Getting my hair "did" in India
04/30/2014 - 05/01/2014 68 °F
So, it's been 2 months and I was eager to get my eyebrows threaded. There's never much to thread because my hair is fine hair and grows at a snails pace but I really wanted to say that I paid 25 Rupees - the equivalent of 45¢ - instead of the American price of $10 for threading. When I asked my host Mom, Vatsala if she could recommend a place she suggested I get a hair treatment too.
A hair treatment? I'm intrigued! And what exactly does that entail? Who cares? Of course I want an Indian hair treatment.
I am always complaining to Vatsala that my short hair won't grow long enough or fast enough. I long for something I'll never have which is long, thick beautiful locks like her, her sister, mother-in-law and every other woman in India. But she said no, it IS possible. You just have to get the hair treatment. Whatever you say girl! If you do it to your hair I want to do to mine!
So we planned the excursion for the first of May because school was out in celebration of May Day. Within one month of teaching, the kids had 5 days off because of holidays. Did you know India celebrates Good Friday, Palm Sunday and Easter?! The death and rebirth of Jesus is a National holiday in a Hindu country. Good stuff.
Back to it...Monsoon season doesn't start til June but the way it rained on May Day you could have fooled me. Pouring buckets! The rain began just at the end of band practice for the students. Magno Vale Academy is the village marching band champion and practices just started for the competition approaching in August. Even on a day off from school they are expected to attend practice. The girls play recorders, the boys have a full drum line (not like an ATL, historically black, college drum line but you know, like a village one) and this year they are adding the bag pipes to seal in First Place!
When I showed up for the practice, I was shocked at how good they were. Tears began to well up in my eyes as the girls played the school song in unison on their recorders, all the while marching with their blue and white uniforms and perfectly braided pigtails complete with white bows and barrettes bouncing up and down as they marched around the school yard. It was tooooo much!!! How was this even happening in a small village town on the side of a mountain!
Practice ended early because the rain started to fall and everyone has to walk back on an unpaved dirt road back to town. I headed back to the house for another delicious lunch with the family and then off to the beauty parlor with Vatsala. Because of the rain there was the extra chance that the power, which already goes out at random in India, (my head lamp has come in handy NUMEROUS times), would not be available. As we were about to leave, Vatsala told me to wait so she could check if the beauty shop's power was on. You would think she had to go to the beauty parlor to check, right? So I sat down to read the paper while I waited but she was back in 5 seconds saying we were all good. That scenario still doesn't make sense to me but sometimes in India I don't ask questions, I just go with the flow.
We walked all of 1 minute and 30 seconds sharing and umbrella to the local beauty parlor. It was a tiny 2 chair shop with an extra chair connected to a big hair dryer in the corner. The size of everything made me feel like Will Ferrell in Santa's workshop in the movie Elf. I was so tall and everything seemed to be so small...the people, the chairs, the shop. There were mirrors all around and posters of Asain faces with hairstyles from long and wavy to bobs to edgy variations on the mullet. There were 2 women in the shop and a little boy about 4 years old who attends Magno Vale's nursery school located on the basement floor of my home stay. We waited about 10 minutes for them to call the owner of the shop who was pregnant and probably somewhere with her feet up not thinking anyone would come in with the rain coming down as it was.
She arrived and got started on my eyebrows. Vatsala told me she used to have a shop in Dubai which I guess signifies her worth as an aesthetician. Then came the fun part... The power went out! There we all sat in the dark , me holding my eyebrows like they have you do, an assistant shinning a flashlight on my face and the owner carefully threading away unbothered by the circumstances.
I have not learned to speak Nepali, the local language, but I have learned to figure out what is going on through context clues and the random English words that have no Nepali translation. I was able to deduce that because there was no power, the "hair dryer" would not work and they would have to "steam dry" my hair instead. And so the process began. One of the assistants heated a bowl full of olive oil and began applying it to my scalp with cotton balls. She did this to every inch of my scalp. Then came the best part - THE MASSAGE! For at least 10 minutes she rubbed my scalp, tugged on my hair, kneaded my temples, ears and nape. She massaged up, down, in circles, diaganals, figure 8s. It was maddness and there was a clear method to her madness. It felt so good and with a little bit of hurt too. When it was over I felt like going to sleep right in her chair. But no time for that because the owner then came over and began her version of the same head massage! Altogether 20 minutes of heaven at a beauty parlor in India -actually it could have been only 5 minutes but with her hands and the sounds of rain outside the window, I was transported somewhere free of space and time.
After she finished and I returned back to my body, she began coating my hair with a white conditioner. Then the steam portion. Who needs an electrical dryer when you have a bucket of boiling hot water and a towel? She placed the towel in the hot water, wrung it out and placed it over my head. She left it for about 20 seconds just until the heat began to turn lukewarm and then repeated and repeated and repeated again and again and again. Then the rinse... I was wondering how this was going to go because there were no sinks or running water in the shop. Yet, with as many bucket showers as I've taken thus far, I should have known better than to look for water in any other place than a bucket. She brought over the water and gestured for me to dive in. I covered my face and dunked my head and 4 hands rinsed my hair of the oil and conditioner.
And then what happened? They repeated the whole thing from the oil and cotton to the bucket rinse! How thorough is that?! My only complaint was at the very end when they towel dried my hair not realizing that curly hair just turns into a frizzy Afro when you rub a towel back and forth through it. But they didn't know what to do with my short curly do. They were not used to hair that is not long, straight and thick so no love lost. Besides, my locks were soft as baby's hair by the time the whole process was finished.
So that is my story of the Little Beauty Parlor that Could. A tale of a tiny, non-fancy salon, in a village in Darjeeling, with 2 chairs and no electricity. They treated me to my finest hair treatment. A service that would cost at least $80 at any salon in the States and I got it for the bargain price of 300 rupees ($5) including the eyebrow threading and a tip. Thanking youuuu!