Continuing their father’s legacy, sisters break stereotypes and continue to run their father’s barbershop.
Jyoti Kumari, 14, and her 12-year-old sister Neha, had a tough decision to take, after their father suffered from a paralytic attack, that of running the family business - a barbershop. In a large city, women taking on what’s traditionally considered a man’s job could be deemed acceptable. But in a remote village like Banwari Tola in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, this was something that had never been done before.
“We used to visit our father’s barber shop regularly as kids. However, we never once imagined we’d be running it with real customers one day,” smiles Jyoti. After their father fell ill, the barbershop closed, but since it was the family’s main source of income, the girls decided to try their hand at running it themselves.
“We assumed that the villagers wouldn’t want to get a shave or anything from us because we were girls,” she adds. So, they disguised themselves as boys by cutting their own hair short, dressing up in a shirt and jeans, even adopting names of Deepak and Raju and re-opened the shop. Customers started trickling in, and word-of-mouth referrals made their business pick up.
“We picked up the razors to try our hand at shaving. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to try something that had never been done before,” says an assertive Jyoti. But the girls' initiative was not in vain. With the support from their father and one of their brothers-in-law, the girls continued to do both, attend school and adjust the shop timings around it. “We felt their support from the very beginning. They believed we could do it and guided us through everything from improving our skills to dealing with customers,” says Neha. “We couldn’t have done this without their open-mindedness and belief in us,” she adds smiling.
Today the girls are the toast of the village and business is bringing in the tidy sum of up to Rs 400 every day. The girls no more have to disguise themselves, in fact it is out there in the open. More importantly, there is a transformation in the customers, and the loyal patrons are back. 60-year-old Ram Dulare even makes the trip from the neighbouring village, “Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know they were girls. Now, it doesn’t matter. I’m here now and will keep coming back because they work hard, do a good job and charge reasonably,” he says.
His thoughts seem to be mirrored in the voice of Rakesh Gupta, another loyal customer who only just found out that his favourite hairstylist Raju was a girl “This shop is becoming famous, that when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to try it. I have to say, I’m impressed. These girls are not only as good but perhaps better than some of the other barbers I’ve been too,” he smiles. “I don’t mind making the trip and will be back soon,” he adds.
While the girls have come far from the ordinary village life, they continue to break stereotypes and are already planning their next business venture - a salon. Says Neha “We want to start our very own beauty parlour - somewhere anyone can come to colour their hair, get styled or even get their makeup done professionally.”
Hearing these testimonials about their daughters, parents Dhruv and Lilawati want this to be only the beginning for their girls. “People around the area have varied opinions. To me, my girls prove that they can match talent and hard work with anyone and are worth more than most sons,” he says.
Changing perceptions, breaking barriers, and finding their voice means that these girls are inspirational for both younger girls and boys and are grooming the next generation.
In partnership with #ShavingStereotypes
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Updated Date: Apr 28, 2019 20:09:38 IST