RAWALPINDI: He was born deaf and mute. But he never let that stop him from listening to his heart. Today, the skills he has acquired serve as a testament to his sheer force of will. They speak of his resilience louder than words ever could.
Ghulam Ali, in his mid-forties, is a skilled barber. Despite having his shop in Rawalpindi’s humble locality, Arya Mohallah, his customers come from posh areas, one of whom is former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
But Ali’s services are not limited to the elite only. Known as Goonga Naai (mute barber) in his locality, the barber has his shop thronged with area residents on a daily basis, most of whom belong to the working and labour class.
People take out time to visit his shop and prefer to have a haircut from him, despite having several other barber shops in the area.
Ali’s popularity is not limited to Arya Mohallah. People also take the trouble to travel to his shop from distant areas in the city. His reputation even forces former PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to get his services for a haircut.
People in the area recall the time when Ashraf, who was then federal minister of water and power, started visiting him for hairdressing. One can see a memorable picture of Ali with the former prime minister put at a prominent place in his shop.
Ali belongs to an underprivileged family. However, his parents wanted him live a normal life and attend school.
He started his formal education in school for special children in Saddar, Rawalpindi. But the poverty forced his parents to pull him out from the school after his fifth grade. Ali then started working at his uncle’s barber shop.
His uncle, Malik Atta Muhammad, trained him as his apprentice at the shop. After a few years, he earned excellence in his job and was allowed to work independently. Over the period, his uncle’s health deteriorated and now Ali is the sole proprietor of the shop.
His skills of barbering do not need verbal expression for his clientele. Blessed with a sharp memory, Ali remembers the hairstyles of his clients who would hardly need to instruct him on their preferences.
However, one may also explain his required hair style via sign language or communication in writing. Ali also knows the smart use of technology. He takes snaps of his clients after the haircut.
While Ali could not complete his formal education due to lack of resources, he is making efforts to let his children study as per their desires.
He is father of four healthy children – three daughters and a son. His elder daughter was married after her graduation. Ali’s son is the youngest in the family and is attending a decent school.
Despite being a skilled barber, Ali does not want his son to come into his profession. He instead wants his son to get the best education and serve the country wholeheartedly.
Ali works around 12 hours a day to feed his family and to provide medical treatment to his ailing wife who is suffering from Hepatitis C.
Despite all this, his service charges are lesser than those of his competitors in the area.