By Amelia Tan
HE HAS used the same pair of scissors on generations of boys at Anglo-Chinese School, churning out his trademark no-frills 'slope' haircut.
But his scissors will be laid down for good in a fortnight, when the ACS resident barber for 32 years, Mr Sinniah Thangarasu - or Mr Raju, as he is known - retires to his home town of Chennai, India.
S.T. Raju Salon is tucked away in a corner of the second level of ACS (Barker Road).
The two barber chairs he started out with in 1978 fill the space. On the walls are photographs of the standard haircut deemed acceptable by the school in the 1970s and 80s.
'One boy, eight minutes. Only one style. They don't need to ask questions,' Mr Raju said in halting English.
So used are some old boys to his handiwork that they patronise him long after they have left the school, with their sons in tow.
One regular is the principal who rented him the space, Mr Earnest Lau, 81.
'I was strict. I believe it is important to look neat and tidy. Teachers would ask boys whose hair was long to go to Raju, and the boys did as they were told,' said Mr Lau, who goes to the ACS barber every month for a haircut. 'From what I remember, Raju was always very gentle with them.'
Mr Raju, 75, speaks fondly of the old days.
'Last time, every day, 20 to 30 boys. Teachers were very strict, and the boys had to keep their hair short. Many parents also bring them. They like me to cut the boys' hair,' he said.
'Now, boys don't like to come to me. They go to lady barbers outside.'
He now gets about three customers a day. When The Straits Times called on him on Thursday afternoon, he had only had one customer so far that day.
He also recalled that the boys of the past were polite and friendly, and addressed him as Mr Raju. Many do not do so now, he said, adding ruefully: 'Maybe they don't know my name.'
His career catering to ACS students suffered just one interruption - he had to close his shop in 2005 when he went for surgery to correct a blood circulation problem in his hand.
As three of his four children live in India, he went there to recuperate. His wife returned to India with him then, and has been living there since.
Mr Raju was back in about six months.