago has never been re-built.
However, Barberia Indiana has stayed tall on ground for the last 80 years.
Datta Sakhalkar, who owns Barberia Real and is now himself in his late 80s, remembers that customers were charged just 25 paise for a shave and Rs 1.50 for a haircut when he started in the business nearly 70 years ago. Except for a new Television mounted on the wall, Barberia Real has everything that existed decades ago. The same water pumps and five chairs are still in use, including scissors, combs and mirrors too are all originals.
BTW, did you know why you will find these barberias closed on a Saturday? Because the day is considered as unlucky for a haircut!
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Images courtesy: Google