A Chat with The Streets' Barber
In previous posts, we've brought you Nasir Sobhani, The Streets Barber. He's a skilled barber, well-travelled too.
He scouts the streets of Melbourne for homeless brothers and sisters in need of a haircut. He doesn't charge them a dime, unless they insist, but Nasir would much appreciate it when they tell their stories. Nasir has stories of his own, too. Some are tattooed on his body, some are hidden deep beneath his skin.
Tell us about yourself; rather, how would you like to be introduced? I’m Nas aka the Streets Barber.
How did the ‘Clean Cut Clean Start’ project start? What gave you the drive to perform this unique act of kindness? It all started when I gave a free hair cut to this guy who was washing windows outside the barbershop that I worked at at the time. That day he told me that he had been off heroine for about a month - I couldn’t believe it! So I started cutting his hair and he told me that he used to wash cars. He told me that when he was cleaning cars for the past few years, there was a difference between cleaning a regular person’s car and then cleaning a taxi drivers car because taxi drivers have long shifts and they’re usually all alone because they are driving people they don’t know, so they try and stay on the phone to stop themselves from going mad. So when you clean the cab, you could see the joy of having an interaction with a human being who actually cared about them, they weren’t just using them for what they were doing, you know? It was an interesting conversation, I didn’t really understand it at first, but it kind of made me realize that he was just trying to say that someone taking time out to do something for someone else was what was needed.
Recent from Stories
Share with us a memorable encounter in the project so far?
One really memorable day was when I got to Footscray where I often cut hair. It was basically just me and this older Australian guy whom I gave a haircut. While I was cutting hair, different groups of people came up and asked for haircuts. There were a bunch of Sudanese refugees, some Vietnamese guys and some Australian guys and they all kept to themselves and were segregated while they were waiting. But I noticed that after they had one by one received a haircut they slowly started talking to each other and moving closer together. You could see how they felt so much better after getting a haircut that their distance and lack of motivation to engage with one another dropped. Instead their comfort, openness and willingness to communicate and connect with each other grew and they basically became homies. It’s amazing to see what an effect a small effort to reach out to someone can have.
You’ve struggled in the past but your recovery made way for the shaping of the man you are today. As humans, we never stop growing. But what are you most proud of from what you’ve achieved so far? Yes, I have struggled and changed a lot in the past. What I am most proud of is hearing my parents say that they are proud of me.
Let’s talk tattoos. What was your first tattoo and what’s the story behind it?
It’s a dolphin jumping into the sun on my ribs. I got in Vanuatu where I was doing a year of volunteering work when I was 19.
Which of your tattoos are the most memorable? All the ones I got in Vanuatu because I got them by the water or in the villages using sewing needles and the ink used in pens.
Any favourite tattoo artists here and there?
Jay Goodman/@10th_lett_r from Melbourne.
Many of us aren’t familiar with the Baha’i faith. In the eyes of a believer, how would you explain the concept of Baha’i and its personal influence on you as an individual? Baha’i try to live a life of service to the community. My parents were basically teenagers when they left to serve, same as my brothers. When I was in high school they went to the Pacific Islands to do volunteer work. So I grew up with the idea that our purpose in life is to dedicate our time and efforts to reach out to others and help however we can. And by doing that we serve God. A lot of emphasis in the Baha’i Faith is on actions and not so much on words and I try to live by that as much as possible. On top of that the Faith was a major part of my recovery from drug addiction so it has played a huge role in my life and had a great impact on what I am trying to do with the clean cut clean start initiative.
You seem to have done a lot of travelling. Do you plan on doing more of it in the future, taking the 'Clean Cut Clean Start’ project on the road?
Yes, that’s true. I love travelling and I have done a bit in the past and am definitely hoping to do a lot more in the future. I actually got nomad tattooed on my lower lip and the globe in the palm of my hand. One of the reasons why I chose cutting hair was so I could take it everywhere I go. Hair doesn’t have a language and services can be rendered everywhere in the world.
How do you wish to visualize this project in the long run, years from now? To be honest, the most important thing for me is to just keep going as I have, hitting the streets as much as I can and build those connections with people. Eventually if like-minded people can arise to serve humanity in their own capacity it brings so much joy to my heart. At the end of the day I just hope that my service is benefiting others in some way—because I feel I am benefiting tremendously from them.
Nasir quotes, "To make a sacrifice is to receive a gift" (Baha'i Writings).