Thinlay Bhutia is a reluctant talker, at least on our maiden meeting. The only time she turns assertive is when she refuses to divulge her age. But for Asha, her manager at Natural Women’s Saloon and Spa, Thinlay is quite the star.
Thinlay pampers her clients, is soft-spoken and patient with them,” says Asha, before rushing in to add that there is magic in the fingers of the girls from the North East.
Spend a little time with Thinlay and one gets to see is her quiet efficiency at work. As the young customer sits in the chair for a hair-cut, Thinlay goes about her business with ease. There is no sweet talk, instead comfortable silence as she expertly combs, snips and works the blow-dryer. At the end of it, there is just a quick word or two to the girl and a smile. For the girl from Gangtok, Sikkim, Thinlay’s four years in the beauty industry has been a learning experience. It has taken her away from home, but she is no more homesick. “Now, I have got used to this. I also stay with my friends from the region, so I do not miss home anymore,” says Thinlay. “We cook at our flat, so food too is not missed.” Work has taken her to Coimbatore and Mangalore and Kozhikode is her third stop. “I like the beach. We do not have that back home,” Thinlay is cryptic.
After completing school when Thinlay opted for the beauty industry, she says there were not many like her in her hometown. “I liked it,” she says plainly about choosing the job. Probe a bit further and she explains the satisfaction it gives. “The best part is when you see your client totally relaxed. Mostly after a facial or a massage, I can see how relaxed they are,” says Thinlay. Asha pitches in, “Customers may or may not thank you. But when they are relaxed they sleep, forgetting their stress and work.”
Though a proficient make-up artist, Thinlay picks hair-dressing as her favourite part of the profession. Bridal make-up apparently is a minefield. With too many opinions and the pressure of looking good on the big day, bridals can be taxing, says the beautician.
“Working on the good hair-do of the bride is a challenge and so too the eye make-up. A perfect eye make-up is about blending well,” Thinlay keeps it simple. Asha explains, “The eye make-up should have hints of the costume colours but in such a way that that one is not able to point out the differentiating elements. That is what she means by blending.”
Unreasonable clients, who insist on appearances that do not suit them, do not appear to be a rarity either.
“I suggest changes and even try to convince them. But in the end it is the client’s satisfaction that matters.” However, the biggest hurdle for Thinlay in her early years here was Malayalam. “It is such a tough language and I understood nothing. Now it is much better,” she says.
Not being particularly expressive, one does not know if Thinlay has strong likes and dislikes about her clients here. But she still manages to say, “I think the women in Kozhikode are simple. I like their eyes and their curly hair.” If it is just a smile for what she dislikes, Asha does the talking for her, “She hates the oil in our hair.” Thinlay meanwhile is doubling up with laughter.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)