One Day at a Beauty Parlour
Narmin Tartila Banu
I looked at the mirror, and a pale ghost with lashless eyes stared back. Before I could scream, my face was smothered with another bout of puffing and I instinctively clamped my eyes and mouth shut in an attempt to save the vital organs. The molding stopped abruptly and I opened one eye, the girl squashing my face had temporarily gone off to squash the girl on my left. Phew! I opened my eyes wider and peered at the girl on my right through the mirror. She had a beautiful tinge of green and blue shimmers flattering her large eyes. The black dash of kohl stretched them wide.
I always loved those eyes! So the first chance I got to pamper myself with, I pounced. I booked an appointment with the magician herself of one of the most Renowned beauty parlours of the country, for my engagement party, for eight thousand bucks (could've easily gotten away with less than half this amount, by taking appointment of one of her assistants but I convinced myself that you get engaged once, and so go with what your heart desires. If your heart desires to toss money into the Gulshan Lake or whatever is left of it, DON'T HESITATE!).
So, there I was, clad in a blouse and petticoat, with a towel tucked under my neck. I had nothing to do but watch the girls awaiting bridal makeup, each in an equally embarrassing position as myself, but far less self conscious. They came in all shapes and sizes, with various levels of whining. Someone's henna was done in stripes, she wanted floral patterns. Someone complained the eyeliner on her left eye was thinner than the one on her right. Another screamed into the phone at someone who'd forgotten to bring her a bunch of gladiolas:
One of the assistants roughly stuck a couple of false lashes on my eyes, and told me not to blink. I sat there, watching the magician working away on some lucky girl's base makeup, she'd paid twelve grand for this special treatment! My eyes felt itchy and watered. I took a tissue and dabbed at them. No one took notice. I kept waiting my turn, finding it more and more difficult to control my irritation as the minutes ticked away.
A month ago, I'd booked an appointment with the magician, over phone.
Two days ago I'd called again to ask if the booking was in place. They said it was.
The following day I came physically to ask if the booking was intact. They couldn't even find my name in their diary. A girl asked me thrice what my name was. 'Narmin.' 'Narmin.' 'N-A-R-M-I-N.' I told her. When she finally understood, she laughed on my face, 'Narmin abar kamon naam? Eita ki karo naam hoe? Hee hee hee…'
I'd swallowed the profusion of innovative slangs that threatened to bubble past my throat and instead, handed her the thick wad of money. I want those enchanting eyes, I told myself.
But now as I sat, bored with watching the satin covered bottom of the bride in front of me, the idiot from the previous day walked into the room, chirping away in a high pitched tone. I was tempted to grab the hair dryer from my table and shove it down her throat. Unfortunately another parlour girl got hold of it first and started ferociously blowing hot air into my hair. When she stopped the motor, I told her timidly that I wanted my hair down and not in a bun. She threw up her arms and talked in their language to another girl, obviously irritated. A brief consultation with the magician herself followed, who paused her face-painting to briefly frown in my direction; and still recommended a light bun. I know for a fact that buns don't suit me. But I relented for the time being, telling myself, that the magician knows better. She's one of the lead make up artists in town after all. However, as the woman started piling up layers of spray-stiffened hair one atop another, the ghost in the mirror kept getting uglier and uglier. I revolted.
The magician was visibly irritated. But she was kind enough to send me off for a quick shampoo, following which there was another long wait. I had by now arrived on the verge of losing my temper; who wouldn't? Not only had I handed over a huge chunk of money but was also made to feel that they were doing me a big favour. 'Why can't I get my nails done at least?' I fumed at last and someone came to tend to me. She smeared a layer of foundation on my arms, making them resemble a badly painted wall. I waited patiently as the magician continued painting the face of another bride. Someone lead me to another chair, to do my hair in step setting (lotsa curls, stiffened by hair spray, tumbling down in layers). That's better than a bun, I sighed.
After another long wait, someone whisked me off to a different room to put on the sari and jewellery. Dressed at last, I breezed back into the make up room, less self conscious, more at ease. My turn with the magician FINALLY came. She spent exactly seven minutes on me, my eyes to be precise, but even that was half done. Another girl drew the kohl lines and gave the finishing touches of blush on, shimmer etc to finally make me look humanish.
By then it was almost 9pm, the other brides had left; my guests had already waited an hour; my mom was furious; the parlour girls were eager to throw me out. That was it. Eight thousand bucks, six hours' wait, for a seven-minute semi-eye-makeup. And I wouldn't have waited one more minute even if the magician had begged me to. But she didn't. She was as eager to flee as I was.
The ghost fled.
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