Khan Bhai: The barber who multitasked his way into hearts

Early morning before Anowar Hussian, popularly known as Khan Bhai in Kanglung, steps out from home attached to his matchbox-sized saloon just a few steps away, a handful of customers are already waiting for him.

Khan Bhai is as adept at making his customers laugh as he is at snipping away locks. A multi-talented barber, his customers always leave his saloon feeling better about life and themselves.

Khan Bhai came to Bhutan in 1990. Since then, he has worked in various capacities such as painter, sweeper, laundry boy and barber in Sherubtse College.

Now he owns a professional saloon in the heart of the growing Kanglung town.

He said that it was a deliberate decision on his part to move to Kanglung. “My interest in Kanglung was such that in less than a year I could speak Sharchopkha fluently.”

The Assam-born, 40-year-old has an incredible flair for writing as well as speaking Dzongkha, better than a local Bhutanese.

He also paints signboards for the shopkeepers. In fact, almost all the signboards in Kanglung are painted by him.

Today, Khan Bhai’s saloon attracts students, monks, businessmen and civil servants in droves.

He said that his regular customers are the college students. At times, there are so many customers that they have to wait their turn in queue and even make appointments.

Most of his customers visit from nearby places like Rongthong, Khangma and Yonphula. Often people crossing Kanglung on their way also stop over at his saloon for a quick haircut.

Rigzin Dorji, a college student, said that unlike in Thimphu, Khan Bhai is concerned with how the customers look after the haircut. “He is is one of the best barbers I have ever met.”

Khan Bhai married a Sharchop woman in June 1997 further winning the hearts of the people in Kanglung and now they have three children.

He treats his customers like friends: thesecret to his success.

“I would like to expand my saloon but it is difficult to get a helper,” he said.

Meanwhile, he also trains those who are interested.

He is proud that he had the opportunity to give haircuts to many high-level government officials.

Talking about how Kanglung has changed over time he said that there were no proper houses and shops but now there are many buildings and shops coming up.

The main challenges he is dealing with today are lack of a helper and an overtly busy schedule that does not allow him time even for meals.

However, he is dreaming big for the future.

“During leisure hours, I wish to train students on hair cutting,” he said.

Jigme Wangchen from Kanglung, Trashigang