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He's a natural

Solomoni Biumaiono
Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rahmat Hussein is proud of the fact he taught himself the skills of being a barber and he was able to make something out of it even though he was challenged early in life.

The 57-year-old is the proud owner of the Samabula Barber Shop, the fruit of his long labour that began way back in the 1960s in Nausori Town.

He is the son of a sugarcane locomotive driver and grew up in Vuseya in Nausori along with his eight brothers and four sisters.

Coming from such a large family, Rahmat had to struggle and when he was 11 years old, he quit school and his father decided that he should become a barber and fixed him up with a friend who owned a barber shop to earn a wage of 30 cents per day.

"At 11 years of age my father had a vision and he decided for me to enter into this trade which will always keep me in employment," he said.

Hussein said it seemd natural when he first started maybe because his grandfather who came to Fiji as a girmitiya was a barber by trade.

"I lay my hand on a manual clipper and scissors to cut hair for small children who usually fall asleep in their mothers' laps.

"Within six months I started dressing hair of people like my boss. I think the talent which I may have inherited from my grandfather who was a girmitya, makes me pass on the same to my two sons Zobed and Zoheb," Hussein said.

In 1972 he joined Victoria Parade Hair Saloon and that was where he made his name as one of the best known barbers in Fiji.

"It was a turning point in life when I was picked by my boss at the Victoria Parade Hair Saloon to dress the then prime minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's hair at the age of 20. Ever since then I continued to dress his hair until his ill health," Rahmat said.

He said it was indeed an honour for him as he was also given the opportunity to dress the hair of two other prime ministers in Mahendra Chaudhry and Laisenia Qarase.

Rahmat recalled that one of the most memorable times for him was when he cut Chaudhry's hair after he was released as hostage during the 2000 coup and the ensuing crisis.

"It was a very emotional moment for me when I was called to the home of Mahendra Chaudhry after his release as a hostage in Parliament," he said.

The wall at his Samabula Barber Shop is adorned by letters of recommendation from the late Ratu Mara, Mahendra Chaudhry as well as Laisenia Qarase.

"Maybe one day I will get a chance to do the hair for the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama," he mused.

Apart from politicians and leaders, Hussein has also cut the hair of other prominent people like businessmen, diplomats, students, policemen, doctors, teachers and sportsmen.

After spending 35 years in cutting hair for other people, Hussein decided to venture out on his own and opened up his own barber shop at Samabula.

With his wife Shakeela and two sons, he set up shop and has not looked back. The barber has managed to put his three children through school right up to tertiary level.

Hussein's two sons are educated and have decided to follow in his footsteps. One of them, Zobed, is now a professional hairdresser in New Zealand while Zoheb is helping him out at Samabula.

A devout Muslim, Hussein says there is no job too small or too big for him as he treats all his customers the same.

When it comes to cutting the hair of newborns or be it the Hindu death ritual hair cutting ceremony, Hussein always feels that it's a blessing to be part of the ceremonies and never has a set charge but only takes what he is offered.

A customer noted Hussein's humbleness, personality and approach to make the customers feel comfortable upon entering his shop keeps him going and evergreen at 57 years of age.

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