Thursday, July 22, 2010

No escape…

A Pakistani advertisement for a fairness cream 

In the two years that I have been in Islamabad I have figured that there is no escaping the beautiful portly women who run beauty salons, boutiques and fitness centres.

Last week I was handed a “pink slip”, perhaps for the twentieth time in twenty months, by yet another woman who promised the moon to me at her salon, even though I have no desire of being there just yet.

I flashed my make up-less smile at my savior, my liberator, my nurturer trying to tell her that she was wasting her beautiful pink visiting card on me. But my savior persisted. “I’ll give you a 15 per cent discount!” I gave up and let her indulge me.

She quickly checked me out disapproving of everything that she saw of me. “You need to colour your hair,” she announced. “It’s important to look glamourous. Otherwise your husband will eye other women.”

I smiled at the thought of my husband with four wives. Poor him, I said to myself. Imagine how my un-coloured hair could change his fate.

“But my husband hates coloured hair,” I argued. “Wait till he sees the colouring,” she gleamed.

My saviour also advised me that I should not neglect my feet and hands and should keep my nails painted at all times. “You should take care of what God has given you,” she said. But isn’t painting nails un-Islamic? I teased her. She told me a fresh coat could be applied after performing ablutions. Five times a day? I rechecked. “It just takes a couple of minutes,” she retorted.

Before parting she told me the economics of a minor makeover – just about the same as I would spend on four paperbacks. “This is expensive!” I told her. “You have a lot at stake too,” pat came the reply.

On stake is my marriage – never mind that my husband prefers my make-up less natural, un-coloured hair look. I am sure there are many others like him too.

This, of course, wasn’t my first encounter with “evil” influences. I have had other rich wives of the famous go into the whys and hows of being “tip-top”. The arguments, which sound like folklore, unfortunately run through our subcontinent. Almost always the bottomline is: the going is good for women who look good and who dress good.  

I dread to think about how many nice and normal women fall for this trap. It’s so easy to make women insecure and waste resources, including precious time, at these salons – little realizing that hair colour cannot change the DNA of a man who is looking for a fling, an affair, or another wife.

If beauty salon owners weren’t enough to ruin my stay in Islamabad, I’ve had women cornering me on another equally dreadful query: where do you shop for clothes? Before I can even attempt an answer they vomit a list of places to shop at. I politely nod my head and try and look guilty when I hear the “Oh! You haven’t been there? Oh! You’ve never heard of that?”

I also bump into wannabe designers who dismiss my sartorial sense with practiced ease. “This is out,” a fashion-savvy wife told me recently. How can I wear a short trouser when it is un-Islamic? I poked her back. “You can always change when you have to pray,” she suggested. The Taliban may come and get me, I joked. “It’s fashion. Everyone wears it,” she snapped.

She even offered to accompany me on my next shopping trip and help me find the right clothes. Thankfully I have not bumped into her since.

Though I am yet to be personally counselled by women who run fitness centres, I have heard of others being warned to get back into shape to keep their husbands from straying like tomcats. I know women who have somehow managed to squeeze in an hour at a gym, missing out on precious family time, to keep their skins aglow and their husbands at home...


  1. Fun read. Like you said, this is a growing subcontinental affliction. The salons I used to go to in Delhi/Mumbai/Thane were eternally disappointed that I would visit just once every couple of months for a haircut and little else. And these salons seem like independent microcosms, little parallel universes. Every time you go you realise that people working there are intimately acquainted with every little detail of most customers' lives! Many women seem to unload their emotions on the hairdressers and manicurists in the several hours they spend there every week.
    Now that we're in the West, I realise South Asia has just been trying to catch up to this part of the world. In Toronto you can't swing a cat without hitting a nail bar or hair salon. You'll spot them every few paces right through the city and its suburbs.

  2. ha ha the painted delights...reminds me of my cousins when they went into utter shock, " you don't apply makeup" if that decides the number of days we'd be in this world!

  3. I guess the aunty ji's in Islamabad need to be told that men will be always men. No matter how pretty their own wife is, a man will always want another woman!!!

    As my wife likes to put it in a subtle manner....All you men are B_ _ T _ _ DS!!!!!

  4. Rupa, thanks for reading. Wasn't aware that women "unload" themselves there :)

    A New Beginning, you don't apply makeup???!!! (*wink*)

    Anonymous, that's subtle indeed!

  5. And these are just the Isloo aunties... Imagine if you ever live in Lahore or Karachi for long enough!!!


  6. Lol..could totally relate to the shocking reactions you must have got to the "no makeup" preferred style!!

    Wierd that people trust outer appearances over the real person...but then that is human nature ;-)

  7. hahahah very funny, thats a good idea take someone to shop at their dime and , shake up some hefty moolah out of them :D hahaha. Funny blog " my husband with 4 wives" hahahahah
    stay safe .....

  8. My eyes, my eyes. Pray where did you find the tin of Habshi Amazing, Waqi Amazing Hai Creme?