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UK nation of hairdressers?

PTI | ByDr Saumya Balsari, London
Nov 22, 2004 08:50 PM IST

We are already a nation of drivers, mortgage-payers and obese people, so why not hairdressers, argues Dr Saumya Balsari.

A news headline from a few days ago reads 'UK will not turn into nation of hairdressers, says Govt'. This is confusing. I thought this was a nation of shopkeepers. Shopkeepers are indispensable. They stay open and some stock coconut oil and coriander. Can 'Sweetey's Hair and Nail Bar' ever take the place of the corner shop?  Were any of us aware that the Government could make curling tongs as mandatory as TV licenses? It was Dryden who said, 'But 'tis the talent of our English nation/Still to be plotting some new reformation'.

Reading further, I had soon solved the mystery (one sometimes does with headlines). At a debate on off shoring organised by the National Outsourcing Association, the Head of the Department of Trade and Industry's Trade in Services unit said: "I do not think we are looking at a doomsday scenario of a nation of hairdressers." His remark addressed the concern that there would be a dearth of homegrown specialist IT skills within the UK due to outsourcing to low-cost offshore locations such as India.

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I feel compelled to defend hairdressers. Hairdressers have had a raw deal (the phrase 'having a bad hair day' is commonly used after a visit to the salon). They are perceived as friendly humans who listen attentively, meet a mirror image of a person's eyes squarely, and then do quite the opposite of what they should. How is that a hair's breadth different from the politician?

Are hairdressers any less worthy than IT specialists? We are already a nation of drivers, mortgage-payers and horizontally challenged (obese) beings, so why not hairdressers?  There is a need for more hairdressers in every village, town and city of these fair isles. Why else do we tear our hair out and wait for weeks for an appointment?  Indeed, the entire nation could turn to DIY coiffure instead of investing in dual water and pebble features and Japanese rock gardens.

We would watch the Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh of hairdressing on television and then rush off to our diffusers and mousse and sculpting gels. There would be hair-raising new entertainment on hair…er…sorry, air. 'The Tee-Gee Factor' would replace 'The X-Factor', and a new series launched:  'I Was a Celebrity, Now I'm A Ceramic Hair Straightener, Get Me Out of Here', 'Six Feet Under…The Hairbrush' and 'Have I Got News For You …It's Dandruff!' As for Bollywood, there would be 'Bride and Hair' and a sequel 'Hair - Kal Ho Na Ho.'

(Saumya Balsari is the author of the comic novel 'The Cambridge Curry Club', and wrote a play for Kali Theatre Company's Futures last year. She has worked as a freelance journalist in London, and is currently writing a second novel.)

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