In Jo's Blog

Reluctant as I am to tell another beauty parlor story, I do have to share this one. Mainly because I don’t know what I think until I see what I say. And I want to understand this.

So there I was yesterday, getting my first trim, post Justine. I had returned to my old faithful parlor in Delhi and it had been like old home week when I entered. All the guys – the ones who do the pedicures – stopped what they were doing to come and say hello. The lady who does the shampoos hugged me. The woman who does my manicures was in tears. The woman who cuts my hair was thrilled I had stopped dyeing. Everyone wanted to know where Cathleen was.

I was sitting there being ministered to, with the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein, when suddenly a young woman strode in. She was talking loudly on the phone and she was furious, sarcastic, bitter, tearful and brutal by turns.

“Oh, so you can meet me for coffee, can you? And am I supposed to be overjoyed? Should I buy a necklace to celebrate?” She had now reached the chair where she was supposed to sit down. “Wipe the chair,” she hissed to the first guy she laid eyes on. “With a CLEAN towel, do you mind? Now bring another one and do it again.” Then she was back to her harangue. “I don’t need this. I’m close to a breakdown. I cannot BELIEVE you can treat me like this.”

By now, the basin of water for her pedicure had arrived. First the water was too hot. Then it was too cold. When the guy brought the basket of nail polishes for her to choose from, she barked at him as I have never heard anyone bark before. “Gadha! (Donkey!) Not THAT one. I told you! Dark shades! Why are you bringing pastels?”

If I hadn’t been witnessing it with my own eyes and ears, I would simply not have believed anyone could be so rude and obnoxious (and I am sparing you 90% of what I experienced). But as outraged as I was on their behalf, it slowly became clear to me that the parlor staff was taking no notice whatsoever. With the exception of the young man showing her the nail polishes, who was new, no one was even slightly bothered by her display of rage, pique and self-centeredness.

It went on and on. She seemed to have no end to the invective, unhappiness and blame she could produce. Everything was wrong and it was all someone else’s fault. To the staff, however, she was no more than an irritating little fly droning on and on. They exchanged glances, smirked if she wasn’t looking and carried on as if nothing was amiss.

But the lovely feeling I had been bathed in before her arrival was gone. Perhaps no one was taking her venom personally, perhaps no one thought differently about themselves just because she had no use for them, perhaps no one cared two hoots for her demented and deranged take on life –  but her impact was still apparent. No one was happy, no one could relax, no one was enjoying their work anymore.

And when she finally departed, the relief was palpable.

So I was left thinking about boats.

An old rowboat on a green bank, beside a lake

About metaphorical boats, meant to place unwanted cargo in, to be pushed out onto the lake of forgetting and forgiving.

But also about the little boat in the song I learned in childhood:

Happiness runs in a circular motion

Love is like a little boat upon the sea

Everyone is a part of everything anyway

You can be happy if you let yourself be.

We sang it in three-part rounds, complicated later by the addition of a nonsense line which nonetheless contained a profound truth:

Why oh? Because. Why oh? Because.

Why, oh, why didn’t that woman know this? She goes around – even into a beauty parlor! – spreading unhappiness and misery and ends up only compounding it for herself.

It made me think of my own choices (for I believe what the song says: you can be happy if you let yourself be) and how perilously close I come at times to slipping into unhappiness, not realizing how selfish a choice it is, forgetting how it adds to others’ unhappiness, choosing to ignore the role I have to play in this world.

Everyone is a part of everything anyway.

I like the rueful tone of the anyway. Like: it doesn’t matter if you agree or not, it’s still true.

And as much as I wanted to put that woman on a boat (preferably a leaking one) and push her out on the lake, at another, better, level, I wanted to give her a hug and tell her to get a grip: You are doing all this to yourself.

Circular motion. Let yourself be. Why oh? Because. Why oh? BECAUSE!



Showing 5 comments
  • Payal

    I believe we encounter such people in our lives for a reason: they role play to us how not to be so that we value the jewel of life that we have been given to find absolute happiness that no one/nothing can take away. People like the unhappy lady are in low life condition due to negativity arising out of hurt, fear, anger, envy etc. and act irresponsibly going around blaming the world for their woes. Just as you said the key to our happiness is in our own hands; similarly the key to our unhappiness is also in our own hands- she decided to unlock her life with the latter.
    To a large extent, she came into the life of the manicurist for a reason too- make him assertive and self-respecting professional- who would learn not to take nonsense from people just because they are clients and politely let rude people know that they are being rude. If he learns this lesson, it would polish his life too.

    Sorry for the rant- rude behavior just does my head in!!

    • Jo

      Payal, so true! I should have discussed it with the manicurist after she left – see what he was thinking about it all.

  • Liza Jabaley Johnson

    I like that song. What is the tune?

    • Jo

      Liza! Come to Dehradun and I will sing it for you!

  • Natasha Badhwar

    As soon as the woman entered the parlour, I thought, ‘Welcome to Delhi.’
    Yeh hai Dilli, meri jaan.

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