Shantabai – A true inspiration

“Why do we fall? So that we can pick ourselves up”
The above dialogue from the movie “Batman Begins” isn’t just an iconic one, but is also a very inspirational one. Real life inspirations like Shantabai prove it to be true every day.

Who is Shantabai?
She is India’s first female barber. Let us take a look at the circumstances which made her choose this unusual profession.

Shantabai was married off when she was just 12 years old. She was leading a peaceful life with her four daughters and husband when tragedy stuck. And it wasn’t just one tragedy. First, she lost two of her kids after childbirth Then, her husband had a heart attack and died.

Taking advantage of the situation, her brother-in-law took away the farmland her husband worked on Shantabai was left all alone with four daughters to feed. But she didn’t give up. She went on to work at a farm at just 50 paise (0.01GBP) per day. This was the year 1985 and 50 paise wasn’t enough for feeding four people. This is when Shantabai turned towards her husband’s part-time profession; being a barber.

She picked up her husband’s razor and went to work. But the society around her didn’t understand what she was doing and why. Rumors and gossip about her ‘services’ became popular. Shantabai remained calm even when she was called names by everyone. She carried on with her work and charged half of what other barbers usually charged.

Even though Shantabai wasn’t perturbed by all the gossip about her, Haribhai Kadukar, a fellow villager, decided to do something about it.

He invited her to the village square and asked her to give him a shave. As Shantabai gave him a shave, he told the whole village that she was just trying to earn an honest living and should be respected.Things got better for Shantabai after that.Very soon she gave up working at the farmland and became a full-time barber. Impressed by her services, she was soon called upon by farmers to shave buffaloes! Who knew that they needed grooming too? Shantabai used different razors for her human and bovine customers.

Today, all her four daughters are happily married and Shantabai is still busy using her husband’s razor on her customers. She charges Rs 20 for a shave today. She was asked by one of her son-in-laws to come and stay with them. She politely declined that offer because she wanted to be independent. She is old but she hasn’t given up. If her husband had been alive he would have been so proud.

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