Nian Paul, MPhil Scholar, JNU

02/02/2017

We had booked an appointment with Rajni Ji the previous week and went to meet her for the discussion on demonetisation. She was not there and her shop was closed. We tried contacting her but she did not pick up the phone. So we thought it would be better to carry on the discussion with Blush Beauty Parlour where Chetana Naskar and Sonia had earlier visited. On their earlier visit they had talked to Gunika, daughter of the owner of Blush. They had a great discussion on how Gunika was able to open her own boutique and manage the parlour along with her mother. She accorded her achievement to her father who had helped her and her mother Pinky Ji to carry on their careers. When we reached the salon, we found an Afghan girl and a girl who looked like she was in her 20s waiting for the customers inside the parlour. The parlour was pretty big with an exterior space which acted as a space for the counter as well as the waiting room. This space also served as Gunika’s boutique before she got her own space. Both of the girls invited us in and we started talking to them about Pinky Ji and her whereabouts since we wanted an appointment with her.

Tabassum, lovingly called as Tabu, is a young adult in her 20s who has been living in the neighbourhood with her parents since her childhood. Her family is from Saharanpur and they have their family over there. Her father moved to the city in search of better job with his family and they have settled their base over here. She completed her education here and started working in and as parlour assistants in various places of South Delhi. When we introduced ourselves, she immediately caught the name in between and remembered about the area. In a nostalgic tone, she narrated her experience of working at places in and around Katwaria Sarai, IIT, SDA etc. She used to work inside the parlour of the IIT Campus, where people would amusingly call her ‘Didi’. She says how she always felt older to them though she was quite young, younger than the girls over there. It is quite interesting to see how these small observance of rules in the parlour by a lot of people have become common-sense. Tabu has been working in the parlour for the past six months and has seen the parlour through the tough times of demonetisation. When enquired about the experience during the demonetisation phase, she started with how difficult it was for her and the owner especially since the number of people coming to the parlour had gone down during the period. Later with the PayTm/digitization of the money, people started paying through that, rather who could afford to pay through that. Now the situation has become a little better and people have started paying through cash. She feels this digitization or PayTm-iszation has kind of wrapped people in its wave as when she goes to the private appointments, she prefers to get paid through PayTm. We wrapped the discussion there and left the place to meet Gunika.

When we reached the shop across the street, we saw a half-made shop, the interior of which were still in the process of being arranged. There were two men working on cloth pieces, probably the employees of the shop. We asked for Gunika to which they rang her and gave the phone to us. We came to know about her father’s sudden demise which has left the family broken and helpless. They were going through a tough time and Gunika excused the meeting for some other day. On talking to the tailors, we came to know that the shop which was Gunika’s dream would now be taken over by her elder sister on her brother-in-law’s insistence. The fate of the parlour is still in question, but the situation has turned the tables for both Gunika and her mother, who have lost their passion in the process. This was a little unsettling for us and we made our way back to Bosco, where our session was supposed to be held.

The session at Bosco started with everyone reading out their assignments from the last day and the discussion steered towards the magazine writing. Razia’s writing on body and public space seemed to be progressing in a strong manner and she is developing the essay with Sebanti’s help. We have asked her to add bits of her experience in other places on body and public space. We also discussed about a few things:

  1. a) Spaces of loitering in Khirkee and Hauz Rani
  2. b) Imagined spaces of loitering
  3. c) Food, etc.

We had a short discussion on the different heads under which we are planning to bring the writings of the magazine. Nargis narrated her experience of the wedding and started discussing about the various differences that have crept in with the influence of the local culture. We thought this would be a nice plan for the magazine and we asked her to elaborate and include the details of the wedding and provide a comparison of the weddings in Afghanistan and the Afghan weddings in India.