Early on a Saturday morning, women trickle into the beauty parlour after the big padlock is taken off the sliding gate.
Each carries a snack to share with the others: wafers, otherwise known as chips, tea, otherwise known as chai, upma, otherwise known as nothing. They enter wearing fancy salwar kameez sewn from cloth from Dadar market, and change into salon scrubs in the waxing rooms.
Early in the morning, I’m the only customer. Because there are so many women to do salon services, and so few yet arrived to enjoy them, the salon women do their own beauty treatments, or pamper one another. One blow dries her long hair. Another puts a piece of string in her mouth and threads the upper lip of the salon madam, who leans way back and makes sounds while her lip hairs (too few to be called a moustache; too many to go unnoticed) are being pulled out. The others sit in the hairstyling chairs, feet up on the cluttered counters with polished, long toenails in shades of brown and ruby. Their snacks spill out of their newspaper containers. Delicate fingers carry biscuits to cross lined lips.
One healthy lady is filing my nails without even looking at them, neck craned towards the drama serial on TV. She is enormous, bowed legs and thick arms sitting on a low stool. The sash of her smock is cutting into her curves.
The scene on TV ends on a dramatic note, a young and perfectly adorned bride jutting out her full lower lip and looking worried. It switches to an advertisement for Knorr noodles, Kajol’s wide smile and groomed brows filling up the screen as the perfect product endorser: a wife, a mother, a fabulous film actress. She feeds her kids Knorr soupy noodles, don’t you?
A boy outside is beating up clouds of dust.
A maid inside is beating up clouds of hair shorn from heads the day before. The salon ladies offer her biscuits and tea to dip them.