Daily Archives: May 14, 2011

This Preoccupation with Hair

If you happen to be in India…in virtually any city in India…and you are standing somewhere outside, look around you. You are bound to find a hair salon.  Or two.  Or three.    There’s an explosion occurring in the hair industry here.*  In Mumbai alone, there must be hundreds of salons, with more opening every day – and they cater to every kind of taste, wallet, fancy and fantasy.

There are the well-known and famous ones – B Blunt, Juice, Mad or Wot….where you may even run into a celebrity or two.  And then there are the random huge numbers all across the city and suburbs.   Want a hair cut, color, style, highlights, bonding, straightening, curls, up-do, hair spa, whatever?   No problem.   You can find a place open for business on any day of the week.  And these services are not just used by the gals either.  They are popular with guys too.   And, lets not forget the kids (the tweens).

I wonder when this obsession with hair started?  Around the same time as visual communication took off in the form of cable/satellite TV, I would guess, followed by a big blip with the internet.    That’s when selling glamour became the thing to do.  India lapped it up.  And how!

When I was a kid, hair was important too.  But in a different way.  It was not about glamour.  It was about healthy hair.  I still remember how every weekend we went off to grandma’s house where the Saturday ritual included the dreaded “head bath”.   Head bath, you say?  No, it was not a psychological cleansing ritual.

Here’s what it involved: first your tresses got smothered (I mean smothered!) with a yucky mixture of castor oil, yogurt and lemon juice.  Then, you waited it out for an hour or two while your hair soaked it in.   Followed by this was your actual “head bath”, usually administered by grandma or aunt or another lady in the house.   Forget shampoo (what’s that?).  It involved taking a liquid mixture of shikakai – a pure, plant extract, no chemicals – and rubbing it thoroughly through your hair (twice) to get all the oils out.  After the wash, you sat outside in the sun so that mother nature could dry out your squeaky-clean hair (what hair dryer?).   The ultimate benefit, in theory, was healthy, shiny, thick hair.  And, then you went and hid all of that health in a braid.  😉

Today, it seems that whether you are 11 or 71, you have a hair salon at your beck and call to make you and your hair look beautiful.  By the time you have had the gels and the creams and the sprays and the heat on it, you may as well forget about healthy!  Who cares anyway?  After all, you look simply ravishing.

* According to a prominent half-page advertisement for a hair salon franchise that I saw in The Economic Times this week , the hair and beauty market in India is estimated at approx. $1.5 billion today, growing to $22  billion by 2020!

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