“Appa is looking like a monster!”, a small little voice piped. I craned my neck to spot a delightful, dusky little girl seated in front of one of the mirrored stations at the neighborhood salon. Appa, who I never caught a proper look at, appears to be a large man, face covered with something dreadfully white and head inside one of those round helmet-like contraptions you see in ads from the ’60s.
While I get my head oiled, I watch a cute little drama play out on the opposite side of the mirrors between us. Appa continues to talk to the little girl, aged perhaps four or five, in his booming, patient voice, even as the salon “bhaiyya” does his stuff to Appa. The girl proceeds to call Appa, fondly, a buffalo, a funny cow, a hippo, several types of monsters. Appa buys time with the promise of gems. Some friendly bargaining later, it is agreed that it would be the round packet of gems that comes inside a plastic ball. As time wears on, the little girl frequently asks about when they could go home. Appa bargains for a little more time, the bhaiyya being blamed each time for the delay. And the promise of the visit to the grocery store for the gems is renewed once again!
As I left the salon, I saw another little boy sitting fidgety-fidget in a chair, while his dad got a haircut and a pedicure. Before, at the reception, I had caught an entertaining piece on the obsession for non-wrinkled underarms and a known city clinic had claimed that 60% of their clientelle for underarm botox is men!
This is a new breed of men, and a new breed of fathers. I see mothers being short on their kids in public all the time. There are women who regularly drag their kids with them to the salon and snap at them for being impatient and bored. The men in the salon today, i contrast, were spending quality time with their children, telling them stories, hearing what the kids did at school or in the park, and generally having a rollicking time. While the kids did get edgy, there were no harsh words. At the same time, the dads got the grooming done too, clearly a vital part of their weekend routine! Perhaps the mums were inside one of the closeted rooms getting some grooming done as well, and it was a big family day out at the parlour!
I had a fleeting naughty thought as I sat there though. What happens if one of these 40-something guys is sitting there with cream on their face and head inside space helmet and the smartest, young female team member at work (the kind that men secretly desire and have a strange mentor-cum-admirer-cum-boss relationship with) walks in to see them there! Would he stutter in embarrassment, turn his face away or greet the girl confidently, with a smile on his face? Thought for your Sunday!
Today was a happy day as I was finally reunited with my hairdresser after a hiatus of three months, during which he had vanished from the regular salon I frequented and appeared in a new, more upmarket one. Now this has been a special relationship in my life. Not only does Sahil cut my hair, he also entertains me. Over the years, he has confided in me about his affair, secret marriage, formal marriage and today, he informed me that his wife is expecting their first baby. Its been a mutually happy relationship and we usually spend the hour or so joking, laughing and having a good time!
Today, I was visiting Sahil at a new salon and I had to wait a bit till he got free to cut my hair. Looking around the space, I thought about how salons were mushrooming rapidly all over Gurgaon. In a city that is experiencing a glut of retail space, real estate broker and beauty salons are the first ones to set up shop in any new shopping complex.
Now in our house, going to the ‘parlor’ is very much a ladies’ activity. Its something women do to pamper themselves (ostensibly to keep their men happy, so the parlor girls think especially around Karva Chauth..tee hee, what do they know!).
But the thing is, most of the new salons opening in Gurgaon are unisex salons that devote as much real estate to the mens’ section as the the womens’ (almost, at any rate!). And the mens’ section is just as full. In fact, on weekends, you would see more men getting haircuts, oil massages, pedicures, manicures, hair color, facials, threading of facial hair, etc done than the women. It amuses me (with my slightly rold-fashioned view of the world) no end since none of the guys I am close to are so metrosexual (maybe they are closet metrosexuals and drive to the salon across the city to get their pedicures!).
Clearly, the corporate world expects a certain level of grooming from their employees, men and women, especially those in senior management. Its not the very young men I see at the salons. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It irks me no end, however, that these very same men continue to remark about how much more time their wives take to get ready, how much more money she spends on herself, etc etc. The gap’s bridging real fast guys, and the women around are watching you!
On the other hand, I’m happy that its not just the women who are being judged for how they look and there is some warped form of equality in play here! Meanwhile, the cash registers are ringing merrily at the neighborhood salon 🙂