Throughout the long lockdown I was often asked what I missed the most. I hesitated before answering because I knew my answer would invite laughter and comments such as “You can’t be serious”.
But being a truthful being, I admitted that the closure of salons was very hard to take. It might seem a frivolous response but those who know me well realised that I was suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms.
My weekly visits have been a part of my routine for decades. Friends and family have advised me to try styling my own hair at home instead of what they see as wasting my money on salons. But what they don’t realise is that there is a huge difference between an amateurish effort and a professional job.
I remember getting my hair styled the day before a friend’s wedding years ago as the ceremony was in the early hours of the next day. A group of us were sleeping over at her place and I had a sleepless night as I was so afraid of my hair getting messed up
It’s not that I haven’t tried to style my hair myself. My attempts have ended in my hair looking even worse than before and the exercise ends with me twisting my hair into a topknot and not looking into any mirrors thereafter.
My sister-in-law scoffs at me for being vain but then she is the last person to understand the satisfaction of a good hair day. Her hair is kept very short and, when she feels it has grown, she gives herself a haircut. The thought of chopping one’s own hair makes me shudder.
Forging deep bonds
Over the years I have developed a deep friendship with the owners and workers at the salons I have frequented in several cities. Though I have moved away, we keep in touch on Facebook and WhatsApp.
I have learnt the importance of cherishing their services which, in turn, has ensured I am treated as a treasured customer whose patronage is appreciated.
When the lockdown was lifted and salons were allowed to operate, I was ecstatic. Although Covid 19 is still a clear and present danger, I know that the owner will take all precautions to keep me safe in her own interests.
What the owners hadn’t anticipated was how difficult it would be to operate under strict rules which specify social distancing and the use of sanitisers and protective gear.
During the three months of closure the workers had found it difficult to survive and the owners were left with minimal or no staff. Then the rent had to be paid with landlords refusing to show any clemency. Every day I hear of the closure of a salon in the area and feel sorry for the owner as well as myself!
Goodwill of the owner
Right now I am surviving on goodwill as the owner of a salon facing closure opens it just for me. How long this will last is anybody’s guess. My predicament is a source of amusement to friends and family alike. What they don’t understand is the deep personal relationship between hair and self-esteem.
I remember getting my hair styled the day before a friend’s wedding years ago as the ceremony was in the early hours of the next day. A group of us were sleeping over at her place and I had a sleepless night as I was so afraid of my hair getting messed up.
The uncomfortable posture I assumed to ensure least damage to my hair made my so-called friends have a good laugh at my expense. None of them were good with hair so I couldn’t expect them to help me out. Needless to say, I was the first to get dressed at dawn.
The only option left is to download an app which delivers beauty services at home but I am not enamoured of the idea somehow. All I can do is pray that the pandemic disappears as suddenly as it appeared and lets us go back to what we considered normal some months ago. If wishes were horses...
Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India