If a clairvoyant were to tell me that I’d learn the most eye-opening lesson of my life in a beauty parlour, I’d definitely scoff and snicker.
However, life throws you a wicked curveball when you least expect it.
A day ago, I decided to finally get a manicure-pedicure done as my nails and toes had been looking unkempt and downright dirty lately.
It’s only when I turned 21 that I became hyper-aware of my outward appearance. It’s as if I came alive with the fact that if I dress well and look well, I’ll also feel well.
Hence, I booked an appointment at Silverine salon. It’s renowned in my home town, Jaipur, and the interior is what you’d expect any high-end parlour to have: warm yellow lights, some pristine, white couches and an army of grinning individuals at your beck and call.
Since all this was new to me, I tagged my best friend, Palak, along. The fear of being judged for keeping a reckless nail regime and the desire to chat with someone I was comfortable with made me do so.
We both were escorted to high-back cream-coloured chairs and asked to dip our feet in tepid water in a washbasin-sized bowl that had been dug into the floor.
The manicure-pedicure artists arrived and started working on my horrid nails and toes. The satisfaction of finally getting a mani-pedi done and the tiredness of the day caught up to me and I dozed off.
I woke up to Palak’s mellifluous giggles. I looked to my right and witnessed Palak and the woman working on her nails talking amicably.
My inferiority meter spiked and I was left wondering why I had not exchanged pleasantries with the young woman who was now smearing cream on my legs.
I said nothing but my ears did all the work. I eavesdropped until I realized that Palak was genuinely curious to know about Seema. With a forlorn look in her eyes, Seema told Palak that she had originally wanted to be a painter. Palak’s kind soul reacted and exclaimed-“You’re a painter, all right! My nails and toes are your canvasses and you can paint them however you want!”
Her compliment visibly brightened Seema’s day and she continued doing her job with the most content smile on her face.
I slumped more in my seat. This salon session did not feel like an adventurous expedition anymore. It felt like I was being coached on how to be a better person because I did not know how to be one, until that moment.
The girl who was now drying my hands looked me in the eyes and smiled politely but I barely smiled back.
Some questions were wreaking havoc in my mind.
Was I impassive and apathetic? Didn’t I have the courage to forge relationships with people who worked for me? Even at home, when my maid would work around the house, I’d barely notice her. What was her life like without being connected to mine and my parents’? And, how could I have been unkind to people who did what I’d ask them to do?
While admiring my now-shiny nails that had been cut to perfection, I asked Palak in the car why she was talking so animatedly to Seema and her reply changed the person I had once been.
“Why shouldn’t I? If I can afford to be kind to her, I will be. Did you see how I made her smile and how she made me chuckle with the stories of her pickiest clients? We both made each other’s day! That’s what I think kindness is!”
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