After a week in the Himalayas, Anjula and I decided to treat ourselves by spending an afternoon in a beauty salon. I had no idea what to expect from a backstreet salon in downtown Dehradun. I don’t think she did either, but she was hankering for a haircut so we did it. (Most women tend to their hair at home.) The salon wasn’t fancy, as you will see.  And the place was not air-conditioned.  It smelled a bit musty. We were hot. So was everyone else.

Indian men do groom ( they don’t wear their hair long and are clean shaven), and some men get their haircut on the street. No matter what town you’re in –small or urban–barbers are set up on the side of highways and on main streets sudsing up men’s faces and shaving them with metal straight razors or plastic handled razors, and clipping hair with scissors.  Usually the shave spots are located near sugar cane squeezers or places to purchase liquor. In other words, it’s a man’s scene. Many men in India color their hair and are not vigilant about touching up new growth: dark hair and white roots. Often the mens’ color is done with henna and the dark hair is turning orange. Not very attractive.

I never saw women being groomed in public. Plus the women don’t color their hair nearly as much as the men. A visitor will notice many more grey-haired women than gray-haired men. Today  I read in India News that In the last five years, female customers going to beauty salons has grown by 60% in India. (The article speculated women go to salons to counter depression and being bored!) Along with that, there has been a rampant increase in the parlor or salon industry by 35%. Recently L-Oreal launched the “Beautiful Beginnings” program in India for underprivileged women who have dropped out of school.The aim is to provide 4 months of training in hairdressing and beauty care to help stabilise these women’s futures by enabling them to open their own salons or work in existing institutes. So far, 75% of the programme’s beneficiaries have already found jobs.

The Dehradun salon Anjula and I went to, didn’t have a name. The attendants were kind and happy to have something to do.  Four-and-a half hours of pampering, for two, cost about $15.  I had a manicure, pedicure, massage and foot rub. Anjula added a haircut to the menu. It was a rather strange afternoon.

Interior of the Dehradun Hair salon was decorated with large posters of rather light-skinned Hindi women.

Anjula gets a blow dry
While she is getting a blow dry the girls are manicuring her nails