Friday, January 18, 2008

Looking good

Beauty parlour attendant, R. Vinitha, does her bit to make women look pretty

By Shevlin Sebastian

On a Monday morning, on her way to her office at Panampilly Nagar, Suja Thomas, (name changed), decides, on a whim that she will pop into Swanys beauty parlour at Kadavanthra for a facial. Parlour attendant, R. Vinitha, 20, wearing a white coat over a black salwar kameez, makes Suja sit on a reclining chair. She places a colourful headband on her head, to prevent the hair from falling on her face. Then she folds the hair upwards into a bunch, and holds it together with two yellow clips. Finally, she places a green towel across Suja’s chest and shoulders.

Vinitha presses a tube and cleansing cream squirts out onto a piece of cotton. She uses it to rub Suja’s face clean of dirt and in the process, also removes the kaajal that Suja, 36, had put on her eyelids, before she set out for work.

“Since Suja’s skin is sensitive, I am putting a light bleach,” says Vinitha, as she uses a small plastic spatula to apply the bleach. Soon, Suja’s face and neck are covered in a yellow paste. Then Vinitha puts cool, wet cotton patches on Suja’s eyes. “Now, Suja Madam will remain like this for about fifteen minutes,” she says, as she steps out of the room into the reception area.

Vinitha has the shyness of one who is still in the early stages of her career. She did a six-month course in a beauty parlour before she got this job at Swanys where she has been working for the past two years. She comes in at 9 a.m. and works till 6.30 p.m. Thereafter, it is a 75 minute bus ride to Cherthala where she stays.

“I take an average of one hour with each customer,” she says. Customers range from young girls, to working women, to housewives, to elderly women in their sixties.

“Most women do facials, waxing, pedicure or manicure,” she says. “Other options include an oil massage, the washing and dyeing of hair, and the trimming of the eyebrows.”

Most of the customers are in the 30-50 year age group. Owner Swany Siby, 38, explains why. “By the time a woman reaches 30, she would have probably gone through a pregnancy and put on weight,” she says. “So, she comes to their parlour to regain her good looks.” As for those in their forties and fifties, as looks fade, restoration work is necessary.

Meanwhile, the fifteen minutes is up and Vinitha steps back into the room. Suja looks relaxed: the eyes closed, the body stretched out. Vinitha does a gentle massage of the face to increase the blood circulation. During the massage, she presses down on certain pressure points: the area near the eyes, on the top of the head and at the point where the jaw and the ears meet.

Following a steam wash, a pack, which has fruit contents, is placed on the face. “This contains several vitamins and it seeps through the open pores of the skin,” she says. After several minutes, Vinitha takes off the pack and Suja opens her eyes, 45 minutes after she has entered the parlour.

As she pays the fee of Rs 300, Suja says, “Vinitha has a light touch and has the necessary patience and poise to deal with different kinds of customers.”

Vinitha remembers one such customer: a 40-year old housewife. “There was a heavy rush that day,” she says. The woman wanted her eyebrows to be shaped well, but she had very little hair. “When I did it, somehow, the eyebrows became thin and she got upset,” she says. “In the end, Madam Swany placated her.”

Anyway, the lady returned after a few weeks, and this time, Vinitha did a good job and the woman praised her. “I felt very relieved that day,” she says. “To be honest, most of the customers are happy with my work.”

Sherin Danish, 24, who is studying for her MBA, is a regular customer. “What I like about Swanys is that it is a hygienic place and the staff is efficient.” Housewife Bella Jacob, 38, who has been a customer for the past six years, says that she always receives personal attention. “The staff is always smiling,” she says.

Meanwhile, other customers arrive and Vinitha gets busy. “I handle more customers on the weekends because women have many functions to attend,” she says. “It is a stressful job, because you have to work fast, while, at the same time, the customer has to be satisfied with the job you have done.”

So, are these women who go to the parlour trying to look good for their spouses? “No!” says Swany emphatically. “They are doing it for themselves.”

But Bella does not agree. “One reason I go to a parlour is to look pretty for my husband,” she says. “I also want to look good because it makes me self-confident.” Building confidence could be one reason or, as Sherin says, “Women will always feel the need to look good and presentable.”

Thanks to this ever-present need, Swanys is thriving and, along with it, the unassuming Vinitha.

(Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express)

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