City Landmark – NYC Unisex Salon, Hauz Khas Market
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Delhi’s first LGBT friendly salon.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Dressing up as a drag queen becomes a tad easier and pricier in the Capital. In July, 2009, the city got its first openly LGBT-friendly unisex salon in Hauz Khas Market. “We charge Rs 3,000 for dolling up a man,” says Mr Sameer Mehta, the proprietor of NYC who runs the salon with his partner Mr Mike. “We opened around seven months ago but ‘came out’ as soon as the Delhi High Court scrapped Section 377,” says Mr Mehta.
To spread the news, the partners, known faces in Delhi’s unofficial LGBT-friendly circles like Pegs ‘n’ Pints, Polka and M-Lounge, have been dropping messages on gay websites, blogs and related online communities. They even have an exclusive phone number (9650-764-365) where people can call to make appointments.
“It’s not just about the drag queen part,” says Mr Mehta. “Sometimes, gay people feel uncomfortable while asking to wax certain areas of their body in salons, but here our staff is trained to anticipate such requests.”
IT professional Mr Sumantha Roy, a gay man living in Amar Colony, doesn’t quite agree with the discomfort factor. “I never feel awkward in any salon, coz the moment I enter they know I’m gay and they behave accordingly,” he says. “But yes, this new salon is good for awareness’s sake.”
Mr Jawed Habib, one of Delhi’s most famous hair stylists, has a problem with even that argument. “It [the gay tag] is a marketing gimmick,” he says. “Whether you are gay or straight, a child or an adult, a boy or a girl, cutting hair doesn’t differ.”
Before he made his announcement, Mr Mehta made sure that his seven-member staff was detoxed of stereotypes. “A few had this Bobby Darling impression that every gay man is an effeminate,” he says. Now they smartly handle even the inevitable passes. “Most clients tell me I’m cute and then I say ‘thank you’,” says hair stylist Mr Shaan.
Does that mean that the salon is not for the straight population? “No, no, all are welcome.” Mr Mehta clarifies. However, he is aware that people may hesitate to come in here once this salon becomes ‘famous’ as an LGBT-friendly place. “Look, this is my community and I’m proud of what I’m,” he asserts. “I don’t care if some folks have issues about getting a facial here.”
While the coming out of this salon hints at a new level of tolerance in society, openness has its boundaries. Both Mr Mehta and his partner, who teaches Salsa to school students, requested not to be photographed for this article. Mr Mehta doesn’t want his relatives to know he is gay while Mr Mike fears that his students might feel uncomfortable if they discover this aspect about him.
Meanwhile, Mr Sumantha Roy has no immediate plans to visit NYC. “I get my hair done regularly from Charlie in NFC Community Centre,” he says, “so why should I go to someone unknown?”
Where E-52, Near Wine Shop, Hauz Khas Market Ph 9650-764-365
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