Being a Conservationist at a Spa & Salon 

My last visit was a little different. Since I was there for a couple of hours, with just one stylist, he had time to figure out his responses. He asked me to use various products, till I finally lost it and said “A. I don’t like chemicals on my hair, and stopping the usage of such products finally helped it. B. I don’t like chemical products, since they aren’t really good for the environment as well. So if you guys switched to better alternatives, it might be good for everyone.”

I hate salons and spas. While I love the experience of being pampered, it is often interspersed by product plugs and annoying comments about how whatever the product I’m using at the moment isn’t good for me (even if these were products suggested by the same person before they got better commissions from another brand).

However, since I’ve switched to organic brands, these conversations are more awkward. Most often, the stylist goes quiet since they don’t want to comment on the organic part of it, or how they are bad for you.

They do try to still push brands on you, most of them being some version of heat protectors, anti-frizz serums etc. Depending on my mood, I’m polite, sarcastic or plain mute.

The last time, I was getting a little annoyed and decided to confuse the guy. I told him I’m a conservationist, and I try not to use chemical products as much as possible (which is true, though that didn’t start from an eco-perspective!).

If there’s one entity that’s not yet made the attempt to switch to being eco-friendly, that’s salons and spas here. They use copious amount of water to maintain hygienic conditions, or even just wash off the chemicals off the hair and body.

Well, nothing much can be done about that (yet) from individuals. A while ago, there was a mass movement about products being tested on animals, and a lot of customers would ask if the products being used were animal-tested. Some awareness, some impact. We’ve not yet got to a stage where people are asking if the products being used are environment-friendly.  They aren’t talking about alternatives to plastics.

So having one person sitting there talking about how much water you are using to wash one’s hair makes them extremely uncomfortable. This is not a conversation they want to start yet, since that means involving more structural changes (eco-shower heads, better recycling policies, LED lighting, washing policies, hygiene maintenance).

Now to be honest, I’ve never thought much about conservation in the beauty industry. I do know that the water being used here needs to be treated before it enters the sewage system. But no clue if Indian rules enforce this. There’s a tough line to maintain between hygiene and being eco-friendly, and one reason the luxurious places use fresh products – so we know that it is clean.

But for me, I’ve found my way to shut up the annoying sales person the next I want a head massage in peace.

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Being a Girl with Hair

 

Have you ever thought how much women, on average, spend on hair? Yes, I know we are supposed to be the spend thrift, consumerist, favorite with the advertisers because we are so easy to sell to sorta people. But perhaps it is our own warped self-image, the society’s steep expectations or media’s portrayal… or whatever it is, but a lot of it boils to one simple factor – hair.

A woman becomes aware of her hair when she hits puberty. Till then, the stuff on your head is just something to be kept out of the way and the rest of it does not matter. Then suddenly, you have to actually pay attention to these cells.

Let’s see what an average woman, living in a city with a decent job, in the age group of anywhere from 21 to 45, needs for the hair on her head.

  1. Shampoo
  2. Conditioner
  3. Leave-in conditioner
  4. Serum
  5. Anti-frizz
  6. Hair Mask
  7. Hair Spray (to whip it into shape on those bad hair days)
  8. Oil
  9. Heat Protection Serum

Yep, we need alllll that to make ourselves look halfway decent. Not glam. Just presentable.

On average, we spend about INR 3,000 per month on all these prettying ‘basic’ products – and that’s by going for something just above the low-range of products. I’m not talking salon-level products.

Next, since we are obsessed about hair, we need to ensure that the remaining part of the body is free of hair. Which means bi-weekly appointments at the salon for waxing arms, legs, most part of the face, and if you are adventurous, a brazilian as well. When the bikini or the wedding season comes around, you might also need to wax your back, your stomach and well, maybe your whole body. Not accounting for the hours of pain, this also means an average of INR 1,500 per month for removing  the hair from your body.

Then there are the hair cuts – and the search for the perfect hair stylist is as tough as the search for the perfect pair of pants. A single hair cut at a good salon – you are down another 2 grand every 3 months (if you are religious about maintaining your hair, that is).

Of course, you cannot forget the ‘special occasions’ wherein you’ve to get the hair washed, shined and polished styled and set. Which is another INR 1,500 each setting. Believe it or not, most women have at least one occasion every month for which they need to hit the parlor!

Some of us also enjoy a calming head massage along with the other painful treatments, which means another INR 1,500 each month.

Let’s do the math: 3,000 + 1500 + 650 + 1500 + 1500 = 8150

We’re spending about 8 fricking grand on hair every month! That’s 96,000 a year!

All because we are obsessed with this thing called hair – which grows on every single human being over the age of 12.

A Weekend

A saturday that did not start past noon. A saturday that was not spent sleeping away.

How rare is that! And how much fun is that!

As much as I love late nights and say that I am productive in the wee hours of the night, I have to accept that I get a lot of the more practical stuff done during day time. I had an early meeting (past noon but hey!) which meant I woke up early. The sun was already burning up all those people on the street… I prayed for rain and wished there was something I could wear on my face to keep that sticky dirt off it. Or maybe attach a little fan to my head that will keep blowing cool breeze onto my face. In the end I was just glad that there were no mirrors around me to see how tanned and yucky my face got. And this was just the beginning of the day.

I had to visit an old friend who works for a local magazine. I had been there during college days – more than 5 years ago – and honestly, not much has changed. I guess that is what “long-standing” means sometimes. The walls were still faded and finding the new wing was still as confusing. But once you get past the confusing door, the office had been upgraded into the 21st century. It isn’t as chic as my office is… nor was there as much a bustle. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of the news paper offices I’ve visited recently are quiet. Is it because all the reporters have been laid off or is it because they are all just out, I don’t know. But those days when I did my internships (here and in Australia) where the office was cramped and you’d be huddled away typing out your story, is history.

The desks though are still the same cluttered. Clippings, magazines, coffee cups and photos lying in a uncomprehensible jumble. It feels like home – almost. But the curious lack of chaos was a little disturbing to me. I wondered if I were working there, would I last?

Lunch was at Oye Amritsar – a dhaba-like place, with 5-star restaurant prices. And Himmesh Reshamaiya music. Yep. But I had a craving for butter chicken since last night and since I hadn’t eaten anything, I figured this would be a good place. I mean if you can’t trust a dhaba (or a mock one at that) to come up with good butter chicken, who else can you trust.

Except, once we settled down, the waitress told us that there was no a la carte menu. Only buffet. Now, I’ve nothing against buffet. But for people like me, who don’t eat much to start with, it is a sheer waste. And I get confused with the whole range of food, end up wanting everything and just take a bite of it all and get quite full. And the buffet did NOT have butter chicken!! What kind of a self-respecting dhaba does not serve butter chicken? Or at least chicken tikka masala. Or some form of recognized, popular chicken curry. They had fish fry, panner, some weird named dish and that was that.

My friend was enjoying the restaurant though. She, who I shall call Kit (cuz I feel like it) has a sheer appreciation of any place that we go to. The last time when we went to this restaurant that is styled like a 40s luxury railway dining car, she was excited like a little kid. Enough to make the host appreciate us and give us an inner ac table. So Kit served herself as little food as me and we wished there was better music and better food but we were starved enough to eat quietly.

It was Kit’s day to treat herself – she wanted to a haircut, so after being refused at several salons because we didn’t have an appointment… (Side note: seriously, an appointment for a hair cut as well?! What is this city coming to. True, you are supposed to get better service if you make an appointment. But it is a saturday. there are emergencies – sometimes. Every place I know and like said they were booked till late evening. Surreal!) we found one place that was willing to chop off her hair.

She began to fidget 10 minutes after being seated in the chair. And the stylist had just washed her hair. There was still, cutting, setting and blow drying. And while he was doing all of that, he started their pitch about “you need to use this for hair and hey! look we have a bottle of it and it will cost you only so much!”

I hate it when parlors do that… you go there to relax and let someone pamper you and they start forcing unwanted products on you.  Which is why I like Bounce. Snobbish as they may be, they never mess up your hair and they never offer products to you unless you ask for a recommendation.

And then there was that impulse shopping – I wanted an iPhone. I have finally gotten over all my objections and figured I wanted one. I don’t need a new phone. My current one is fantastic and has all those things that an iPhone has. But I wanted an iPod, since I sort of washed my last one in the washing machine. And I figured why carry two things when I can combine that into the iphone. So that graduated from an ipod nano to an ipod touch (free wlan and radio and FB and all) to iPhone.

The iPhone is gorgeous! it is heavier than mine and apparently I need a data plan to browse the net. But it is gorgeous. And it is a lot more delicate than my phone which I have already dropped several times and it still works fabulously. But it is the iphone. And it is expensive. and I don’t really need it but oh! i do want it! And I don’t really have the money for it!

So debating with all of this stuff, I figured I better look into my financing options (and wavered on that bit a little too when I saw the little “EMI” option there. I’ve never really bought anything on EMI. Always hated owing someone anything but it was quite tempting) I headed to Mocha to think.

Mocha – the hang out for college kids, who get money from god-knows-where. When we were in college, our hang out was a little 5-rupee tea shack. We could sit there for hours, smoke, talk and the guy wouldn’t say a thing. And we’d be poorer by say 10 bucks or a little more. Which wasn’t much but was all we could afford. Now the kids have money to pay 150 bucks for a single coffee. Where do they get the money from? And how are they sitting there in the afternoon when the colleges insist on 90 percent attendance?

I feel old!

But hey the music was good. The sheesha was good. The company was good. Kit’s appreciation of things puts a completely different spin on the places I’ve gotten a little jaded about. It is new for her and she loves it. And it reminds me of those times when I was all so excited about these places. The times before my friends started calling me a snob because I wanted to try out these new places and not all of them were cheap. Before they started complaining about the “kind of crowd” in the place.

It is good to discover this city… showing someone the places that made Bangalore “Bangalore”. The city has changed… the little icecream shop where we used to buy cones in school no longer exists. Road sides are littered with vendors with the backdrop of bigger malls. And boring old factory-manufactured clothes!

But with new people to see it with, it is fun to discover the little signs of old Bangalore still alive like the rose bushes in Mary’s secret garden.

Song of the day: Lamb of God (cuz they are playing in the city tonight. If anyone went to the concert, lemme know how it went) –