When society inflicts a lot of pressure on you by wrapping you up in traditional gender roles, it is difficult to pull yourself out of it and do something unforeseen in a man’s world. But something good always comes out of something terrible!
Another male bastion crunches as two teenage sisters from Gorakhpur, UP, take charge of their father’s shop in Banwari Tola village in Padrauna, Kushinagar, in the guise of boys.
Life Beyond Numbers spoke to sisters Jyoti (18) and Neha (16), who picked up scissors not by choice, but out of necessity to shave off poverty.
Fate took a sharp turn when two sisters decided to step in to father Dhruv Narayan’s shoes, who suffered a paralysis stroke in 2014. Neha and Jyoti were 11 and 13 back then. “He had a paralysis stroke after he went for a second marriage,” says Jyoti. (Even though marriage and paralysis are not connected, but you get the drift.)
“Our father decided to close the shop while we were still studying in a school. The financial condition was such that we were left with no other option but to open the shop and work there as a barber,” says Jyoti.
To avoid prejudices and criticism, Jyoti started working in the guise of a boy and was later joined by Neha. On asking why she had a boyish haircut, she says, “For last 5 years we have been working in the shop. Previously, we had no idea about haircut or shaving. I have 6 sisters and they are married off. We don’t have a brother and therefore, we had to take men’s jobs in order to survive,” she says.
While Jyoti has dropped out after class 12, Neha is still continuing with her studies at Janta Inter College Dhuriya School and also managing the shop. Neha says, “It becomes difficult at times to attend school as well as continue with our shop. It is only after 3 pm that I am able to pick up scissors.”
And what these sisters have been doing to make their customers comfortable? These girls have kept their hair short and are dressed as boys. This made it easy for both the sisters to run the shop smoothly without drawing much attention. But, recently when their gender identity was revealed, their own relatives criticized them for their choices.
“Male customers here are not used to getting a haircut from a woman. Therefore, I changed my name as Deepak aka Raju to hide my identity. Neha was hesitant in the beginning to join as a barber but now she also works here,” says Jyoti.
When asked how much they make at the end of the day, Neha says, “Previously it was a makeshift shop but now we have turned it into a salon. We hardly earn 200-300 rs per day and it becomes difficult to bear the expenses of the whole family with this money. Also, we have to bear the expenses of our father’s treatment.”
There is always a feeling of elation when we create something new. These girls are not working as a barber to send a message, they are only making the best of their situations.
Neha and Jyoti do not ask for a comfortable life but wishes to open a beauty parlor one day in hope that it will be a better and a dignified source of livelihood for them.
If you wish to help them financially, you can reach out to us at – firstname.lastname@example.org.