It must have been around 1968.
She was a junior at college and stayed in the women's hostel. Living there since she was almost 16, she was exposed to girls from different backgrounds. Her own, was that of a family that was conservative about monetary and educational matters, but a bit more open when it was a question of pursuing sports, music, and such. College was not about suddenly facing the free and wonderful big world where you did as you liked. True, there was no one checking up on her. But she had herself.
And so she would watch in amazement, as some girls suddenly picked up certain mannerisms overnight, altered their gait imperceptibly, suddenly started exchanging chemistry notes with guys in the class, who came to their hostel specially for the purpose, and wonder of wonders, actually started using the type of makeup folks used in movies.......
Where she came from, the height of fashion was making a fancy braid of your hair. Beauty routines consisted , of heating milk everyday, and applying the cream on your face, along with turmeric , which was a routine bath time thing. You never left your hair open unless you had just washed it, and it was always braided. Always. Regardless of your attire; which was severe skirts and blouses, unambiguously covering, from the neck, down below the knees, which later progressed to salwar suits and even sarees. In this environment, those of us who played badminton for the college, would arrive for practice wearing a skirt over another short culotte type sports skirt, which gave things, what you could call a "royal" flare. . You played in a short skirt, but when you stepped outside your skirt looked like a poor mans version of the queen's gown. That one cycled wearing that, was amazing in itself, but didn't help matters.
That was me, 40 years ago.
So it kind of amazed me, when , on a trip to Mumbai(it was Bombay then), my mother took me to this place in Churchgate (downtown Bombay's "boulevard"), where a tiny old French lady ran a pastel green place called" Marise Marel". The place had the sort of stuff you saw in movies, ladies sitting with curlers under hairdryers, folks getting their nails done, and several staff that looked to me like they were straight out of Hollywood. Mme. Marel gave me a look over, and wonder of wonders, for the very first time, I got my eyebrows done. Threaded. As my mother looked on, silently hoping that i wouldn't make a scene about the initial pain.
For someone who studied at Columbia University, then returned back home before I was born, comfortable with her roots, and was a strict no-nonsense person , it now appeared that my mother was aware all along of what was happening in the world of young girls. Hitting 18 was a good time to introduce me to the idea, that originals could be marginally improved. She used to observe, read and communicate widely, and this was her way of changing in her own way, where her daughter was concerned.
Cut to 2009.
My daughter lives in jeans. Which must fit a certain way. And must have a certain color. Her table in her room has more lotions that books. And she and her friends pour over certain fashion magazines. While she knows how to cook a decent meal, and no one will go hungry in my absence, the kitchen is actually used to soak all kinds of lentils, and other stuff, that is later blended with cream or eggs or rosewater or what have you, and assorted eating items, only to be slathered on the face and dried. The days of washing your hair and then cycling around in the sun running errands for your folks as the hair dried , are over. You have driers, straighteners, curlers. I am just grateful they don't have twisters and cutters. (Maybe they do. Who knows.) Every time she leaves to go to college, she leaves behind a huge ,and I mean huge, whiff of some mild perfume, which even remains in the elevator after she goes.
I watch on. Wide eyed. Sometimes feeling stupid. Sometimes feeling grateful, that I grew up the time I did.
She recently heard of a new place that opened in the neighborhood. Its a sort of a brand name beauty place. Stark in decor, as is the current trend. With trained fellows who wash and cut your hair. Their training is through a very well know hairstylist, who frequents Bollywood stars, and gets written about for his styling. She's been wanting to try that.
It costs. Probably not more than a branded pair of jeans. Once is OK. But its not advisable to get habituated to such places, when the rest of your life is on a different plane.
She doesn't really adamantly demand, but chips away at it, little by little. Showing me ads. Telling me who else amongst her friends went there. She wants me to come with her. Naturally as the purse carrier.
We call and land up one day. She is thrilled. The equipment is different. Techniques are slightly different. There is less of a crowd. I wait outside in the lounge as she gets transformed with great wash, a cut here and a flick there. She basically has great hair quality, thanks to her minute attention to things, in the face of my very casual approach.
To me, you are what you are. To her, you are what you try.
She wants me to try the cut there. I hesitate. Costs intimidate me. Its OK for her. Her time is now. I am happy with my God given features.
I think back to the Marise Marel days. What it must have taken someone like my mother, to convince herself, that it was time to think of such things for her much more obedient, though stubborn daughter. My mother never changed her style of hair as far as I remember. It was always a bun. Even when age thinned the volume. But she indulged me later , every time I wanted to try a new cut, and was interested in things like facials. She hesitated to get one herself, but always encouraged me.
My daughter emerged from the inner sanctum, looking different, but very pleased with herself. True. The cut did something for her. Maybe confidence. These times were different. Techniques had developed.
Forty years later, I wondered what must have gone through my mothers mind as she saw an old petite French lady thread my eyebrows, and smile at her , waiting for her comment. To her what she did was nothing short of revolutionary. The difficult thing was to decide to go and get it done, as it wasn't a common thing in our type of society.
The folks at this place are very good at PR. My daughter is pleased about her hair. I wonder if I should give it a try. The idea takes seed. In my generation, doing these kind of things is probably old hat and routine. I am a late entrant.
We book an appointment. My daughter is relieved that her mother is finally seeing light somewhere. We walk out, her hair flying in the breeze, my own, tied in a no nonsense rubber band.
I wonder how my mother felt that day, 40 years ago, as we stepped out of Marise Marel. I think she approved of the transformation. She was positive she wouldn't be getting similar things done to herself. But she was full of admiration for the little old French lady, and it was interesting to see them communicate with no verbal stuff in common.
It was my introduction , by my mother, to techniques for improving on the original.
How times have changed.
My daughter was now introducing me to the same . :-)