Photo Essay: Earning, One Cut At A Time, Street Barbers Of Delhi

You believe in expert marketing strategies of moustached-uncles sitting patiently inside wholesale shops of Sadar Bazaar, and indulge in ‘chai-pe-charcha’ for the latest political gossip, and immediately turn to your best buddies in need of a life-turning advice rather spending on professional psychiatrists.

Don’t worry, you are just an average Indian.

The country that contributed ‘jugaad’ as a new term in the Oxford Dictionary never gets exhausted in multiplying its resources. So if you haven’t yet traveled to the Indian capital of Delhi which boasts of manifest variety and diversity in terms of its people, places and profession, you will be in for a treat for the next few minutes.


To us as passers-by, a street barber on the middle of the road or at the ‘nukkad’, or along Delhi’s busy chowks might capture attention for two or three seconds for the uniqueness of location but not much thought goes beyond the surrounding. A street barber engrossed in his careful craft is usually of no interest to us. Working with such dedication and diligence, these street barbers are the cheapest grooming services available for the city’s huge lower, working class population with services ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 35 only.

Sitting throughout the day under sun and rain, waiting for customers, these barbers willingly follow the schedule just to earn in coins of tens and five.

The following photo essay will take you through one of the most common visuals around Delhi, a profession most underrated for the immediate services it has to offer:

Your neighbourhood barber can give you some of the most engaging political discussions and business insights any time of the day,


Need a personal psychiatrist to advise you in matters ranging from friends to family to love, to workplace woes:


Most of these street barbers around the city are residents of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and the South. They left their homes in search of better opportunities, to catch their dreams years back. Looking at a deeper picture, most of these barbers working full time in makeshift tents are more than just barbers. They are audience to a plethora of street activities, deriving little moments of joy and despair, bouts of excitement with the traffic and rush at different times of the day:



The world moves by, but the barbers as silent spectators represent the lot of us witnessing the drama of life, remaining silent yet absorbing every detail.

And while he whips out a trimmer to rub it over your face, do not forget to pour a detailed look into the weapons of the roadside warrior:





And while you are away doing your daily chores, here’s what they do in wait of you:



He doesn’t mention it often but the street barber can manage to put a smile on your child’s face who gets grumpy seeing scissors and a comb:


While you must be thinking the boredom associated with his job, you have no idea how much he gets to see the entire day standing in the middle of the road:


What more,
your roadside barber will be there in the late evenings to listen to your boss’s complaints at the end of the day at the same time giving you a refreshing look for the next day:


The daily office chores annoy you, but imagine the struggle of this daily-wage labourer who sets out early morning, from Faridabad, from Ghaziabad and other suburbs of Delhi; laying out the entire street barber shop and not whining about his daily income which ranges between Rs 300 to 500 per day.



Photos & Text by Maariyah Siddique. She is a student of MA in Convergent Journalism at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

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