After I moved to India I quickly discovered the luxury of the beauty parlour. Of course these exist everywhere, but in India the beauty parlour seems to be an indispensable part of every self-respecting woman’s life. This is where women go on a weekly basis to get waxed and threaded, massaged and pampered.
The reason why this is a luxury I’ve indulged in only in India is because it’s so cheap. In Europe it costs at least 50 Euro (3300 rupees) for a hair cut and blow dry. For this price in India I can also get a manicure, pedicure, hair treatment and facial thrown in for that price. I admit it: I’ve become a beauty parlour junkie of sorts.
I also now know why the beauty parlour is so indispensable. Since I’m always barefoot at home and wear sandals year-round, my feet are usually in a bad state. They also take a pounding in dance class. So pedicures have become a necessity. Also, neatly-painted toenails seem to be fashionable. Then there’s my hair, which is usually a frizzy mess because of the heat and humidity. Head massages, hair spas and conditioning treatments are hard to resist. I’ve also become a fan of eyebrow threading. This was the newest trend in London five years ago. But it cost 15 pounds: 75 times more than the 15 rupees it costs here.
I also tried waxing for the first time in India. The full-leg wax was not a good experience because of an over-zealous beautician. But the half-leg wax is bearable. The beauty parlour ladies have also tried many times – unsuccessfully – to submit me to an arm wax. “Arm wax?”, I had asked them, puzzled. “You mean Indian women wax their arms?” “Yes Madam, Indian ladies do full waxing,” they assured me. This was not something I had considered before. Nor had I known that hairy arms are undesirable. I started to surreptitiously scrutinize my friends’ arms. And I discovered they were indeed hairless. So it must be true! Then a foreign friend told me her Indian husband insists she wax her arms! I was horrified at the thought that my hairy arms could be considered repulsive. Then another friend told me that she had tried waxing her arms but was appalled by the stubble that grew back. That settled it. I like my hairy arms.
The beauty parlour is also a place to exchange news with the beauty parlour ladies and read Femina magazine. And a chance to observe the hierarchy of the Indian working environment in action. The new girls are always bullied by the more senior staff. They have to do the dingy jobs like washing hair, serving tea and coffee and sweeping up bits of hair.
Another discovery for me was that the beauty parlour is not only for ladies! There are beauty parlours which cater exclusively to men while others offer services for both. Men also come to get manicured, pedicured, facialled and threaded! The beauty parlour ladies used to tell me that they offer services for men too and would ask me to “inform Sir”. ‘Sir’ would find the thought of getting a facial or pedicure hilarious. But he tells me about what goes on at the barber shop: hair cuts and head massages of course, but also hair dying, eyebrow threading and fruit-scented facials. I’m not sure about arm waxing though.