There are uncountable websites, forums and blogs dedicated to R2I. People have innumerable reasons to go back to India, or stay in the US. There are miles-long debates on how much money to make before going back. Heartrending accounts of helpless parents that need to be taken care of back home. Endless discussions about children growing up here versus there. Scary stories about immigration hassles and visas and legal complications. Heated arguments about spouses and meddlesome in-laws and food and grocery shopping and family vacations and even Indian vs. Western clothes. In my quest to understand the challenges and issues of R2I, I have read them all. And yet, not one has talked about one of my primary- and very important- motivators to go back to India. The cheap cost of the beauty parlor!
It was effortlessly easy to get all my beauty needs met in India. Homemade beauty parlors have sprouted in every gali-nukkad in most every city there. Usually, some enterprising woman has converted her verandah/outhouse/ garage into serving as a makeshift beauty salon, where inexpensive, but almost always great, service was rendered. Body hair irritating me- step in for a quick waxing session. Need eyebrows done in an emergency, walk around the corner to the parlor. Ladke-waale coming over to meet without prior notice - one quick phone call, and the parlor lady cycled home. Within an hour or two, I was transformed from a hirsute disheveled mess into a well-groomed gleaming specimen of womanhood.
I was so used to taking these luxuries for granted. Imagine my shock when I landed in the USA and found out that eyebrow threading would cost me $20, as opposed to Rs. 20 in India. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. As a poor grad student, I quickly learnt that waxing, facials etc. would now be done once a year- on my yearly trip back home. I became adept at using tweezers (or as we call it in India, the plucker), for everything from stray eyebrow hair to my budding moustache. I managed to survive on that one solitary yearly facial, umm, two now, one the day I landed in India and one the day I flew out.
However, as I grow older, I find the need to add more and more stuff to my beauty regimen. Regular hair coloring, for one. My growing beard, for another. Monthly facials to firm up that sagging skin. Bi-weekly eyebrow threading- can’t turn up in office looking like a frowning bear. Not to mention the manicures and pedicures to have decent looking hands and feet. Cleaning up hairy arms and legs (this atleast gets a brief respite in winter).Throw in an occasional massage, a few bleaches, a couple of face scrubs, and the bill can run to hundreds of dollars.
Yes, aging is expensive business. But it is all the more expensive in this country, where I have to spend $300 to look like I did naturally 3 years ago! Women in India, count your blessings and thank your stars. Last time I was there, I spent a total of Rs. 2000’ish for everything (yes, you got it. Every single thing mentioned above, and a few unmentionable ones as well ;-) ). The joys of living in a small, inexpensive town in India! I would have spent upward of $500 for all the same stuff here.
I know that as more time elapses, my reliance on my beauty parlor will only increase. As age spots show up on my skin, more grey hair gives me minor strokes, when I see crow’s feet emanating from my eyes, all I will do is run for help. Straight into the nearest beauty salon!
Which is why I wonder, why is such an important topic not being discussed? Given the high cost of living in the US (I live in Silicon Valley, CA, which is ridiculously expensive), every little thing matters. When we talk of saving money, how can we not account for the fact that this aging business will make us spend much more over time (ever noticed how expensive hair color is)? This is the one thing that will matter more and more as time goes by.