Driven by compulsions, sisters in India dress as boys, run men’s salon

Manoj Chaurasia
Manoj Chaurasia
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Two teenaged girls from India have emerged as role model for the society due to their sheer grit and determination. They run gents’ hair cutting salon to ensure their family doesn’t starve and they could complete their study.

There’s a catch though – the girls, both sisters, didn’t come into the business on their own but rather by compulsion after their father Dhruv Narayan who was running the barber shop suddenly suffered serious paralytic attacks five years ago. He remains confined to his bed.

Narayan was running the shop smoothly at his native Banwari Tola village in Kushinagar, an eastern district of Uttar Pradesh. It was with the income generated from this small salon that he solemnized the marriage of four of his six daughters.

Now, his lone responsibility was his two daughters, Jyoti Kumari, 13 and Neha Kumari, 11 who were enrolled in local government-run school then. But life took a sharp turn in 2014 when Narayan suffered serious paralytic attacks which left him on the bed.

With their ancestral hair salon abruptly shut and no alternative source of income available, their family came to the brink of starvation. It was then that the elder daughter decided to do something. She mulled the option of restarting her father’s hair cutting salon.

But, it was not easy to step into male bastion. All she was familiar with was the old family profession of hair cutting but she had not tried her hand at giving men a shave.

She had no option either as fleeing from the challenge would mean untimely end to their academic career as well as survival of the family. So she first and learnt the basic tricks of shaving and hair cutting.

Finally, Jyoti decided to take challenges head-on. But she faced one major problem, which was how to handle male customers? She devised a new idea and underwent a complete transformation overnight!

She dressed herself as males, sported boy’s hairstyle, wore stainless steel bracelet in hand which the youths do and also wrapped colorful holy threads around her wrist to look like boys before resuming her father salon and getting into the job.

Today everyone is familiar with the girls handling gents but they only heap praise on them for their brave acts. (Supplied)
Today everyone is familiar with the girls handling gents but they only heap praise on them for their brave acts. (Supplied)

She also changed her name as “Deepak” and behaved like a boy to dodge male customers and preempt any possible nuisance by them.

Sometime later, her younger sister too joined her profession. By the time, the people came to know about their reality, the sisters had well settled in the business and gained enough confidence.

Today everyone is familiar with the girls handling gents but they only heap praise on them for their brave acts, which extricated their poor family out of sheer financial mess.

Tough job

“It was indeed a tough job to shave beards and get gents’ hair cut but I had no option. But for my initiative, my family would have died of starvation. Today I am happy to inform you that that I am not only meeting all expenses of my parents but also treating my father from the income generated from this hair cutting salon,” says Jyoyi alias Deepak who has passed grade 12 examination. Now, her younger sister Neha too has joined the profession.

According to Jyoti, she faced many challenged when she decided to handle male customers due to lack of any options.

“The overall situation was so tough in the beginning that I had to undergo a complete transformation and change my physical appearance to look like a boy. Today everyone knows that we are girls but we don’t fear anything since we have gained enough confidence now,” she adds. She earns something between Rs400 to Rs500 per day.

Their mother Leelavati Devi is proud of their daughters. “I am proud of the way they bravely ran hair cutting shop and extricated the family out of crisis. It’s due to them we are alive,” said Leelavati.

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