Sisters handling male customers at their gent’s salon in the shop. Image Credit: Supplied

Patna: Two teenage sisters have won laurels from various quarters after they disguised themselves as boys and ran a gents salon for years to provide for their elderly parents.

The girls, Jyoti Kumari and Neha Kumari, aged 18 and 16, ran their father’s business - a gents’ hair-cutting salon  - in the  Banwari Tola village in Kushinagar, an eastern district of Uttar Pradesh that borders Bihar.

They were forced to deal with male customers — shaving their beards and cutting their hair — in a conservative community after their father suffered a serious paralytic attack. This happened in 2014 when both the girls were studying in a local government school. The misfortune befalling the family pushed them to the brink of starvation as there were no earning members in the family.

With no one to help, the girls decided to restart their father’s salon. However, they were faced with one major issue — how to handle the male customers. They overcame this problem by disguising themselves as boys.

“This was indeed a tough job but we had no option as well. So we transformed ourselves [to look] like boys. We changed our names like males, dressed ourselves like boys, sported boys' hairstyle[s] and also behaved like boys,” recounts Jyoti who has now passed the Grade 12 examination.

“But for our efforts, my family would have died of starvation and our study would have been affected,” she told the media on Monday. According to her, in the initial days, the customers remained unaware of their deception. “Now they have come to know the reality but we are not a bit worried anymore. We have gained enough confidence,” she adds.

In recognition of their efforts, local authorities visited the girls on Sunday and honoured them. “They are [a] brilliant example of women empowerment and we have recommended to the state government [that they get] suitable rewards,” local district official Abhishek Pandey told the media today.

“Unfazed by taunts coming from the society, they carried the family’s responsibility on their shoulders and arranged livelihood for parents braving all odds. This is a wonderful story which the society must be told [about] and they indeed deserve honours,” the official exclaimed.

Their father, Dhruv Narayan, said they are proud of their daughters. “They have run the family showing highest level of grit and I am proud of them,” Narayan added. However, he added that he was moved to tears after seeing them in the salon.

Narayan, who can now barely walk, says he married off four of his six daughters usinghis income from the salon. However, before he could marry off the last two,he suffered a paralytic attack.