Here are some shocking stories of social and professional injustices meted out to North-eastern girls in nail bars.
‘My landlord refers to me as a bar girl’
I came to Delhi two years ago. Back then I had joined a spa but now I have shifted to a nail bar. I am also studying to be a nail technician and pursuing a course from the academy run by madam in whose salon I work.
I am paid less than most other girls in the nail bar who are from Delhi. There are few from Agra as well. Whenever I have tried to hint on my low salary I am told that I don’t have a certificate course, though this seems arbitrary — some of the girls promoted have certificates and some don’t.
The working conditions are tough. We are expected to be in before the nail bar opens but mostly we are asked to clean and take stock of equipment long after the salon is closed. Since most of my money and savings go in my course there is little I can do. The bias is all-prevalent.
Most of the ladies who come for manicures treat me like a servant. They don't even call me by my name and refer me as ‘hey you, or that girl.’
My colleagues laugh it off by saying that I have a tough name to pronounce.
Working in a nail bar comes with its share of stigmas. My landlord introduces me to other people saying she works in a bar or that she is a bar girl. I have corrected him several times that I am a nail artist and work in a nail bar.
But I know his jibes are intentional. I am waiting to finish my course so that I can go back to Manipur and set up a manicure parlour in my house.”
Tenzin Namgyal (25) from Manipur
‘I fear for my health as I work with nail dust 9 hours a day’
I work in a small nail bar that is ensconced in one of the plushest markets in the city. Despite this, the place is poorly lit, has little ventilation and there are no safety measures like fire exists.
We are five girls and all of us are from Northeast. We are surrounded by flying nail dust all the time and are not provided with masks or protective glasses. Even the disposable gloves we use are recycled.
All this makes me wary about my health but I am scared to question the owner as it may cost me my job. Our work requires straining our eyes for a long time but we are given breaks only when there is low client inflow.
It’s been two years since I’ve been working in the same nail bar but there are no bonus or extra perks save some tips that the clients give us.
I was told initially that I will be paid a bonus on Diwali but the owner shrugged off my request saying that you do not celebrate Diwali. On Christmas I mostly leave for my hometown the question of bonus does not arise. It’s a tough job but one has to carry on.
Pema Williams (28) from Assam
‘It took me years to recover my nail technicians’ course fee’
I am now working with a nail academy-cum-nail salon and the conditions here are much better. I have been working for many years in nail salons and the most challenging thing remains the salary.
In my earlier establishments I was paid much less and despite being the only one with a reputed certificate course I was never promoted. I was always told that since I am not familiar with the north Indian language I cannot be given a more responsible role.
Many of my friends are still getting Rs. 10,000 despite having worked for 2-3 years because they are stuck with smaller nail bars, which believe in exploiting the non-locals.
The conditions outside the industry are not rosy as we are often asked to shell out advance rent for many months, something most girls can’t afford with their low salaries.”
Alisha Nanking (26) from Nagaland
(Some names have been changed to protect identities)