Ruby – For Beauty’s Sake
The Fausta salon stands rather conspicuously in cobbled, dusty by lanes of Vivek Nagar in West Delhi. It is one of the few large salons in the area flanked by tiny hardware and Xerox shops. Inside, 21-year-old Ruby is teaching four other young girls how to apply foundation.
The girls are nearly the same age as her and watch her patiently. After observing her for a bit, the students will pair up into groups and apply make up on each other. At the end of the class, they will look like divas, take pictures of themselves and then wash their face thoroughly before heading out to their respective homes.
“They don’t want someone to follow them back home,” says Ruby as a matter of fact. Ruby is well-aware of all the challenges her students face; up-until a few months ago, she was also a student just like them. Ruby, an alumnus, at the Government ITI, Hastsal had to convince her parents before she could pursue a course in ‘Basic Cosmetology’. “My father wasn’t keen as there exists a perception about parlour girls that they are ‘easy’. A few of them from our village in Bihar had eloped with their lovers. He didn’t want others to have such a perception of me,” adds Ruby describing the challenges at home.
Repeated pleas by Ruby, forced her parents to concede. But, Ruby faced another imminent challenge which women in patriarchal societies are forced to encounter; a lack of safety. “My friend and I, faced eve teasing on an everyday basis; we had to pass through the ‘Hastsal Park’ to reach the ITI and the park was filled with all the wrong sorts. Men would call out inappropriately and sometimes follow us. Winters were the worst as the fog made it hard to ascertain where the voice was coming from,” says Ruby recalling her harrowing commute.
Ruby never disclosed any of the safety concerns to her parents, who were already against the course. “The police was present in the park but we never felt safe. I sometimes carried a knife from home to feel safe and my mother often wondered where the knife had disappeared,” says Ruby highlighting the inability of many women to voice safety concerns despite facing grave threats every day.
Despite these challenges, Ruby managed to find a job post course completion in the ITI at the Fausta salon where she teaches other young girls cosmetology. She also gives them advice on how to cope with backlash at home. Ruby credits her self-confidence to the Employability Skills course at the ITI.
Things at home though have improved only marginally. Sunita Mishra, Ruby’s mother has never seen her daughter work at the parlour or teach other girls there. “ No one looks at girls working in a parlour in a nice way. I trust my daughter, but can I stop other people from talking? asks Sunita.
Ruby’s parents migrated from rural Bihar to Delhi more than a decade ago in search of new opportunities and hoped their daughter would someday get a government job. “ I don’t know whose hair she is pulling out. It is not a respectable job,” adds Sunita vehemently.
Ruby on her part claims that while her parents do appreciate the additional income she brings home every month, they don’t understand her love for make-up and all things related to the beauty industry. “I feel like this magician, who can with a stroke of a brush turn people to the best versions of themselves,” she adds.
As her mother chides her for walking out of the house with a deep red lipstick on, she shrugs and declares, “women mustn’t be afraid of feeling beautiful.”
Ruby currently works as a cosmetology instructor in an NGO and teaches 60 other young women how to make it in the beauty industry. She has completed an course in advanced cosmetology from NSTI, Jaipur and hopes to one day open her own chain of salons in Delhi.
RubyAlumni, Future Right Skills Network
“I learnt a lot about myself in the course and it was one of the most unique experiences of my life. It gave me the confidence to motivate other women to not give up on their dreams.”