H.R. Managers are in their happiest pace when discussing either redundancy terms or the compensation package that will tempt you to leap across to their well-moisturized limb of corporate life, and begin, once again, the ascent up the greasy ladder.
There is the salary, of course, sometimes, but not always, cut up into digestible discussable sections, each adorned with dependencies like earnings longing to glitter. Each a niggling dialog.
Then there is the bonus: this is always deliciously Byzantium and requires fortitude and a sure command of a longish dictionary to fully negotiate.
Then there are the allowances: a car perhaps, or travel; schooling maybe for those many children that may now ripen like fruits on the branch of a well sustained tree? Clothing?
The cigar allowance has sadly become a thing of the past; and even the allowances for recreational drugs in the music industry appear to have been phased out. But never mind, there’s the golden hallo; the parachute (also golden); the softer accessories: office, equipment, aromatherapy diffuser. Then the Gordian knot of working hours and the working-from-home options. On and on it goes, a menu that challenges even that put up in Paris by La Tour d’Argent.
But never once do they mention barbers.
Dilrek, the barber, is most certainly one of my main elements in the compensation package that comes by virtue of running an estate and hotel in the middle of the jungle in central Sri Lankan.
Like all barbers, Dilrek is always changing his own hair style.
His hair is thick and black, endowered with a vigour that ensures it grows at the speed of Formula 1 cars at Silverstone. Sometimes, the sides are shaved to a brutal Number 1, leaving the middle section standing proud as a souffle above his forehead. Sometimes it is all cut, soldier style; or trimmed neatly everywhere like the well-meaning coiffure of a young accountant.
Occasionally Dilruk turns his full attention to the sideboards, fashioning them with a careful attention to detail so that they curl out in luxuriant twists like tiny croissants. Rarely – but most grandly – the beard and moustache are brought into the mix, often cut to the opposite style of the head hair – so presenting you with a magnetic Before and After image.
Dilruk is a mere WhatsApp away; and arrives, gear in hand right down to the hair sheet at precisely 8am.
He sets his barbering chair up under the shade of a frangipani tree.
Today, yellow and orange oriels flit from branch to branch. On his last visit it was a baby giant squirrel.
Before me stretch long dewy lawns, acid green topiary hedges (than even now Janaka is trimming), and brick paths lined with gothic mothers-in-law tongue. Four schnauzers chase suicidal squirrels before coming to rest under my chair. I have tried to persuade Dilruk to lend them a simultaneous fur cut; given what feats of fashion he lavishes on his own beard; I don’t doubt he would make something splendid out of schnauzer beards and moustaches. But dogs it seems, even schnauzers, appear to be firmly outside his bailiwick.
The radio is playing a discussion led by little Melvyn Bragg about the Sun King, Louis XIV, which seems apposite given the grand hairstyles adopted in Versailles by his courtiers, though the guests, all academics in early modern history, have little to say about either Marie Antoinette’s Pouf or the exuberant wigs worn by the men around her.
Dilruk’s style is very mellow. Softy does he wield his long sharp scissors; they move like elven whispers around your head. Although built with the sturdy compact efficiency of a Challenger 2, Dilruk is so light on his toes that you never know where the next cut will land.
He gives off no smell or sound as he steadily moves around my head, so different to the boisterous Italian barbers on Fulham Road who rattle through the colourful highlights of their day and life like Hallo Magazine. Instead of coming out of the encounter like a chocolate sundae sprinkled with too many hundreds and thousands, Dilruk leads you out of it as if you had both been on the same meditation.
And what compensation package, you have to ask yourself, can ever compete with that.