Deft hands (Stories of our lives)

5 min read
02 May 2017
5 min read
864 words
From the Archive (Sept, 2016): All of Harimaya Tamang’s clients are her preferred clients, and they can be assured that they’ll emerge from her parlour looking radiant

Her 5 by 10 ft parlour, near the Chundevi temple, is crammed with a few cupboards, two mirrors, three chairs, a salon bed, a rag-tag sofa and a hair steamer, and there’s thus not much space for her customers, or her, to move around in. But her clients find the place very welcoming—most days, you’ll find most of them carrying on conversations they’d started during earlier visits, against a backdrop of strains of music coming from the grocery store next door. According to Harimaya, ambience is not enough to run a shop, though. “I believe that skill is of the utmost importance, and you have to be willing to exert yourself to improve your skills,” she says.

Harimaya’s first visit to a parlour was 17 years ago, when she first moved to Kathmandu from Sindhupalchok. She lived with her cousins and didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. However, in just a few months after that first visit, she had decided to become a beautician. “I had never heard of beauty parlours before. There were none in my village. But after I visited a few parlours with my cousins, I was determined to start working in a parlour. I just loved the idea of beautifying a person,” says Harimaya.

“My parents thought the idea of studying cosmetology was absurd. They told me that i was not qualified enough to even think of entering the field”

Despite the resistance she faced from her parents, Harimaya made plans to join a cosmetology institute. “My parents thought the idea of studying cosmetology was absurd. They told me that I was not qualified enough to even think of entering the field.” Undeterred, Harimaya went over to a cosmetology institute near where she lived to inquire about the classes herself. She then went to great lengths to convince her still-hesitant parents that she wouldn’t have problems with the training, and she did go on to do very well during her six-month course.

When she was done, Harimaya was eager to work in a professional beauty parlour. But working in a parlour for someone else did not pan out well. The training she had received from the institute clashed with her boss’ methods. This resulted in a fallout that prompted her to venture out on her own. Approximately three months later, she met a woman from her village who wanted to open a parlour in Chundevi. The two initially partnered up to open a parlour, but Harimaya later bought out her partner because her partner didn’t want to continue. 

For the past eight years, Harimaya has been running the parlour by herself. Although there have been instances where she brought in extra help, today, she prefers to work alone because she wants to focus on quality—she hasn’t seen the commitment to quality from the part-timers she has hired. 

And she’d rather keep focusing on the quality of her work than increasing the quantity of her clients. That business principle is bearing dividends for her: Her parlour is never empty. She treats every customer like she were a preferred client, and she always asks them for honest feedback after a job’s done. Harimaya wants to broaden her skillset even more and is currently thinking about learning how to do nail art. She has lost some of her younger clients to YouTube makeup tutorial channels, but she believes if she can provide nail-art services, she’ll get some of the youngsters back.

Harimaya’s husband works a blue-collar job in Saudi Arabia, so she’s essentially raising her two-year-old son on her own. But the way her business has been doing, she believes she will be able to ask her husband to return from the Gulf in the very near future—because she’ll make more than enough to take care of everyone in her family.