A marketplace that was set up in the 1980s to provide Filipino refugees with work has evolved to become a popular tourist destination...
Shaving the World
During Thaipusam, thousands of devotees throng to a barbershop near Batu Caves temple to shave their head as a form of ‘sacrifice’.
In the vicinity of Batu Caves temple, it’s not unusual to see a steady queue in front of a little barbershop – even when it’s not Thaipusam.
Andy’s Unisex Saloon, famed for its head-shaving and ear-piercing services, receives customers as far as Singapore, and is busy even during off-peak seasons.
On our visit, owner Muniandy Kuluppayan is seen hunching over a little girl, carefully shaving her long hair bit by bit.
Muniandy sings an off-key tune to soothe the restless child. In under five minutes, he finishes the job and hands the child back to her amused parents. He then calls for his next customer in line.
The 50-year-old barber has been shaving heads and trimming sideburns for the past 30 years. For the regular visitors of the Batu Caves temple, Muniandy is the only barber they know and trust.
It’s not at all a bad reputation to have, considering barbering was never part of Muniandy’s plan. But the tricks of the trade came naturally to him thanks to his father.
“My father used to go around the Batu Caves town with a box of his barber tools consisting of shaving blades, scissors, water sprays, mirrors and combs asking people if they need a haircut,” says Muniandy.
“As he got recognised, people would ask him to come over to their house or shop to take care of their hair. I used to follow my father around because watching him work was my favourite pastime,” he adds.
Eventually, Muniandy decided to honour his father’s work and opened up his own barbershop in the area. It may have taken some time for people to start recognising his work, but once he established a name for himself, customers kept on coming. The shop’s proximity to Batu Caves makes Thaipusam his busiest time of year.
“Every year, Thaipusam will be an extremely busy period in the salon because many people would pay penance to Lord Murugan by balding their heads,” he explains.
“During the Thaipusam season, we shave more than 2,000 heads from the wee hours of the morning until midnight.”
To meet demand, Muniandy roped in his relatives for help. “I prefer to have my family members as my assistants because they know my father’s working style well and have the skills. The job may look easy, but you must have the skills. The wrong move can cause injury and bleeding,” he says.
Rajamuniandy Kalimuthu, 49, is one such relative who left his job to give Muniandy a helping hand.
“I have done this for the past ten years and I have never looked back,” says Rajamuniandy. “We have expert barbers in the family. We love what we do.”
Rajamuniandy adds that every now and then, random strangers would walk into their shop and tell them they had their head shaved there as a child.
“That makes us go all warm and fuzzy inside,” he says.
Andy’s Unisex Saloon is located at No 1, Jalan batu Caves, Subramaniam Temple, 68100, Batu Caves, Selangor. Open daily from 8am to 8.30pm.
By T.K. Letchumy
Photos by Teoh Eng Hooi
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