Mission Delhi – Preeti Sachdeva, Devilal Colony
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She would do facial, manicure, pedicure, haircut and many other things in a space she created all by herself. But the dreamworld has ended. She finally shut down her beauty parlour for women on 22 June. “In these days of physical distancing, very few people are ready to be in such close proximity with somebody outside their immediate family,” observes Preeti Sachdeva.
In her 40s, Ms Sachdeva was getting very few customers after she reopened the parlour, in May, when the coronavirus triggered lockdown was lifted. “It was no longer viable… I was finding it tough to pay the rent to the landlord, and I also had to pay her monthly salary to Mamta, my helper.”
Ms Sachdeva had founded the parlour in 2008 in Jyoti Park, a neighbourhood in Gurgaon’s Sector 7 in the Greater Delhi Region. She had named it Roopshree, “which is one of the names of Matarani, Lakshmi Ma.” This mother of two had many reasons to start her own business. Talking on WhatsApp video from her home in Devilal Colony, she lists them one by one.
a) “My husband was still establishing his business. I thought it would be convenient to have some extra money at hand.”
b) “It is nice to regularly get out of home, to dress up daily, to have an active professional life, and to stay busy and productive. It makes one feel good and confident about oneself.”
c) “Many of my (female) relatives had their own parlours too. In fact, I learned beauty tips from my sister-in-law, Shashi Ahuja, who runs a parlour in Faridabad. I also did initial training under the supervision of Sunita Didi, who runs a beauty parlour in Arjun Nagar.”
D) “Earning on my own, I hoped, would make me independent, powerful and well-respected in my circle of relatives and friends.”
There was one more advantage of engaging with the wide world outside that Ms Sachdeva learned later. Everyday she would get to meet women from a variety of backgrounds and ages, all of which, she says, enriched her experiences and helped her in learning new ways of looking at the world and at herself. “Working in the parlour gave me a chance to see the world through the lives of other people, and since I’m very chatty by nature, my clients would always feel comfortable sharing stories about themselves.”
The lady gives an example. “One of my regular customers was an aunty, in her 70s, almost my mother’s age, but very tiptop.” Sometimes Ms Sachdeva’s other, much younger, clients would curiously ask the elderly woman why she cared so much for her grooming in her advanced age and “Aunty” would cheerily shoot back, saying, “Why shouldn’t I?!” That response made Ms Sachdeva rethink her views on aging, and how she would like to be when she reaches 70.
In the early years of the parlour, Ms Sachdeva’s school-going kids were still little. Every afternoon she was obliged to close the parlour for a couple of hours, and hurry back home to feed them lunch. It was a ten-minute walk between the house and the parlour. Lately, both her son and daughter were busy in their higher studies, her husband involved in his business, and she was freely immersed in her thriving parlour that would open six days a week from 10 am to 8 pm. (Even so, she would be single-handedly cooking the dinner every night.)
And then the pandemic arrived, “just when everything was running so nicely, and we all were so happy with our routines.”
After giving the shop space back to the landlord, Ms Sachdeva crammed up all her beauty parlour furniture and make-up stuff at her home. It occupies a corner of the upstairs room. Showing it through the mobile phone screen that connects her to this reporter, she says, “I had built my parlour with so much care.” The lady is speaking very matter-of-fairly, as if she didn’t like the indulgence of wallowing in regrets and disappointments. Looking at the mirror, she declares that not everything is lost. “I have already started working from home, and maybe my old customers will start coming back.”
With this hope, she calls her son to hold the mobile as she poses for a portrait.
[This is the 347th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The end of a beauty parlour