India: Getting My Hair Did

I take mostly calculated risks in life.  Actually, they are very calculated risks, to the point where you might not even be able to call such things "risks" anymore.  Being in India has certainly forced me to lighten up a bit in this arena because one rarely has all, or even half, of the information needed to make an "informed" decision.  Despite my previously mentioned adventures, I'd say this past Sunday upped the ante on entertainment mixed with fear.  I had my hair dyed at the hotel salon.

Couldn't this have waited another month until I returned to the safety of my stylist's hands back in Chicago?  I thought so.  But after having to get dolled up for a client meeting on Friday I was not feeling 100% polished, and frankly, sometimes that is the biggest value I'm bringing to the board room table here (but more on that later).  Between the India-acquired gray hairs and the brassy tone bequeathed to me by the very questionable water, the 'do was looking underdone.

The salon is adjacent to the hotel gym so after a workout I dropped in to see if they offered hair coloring services.  Indeed, the do.  Yet I was in the market for semi-permanent color only.  If the color ended up being a total disaster at least let's pick a product that will wash out within weeks (or maybe days, given the water potency.)  

Confirming that I could get semi-permanent color was the first of many vignettes that illustrated this was not your average American salon experience.  For starters, the only woman in the whole shop was the person working the front desk.  This is the exact opposite of any nail bar you visit in the States, right?  I thought she'd be able to answer my color question but she was utterly clueless.  Well, thank goodness for Amit.  Our first few sentences had me double- and triple-thinking my color pursuit but he soon emerged as a very knowledgeable colorist.  So knowledgeable, in fact, that within seconds I was in the salon chair and color was being mixed.

While Amit is slathering color on my "very soft hair" he asks me if I'm sure I want to go darker than what I'm currently sporting.  I gently tell him we're past the point of determining future hair color since half my scalp is dark with gel.  He laughs and then says, "Oh, it's just that all the foreign women always want lighter hair, blonde, you know.  They all want lighter."  All the foreign women except this one!  I'm not ready for that kind of hair risk here!

Amit continues to apply color.  I suddenly feel someone taking off my shoes.  Sunil has dropped by to give me a pedicure.  I've had a pedicure here before and once you get past the 50 year old man painting your toenails, it's a rather good end product, as pedicures go.  But here's the thing with pedicures by 50 year old men: they are not the least bit relaxing or gentle.  So at one end I have Amit pulling my very soft hair left and right while at the other end I've got Sunil using 25 grit sandpaper as a stand-in for a pumice stone.  

Eventually it's time to wash out the color.  In steps Rajesh because Amit is now occupied with three madams who are getting all done up for some event - anything from going to lunch or perhaps a big wedding.  First, let's cover the madams.  

  • Madam #1 is wearing hideously gaudy jewelz, yes, with a "z."  That's the best way to classify them.  She's in a rather nice dress, though, and is also having her hair colored.  Hers looks pretty nice so I'm starting to get my hopes up about mine.  All in all, she's pretty tame.
  • Madam #2 looks to be a daughter.  She's got hair that's three feet long and stick straight.  She's in the salon to have a blow-out.  Who is doing her hair?  A child.  Seriously, this kid could not have been a day over 12.  He could hardly reach the top of her head and #2's impatience got the best of her.  In short order she was taking the brush out of the boy's hand, styling her own locks, and commandeering other salon guys to bring her styling tools from other stations.  I'm too scared to even touch my hair after my Chicago stylist has done her thing but here's #2 having no issue with basically telling everyone they suck at their jobs.  After all this fuss to get the hair straight she immediately piles it in a bun on top of her head.  What the hell.
  • Madam #3 is the Indian equivalent of a country club tennis wife.  She's in some horrible shift dress that you know she paid way too much for, which made her all the happier.  She's got on Jackie O sunglasses - in the WINDOWLESS salon - and is wandering about.  I really don't know what she was getting done but she was amusing to watch, nonetheless.
Now back to Rajesh and me.  He's tossing my head about in the shampoo sink bowl like it's a football.  Arguably, the best part of getting your hair done is the shampooing.  But not with a 50 year old man at the helm.  I think I may have come away with a bruised neck.  His quick head and neck massage in the chair might have soothed the pain but that was just as forceful as the shampooing.  Did I mention that while this was happening Sunil was back to finish the pedicure?  I thought of what this must look like to a fly on the wall.  Ridiculous, for starters.  And secondly, I was beginning to feel a bit like a kept woman who spends her days waltzing about the hotel and having multiple members of the hotel staff finessing her appearance.  I get it.  This is Asian hospitality at its peak and some people adore it.  I'm just trying to get by while still maintaining some sense of independence.

Rajesh finishes assaulting my head.  Sunil has scrubbed my feet to layers of flesh pinker than Matt's polo shirts.  (To be fair, walking these streets requires serious clean-up.)  Amit waves me back to his station and now the moment of truth: hair drying to reveal the final color.

My toes practically sparkled as I left the salon with the richest looking dye job and the most perfectly coiffed blow out I have ever had.  I guess I'm really ready for the board room now.

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