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A BIG cause of cheer in my neighbourhood recently, a picturesque area pretty far out from the centre of Delhi, was the opening of Affinity Salon. A big beauty parlour chain arriving signals two things: A) we're not all that far anymore; B) we're many more of us living here so even better things can be expected soon (like a Food Bazaar). It's not like Chhattarpur doesn't have parlours: it just doesn't have the kind of salons you see all over the rest of Delhi. They tend to be slightly dodgy and musty with shuffling staff and questionable hygiene. And the truth is, even if mankind ever colonises the moon, most women will shift only once a nice salon opens there.
I'd like to talk about one salon service in particular, the one that women the world over are just crazy about — the blow dry. No effort is too much for cascading hair, spun out, to create a bouncy, shiny head full of silky hair. In India, healthy long hair has always been a sign of beauty. In fact, many French hairstylists who opened in India quickly got frustrated since Indian women, even the most experimental ones, are very conservative in how they wear their locks. Short hair has shockingly few takers. If length doesn't waver, sometimes the colour does, with streaks and highlights, mostly with disastrous consequences. The blow dry, however, never goes out of fashion. If you want a change, you can get it poker straight, or curled into ringlets. Blame it on Jennifer Aniston or Aishwarya Rai — their perfectly set and styled hair set the trend.
I have many friends who are ruled by their hair blow dry. No matter what their day involves, they will fit in a trip to the salon twice or thrice a week. I'm not talking about entitled airheads who are killing time, but busy professionals with deadlines. No matter what, they work around it. One friend, I know if I call her at 11 am on any Saturday, my voice will be drowned out by the whirring of the hairdryer. After finding most salons shut by the time she finishes work, someone else I know has struck a deal with a freelance hairstylist, who comes to her house at 10 pm to give her the blow out at Rs 1,000. Recently, another gym pal told me in all seriousness that she can only work out thrice a week, or her hair will get all sweaty. Her schedule as a lawyer doesn't permit her to wash and blow dry more than twice a week and it's out of the question for her to let it dry naturally. Now, there's a product called dry shampoo that I suspect is going to be a big hit with blow-dry addicts. Like the name suggests, you can wash your hair without wetting it. One of the best perks of working for a TV station, like I did many years ago, is access to a 24-hour salon, where, in keeping with the demands of a news channel, hairstylists worked lightning fast with the dryer.