Sumalatha's story: A 'beautiful' life (needs a lot of hard work)

Sumalatha, a young mother of two from Banashankari, Bangalore, was married off very young (she does not say, how young but I suspect she was in her early teens). She is a 'mobile' beautician/expert masseur/stylist and makeup artist. That is, she meets clients at their homes, zipping around on her trusted Scooty Pep. 

 “My mother was an 'ayah', a woman who massages/bathes new mothers and their newborns. I did the same work too,” explains Sumalatha. At that time, she was still a teenager and already mother to a daughter. "Then a friend told me I must do more. So I saved up from my earnings and did a basic beauticians' course at a parlour in Kumaraswamy Layout." Armed with these new skills, she started offering home-made face packs, facials, beauty treatments, massages and even, bridal make-up, at clients' homes. 

Over time, her fame grew, completely  word-of-mouth. "My charges are lower than that offered by parlours. And I ensure I use good quality products," she says, matter of fact. Most of what she earns she has to plough back into the tools of her trade, and there are transport costs as well. So she is often working from early in the morning till late at night.

Ten years from when she began, Sumalatha now has two daughters and has graduated to conducting beauty workshops, sometimes, under the aegis of AWAKE--the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka, and at times, under schemes run by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike. She earns enough to send her older daughter (now 14) to boarding school and she is also training five girls as 'ayahs' "because there is so much demand for that particular service". 

Incidentally, Sumalatha herself is only 28 years old.  “We can do anything if we work hard,” she observes.

(This short piece was part of a larger article I did on beauty parlours and womens' empowerment, for The Hindu Sunday Magazine. Unfortunately, I couldn't include Sumalatha's story in that feature.)

Check out the TH piece here:

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