Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mothers and daughters

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 . :-)


  1. Beautifully written... very beautifully potrayed...

    How things change over years is quite amazing...

    your Mom must have been quite a person... 42 years ago.. ! What she did is no mean fact ! really !

    I recently had to shift my barber coz he was renovating and got a shockk !!! whew... I had to pay 150 bucks for a hair cut which I normally get in 25 rs... !!

    So if you were finding it difficult to digest the branded saloon... I am not complaining !

    things are really hi-fi at times... and I aint able to comprehend at all .. honestly !

  2. The subject is most beautifully treated. Over the years our purchasing power is increasing and also our attitudes. Recessions come and go but the prices are not dented.

  3. Lovely post! How things have changed in the span of just one generation!

  4. Generational shifts so beautifully described! Perhaps this is one aspect of attributes skipping a generation. They say that about music - grandparents pass on their musical interests to their grandkids, skipping the generation of their children.

  5. Beautifully portrayed...the changing phases of a woman's life...from a daughter to a mother...and change in society across generations..

  6. "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."
    Loved this thought. One of my friend's daughter a 15 yr old works at a donut shop after school. She would save her lunch money, her pay from the donut shop and the occasional tips she made to buy a Louis Vuitton bag. Her mother was teary eyed when she found out that her daughter was skipping her lunch for that (stupid) bag..(her word not mine). Is it that important for a kid to skip lunch, is the bag worth it at the cost of your health, are our priorities all messed up?

    Na kalnya sarkhi goshta ahe pan kai karnar?

  7. That was my comment. I don't know how my name didn't show up.


  8. When I was a little girl all girls my age wanted to look like Shirley Temple. What possessed us to think that curly hair was all it took? I suffered under long cables with curlers attached. The machine looked like something out of outer space and burned my scalp. I ended up with a frizz of over processed hair. It was actually burned to a crisp. When I saw the results I cried. I didn't even come close to looking like Shirley Temple.

    Some things are much better now.

  9. What came to mind when i read this post (which is beautiful and reminiscent of so much that has vanished, I thought...) was that everyone needs to give respect to others' always works both's wonderful that you're opening up to the possiblities that exist in your daughter's world; i hope she can do the same and take a look into yours...that is truly deep respect...:)
    A little prayer for you today on my post, if you care to take it :)

  10. Your post is very beautifully written to show us your mother behind you as you are behind your daughter. Mothers are good at helping us enter the world, but not coming with us so much.

    I must ask...having your eyebrows threaded hurts? I had no idea. There are a couple of places around here that do threading, but I've not tried it yet. Probably I should make my move on it soon.

  11. Hitchwriter Thank you. I dont mind paying if what they do and perform has some additional value to me. But many times you are paying for their decor/AC/watchman's uniform etc, and the artistry as such is quite ordinary.

    Pradip Biswas Thank you, and what you say is so true....

    Manju Thank you. I wonder what my mother would have felt about all this had she observed the going ons....

    Sujatha Thank you. And something in your comment about certain family attributes skipping a generation , brings a secret smile to my mind.... , in the light of my recent competition post. Most delighted.

    SGD Thank you.

    Vinita Todays parents have to be very aware of the various influences that their child is subjected to. The pressures to confirm to some current fad are immense. And yes, the children learn to prioritise by watching their family and people around them. Kadhi Kadhi baryapaiki waeetpana ghyava lagto, nahi mhantana. Pan te jaroori asta.

    Darlene The story of your hair getting burnt in the dryer makes me shudder. Actually I think blow drying is bad enough, and the best thing is to wander in the sun or dry hair in natural breeze.

    Braja thank you. What you say is so true. And each generation has many such events to face... (have sent you email)...

    Amber star To answer your question, it doesnt hurt much to get the threading done. Today, eyebrows threading is extremely common in India, and every beauty parlour has it on offer. Its not considered one of the premium type things to do. A lot of folks get the initial threading done at a parlour and then kind of 'edit' the eyebrow area regularly at home, say every week, using a pair of tweezers.

  12. Oh Suranga, what memories your posts stir, once again I loved your setting out of the story/memory getting us all ready to listen to something worth listening to... then telling us the story or memory (it really doesn't matter which ) such a gift!
    I loved this story.

    Cheers, Kate x.

    btw. I too like Darlene remember the machine which had these long wires with the clips on the end of each of them - I was so terrified of them that one time I had gone to the Hairdresser with my Mum when about 3yrs and it scared me so much when it heated up and started to smoke that when I was a bridesmaid at my cousin's wedding at 13 yrs I wouldn't let the hairdresser even clip 'a couple of ordinary type curlers into the front of my hair' . All the staff and my Mum and Aunt thought I was crazy for not letting them do the curlers. But I would not be persuaded that they were safe...

    Thanks Kate x.

  13. Very well written, it brings back memories of discussions [and an occasional duel] between my wife and daughter.


  14. The world of young women of today is so different from ours. We need to keep our memories at their age alive in order to appreciate why certain things are so important. It is a haircut for them now , it was something else for us then. I guess we keep growing along with our children, through their experiences.

  15. I loved this post. My own mother would have never done anything like your mother did for you. My children always want me to try anything new that comes out. I went to a new stylist last month and was so pleased with the way she cut my hair. I will go there again next time. I had just been stuck going to the same one all the time. You mother was way before her time!

  16. Like your mother I hesitate to get my hair cut short although I keep threatening to do it.My daughters introduced me to a local beauty parlor, not very costly I was assured, and to be frank I quite liked the 'new' me that emerged.Nowadays I make it a point to get myself 'made up' whenever I visit them, there is a function in the house and have begun to feel that the massage (read pampering) is welcomed by the woman in me. With my hair thinning and my body filling out, I hope I have the courage to cut my hair and become a Memsahib. Good post as always.I almost thought you were describing me.

  17. Hello Ma'am

    Congratulations! Your post has been selected by BlogAdda as one of the top posts for this week's 'Spicy Saturday Picks'.

    Do mail me if you have any queries at harishkrishnan(at)blogadda(dot)com

  18. Heyy Ugich,

    I chanced upon this link after seeing your name in the "saturday picks" at Blogadda. Loved the post absolutely. It has a certain heartfelt, earthiness to it that completely endeared me to it. A complete pleasure reading it. One day when your daughter tunrd forty three, she will come into your room, give you the warmest hug ever, and ask you to read a blog on the worlwide web. Once again, "Mothers and Daughters", but this time, it'll be her who would have written it! Take care.

  19. This is so heart-warming. Role reversal does happen, and kids these days are die hard consumerists. Mine hide the bills until they need their purses replenished. Sweet of her to push you into getting a hair cut. Did you like it?

  20. this is what i do to my mom, try to get her to try new things...and i have two boys, so i guess i will have to keep myself in the know all my life :)

  21. KateThank you. Glad you liked the post. And good for you that you were able to avoid those deadly curlers with wires....

    Vivek This experience is something unique to those with daughters....I wonder whether fathers and sons have experiences like this....

    Usha You know, I often wonder, how come we didnt advise our mothers on such things, when we were in our early 20's? I can just visualize some aunts looking on, shocked ....:-)

    Judy You know, I did get the haircut. Finally. Its nice. But not because you are struck with the niceness- you have to search for it. I still think they overcharge. But maybe , a few more days, and I will know whether it is the easy-care variety or not, as the fellow described it...

    Hip Grandma Do get a cut, but please, dont become a Memsahib...:-) .... I too enjoy at this age, the feeling of someone actually washing the hair, massgaing the scalp, and then carefully tapping it dry, as if someone was really bothered...

    Harish Krishnan Just wondering how on earth you landed up on my post. I thought chaps were for ever blogging and writing about IPL, motorcycles, Goa, and how they are enjoying since their wives are away at their maika... (actually, I have realized that I have blogged about all these things too :-)

    Neeraj Didnt realize folks would read me on the Adda, but thank you for your nice comment. Dont know what my daughter will do when she is 43 ( as you say), but you might have a look at THIS . .

    Incidentally, I must tell you, that the spelling of Ahmedabad on your profile page is wrong....

    PhoenixrituThanks for visiting and welcome to the blog. And yes, I did get the haircut, and its fine, though not a cause for jumping up and down as such. :-) ...The downstairs neighbors are probably relieved....

    SumaSuma, you actually miss out on so much if you dont have a daughter... but I hope and wish , that when the time comes, you get wonderful daughters-in-law.... and have some fun experiences too...

  22. I do not comment often but love reading your post. You put a smile on my face with your story telling. Happy Mother's Day to you.

  23. Oh yes, I agree!

    i really really wanted my husband to know the treasure of a daughter's love.(he does not have a sister too) for the daughter, rite now i make do with my one and only niece :)

  24. uff..actually i came to congratulate on the featuring in Blog adda...

    congrats...i'm so glad that more people are getting to read you

  25. One Woman's Journey Thank you.

    Suma Thank you. I still havent figured out how I landed on Blog Adda...but no complaints :-)

  26. Excellent blog, nice presentation. I love the contents and thoughts. I am so happy to vote and I recommended your blog to some of my friends like , Remo, chinafan, EasternDish and Fengshui etc. Keep it up and write more please. I invite your valuable visit and suggestions about my Business Blog. Please Vote by using this link.


  28. Lilly What a great Mothers Day surprise for me ! Thank you very much. And I will be emailing you my postal address..... most delighted.

  29. oh lovely lovely lovely post, happy mothers day BTW

  30. Came here through Blog adda link. Wonderfully written! I am a young mom still I believe that we grow with children. It is easier to understand them that way and in return they try to learn a bit or two about the things we believe in.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  31. Ah! universal concerns Suranga that sweep through the generations. Each has its own little twist and turn towards influencing the product, but methinks the inner need is generally the same.
    June in Oz

  32. so beautifully drafted..ur writing just took me back and forth 40 years!! phew that was quite a travel :) but a sweet experience :)

  33. What a lovely post. So much has changed, yet so little too.

  34. Nice Post

    Its kind of interesting how parents keep their kids protected for so long....and even when kids think that now they know it all...parents are like ....No you don't.....The thing is every new generation comes with some new added features which just makes the older one just look like plain, simple and old.

    But thats the way it goes.....

    Nice one

  35. So now I know what to expect when my two daughters grow up!! A lighter purse and empty jars in the kitchen.

    Loved this post. Your mother WAS definitely path-breaking-ly extra-ordinary.

  36. Came here from blog adda!

    You have said so much in so little words!


  37. Monika,Solilo,June,verbivorehere,Ladyfi,Ankit Thank you..

    Sucharita Maybe on a cool rainy afternoon, 20 years from now, they will make some nice cupcakes and come to you with a wonderful cup of you sit with your feet up, just having returned from your office , as Mumbai election commissioner, via the Mumbai Metro Rail....:-)

  38. 'ugich konithari'-- the namesake -- i don't think so.

    about the post -- now that was 3 generations --great read.

    i am glad you are blogging otherwise how would we know what poona was then - any idea why they changed the name --

  39. Lovely post. It's so wonderful for children when mothers don't stop growing once they become mothers :)

  40. Lovely post. It's so wonderful for children when mothers don't stop growing once they become mothers :)