He was on the threshold of having the ‘perfect’ job. Young and raring to go, nothing could mar Sanjay’s happiness, except his nose. Too flat, he thought, and might not leave a good first impression on his bosses — something he was not willing to compromise. So off he went to a cosmetic surgeon, and got his nose fixed.

“I was in an accident a few years back because of which I got the boxer nose,” Sanjay (name changed) said. A well-built man in his late 20s, he says that while his other scars healed, he had to suffer long because of his nose. “People often mistook me to be an aggressive kind of a person, someone who gets into a fight a lot because of my nose. It was killing my confidence. When I got the job in a multinational company in Dubai, I was more than happy, but was worried that the first impression on my boss and colleagues would be negative. So I decided to get my nose fixed,” he said.

Similarly, Animikha (name changed) went for a surgery to make her lips look fuller, because she believed her looks were coming in way of her confidence. “No amount of counselling by my family and friends could give me that boost of confidence I needed for a job interview in the hospitality sector for which a pleasant look is very important. So I went ahead for a surgery.”

Sanjay and Animikha are part of an increasing tribe of people, especially youngsters, who believe that looking good is just as important as anything else to get a job of their choice, and are willing to go under the knife to have an edge over their competitors. Doctors say that there has been a 20-25 per cent rise in such cases, every year, over the last two-three years.

According to Sunil Choudhary, director of aesthetic and reconstructive surgery at Max Super Speciality hospital, over the years the concept of cosmetic surgery has gradually changed from looking young to looking in shape.

Elaborating on the kind of cases he gets, the doctor said that majority of them come for changes in their facial appearance. “Men come with two main demands — removal of a scar or stitch mark on the cheek or forehead, or improvement of a crooked nose,” Dr. Choudhary said. Scars, he however adds, cannot be removed but “made to look better”.

“In case of women, they mostly want to make their face more appealing. For instance, if someone has a masculine or bulbous nose, they would ask to make it more soft looking. Those with slim faces may go for cheek enhancement, and some, who are very thin, may go for breast surgery to look more mature. It also boosts their confidence,” he added.

Removal of tattoos is another popular request doctors come across. “It’s mostly those who had got a tattoo in their 20s, before they have settled down in their life and career who come for removal,” says Kuldeep Singh, senior consultant in the cosmetic surgery department of the Apollo hospital. Tattoos are not viewed approvingly in the work sphere, say young professionals.

According to Dr. Choudhary, the majority of patients coming to him for such changes are going into the field of marketing, public relations, communications and even human resources, and mostly come from the middle income group. The cost of such surgeries varies in accordance to the complexity of a case. So a scar removal may cost Rs. 50,000, while a nose job can cost between Rs.1.5-2 lakh.

But is this a healthy trend? “As long as Body Image Disorder is ruled out — when a person is obsessed with his look and despite no flaw, attributes all his failures to it — it is alright,” says mental health expert Sameer Malhotra, adding that many a time he has patients referred by cosmetic surgeons to deal with such a problem.

Even then, sociologist Ela Sinha is not sure about this trend. “Confidence is something that comes from within. Looks can hardly determine your capability, and potential employers know that”.

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