In the early 1980s, Shimla was a town that boasted about many things and the one chic place to hangout at was The Mall, much before the Shopping Mall culture spread out to every nook and corner of the country.
The open arcade road was a stage where everyone had a role to play. Some paraded, others just witnessed sitting in the wings. Hearts were set aflutter by a mere glance or just the accidental shoulder rub, which indeed was ’the moment’ that went down into the annals of many romantic diaries.
A high point of entertainment was watching people strut endlessly from Gainda Mall to the Scandal point for hours on end.
However, the daily make believe enactments paled out before the weekend sojourns of the bold and vivacious Bedians.
They took the parading to another level altogether. Fashion statements were made with elan and hair styles displayed turned into a season signature with a comical craze, where just a whirl or maybe a rakish curl was set out to express that I have stepped out on this road to be the best.
Being part of the milieu, we considered ourselves as fashionable or so we thought. But styling hair was rare and something new not only for us but also for all the aspiring to-be models and also for the lone beauty parlour on The Mall – the high end fashion street that most Simlaites strolled upon for their daily fix.
The days of beauty treatment that involved threading and cutting hair as a necessity were soon to be over.
A very chic Bombayite Bedian, one fine day, decided to get her hair styled at the Deluxe Beauty Parlour by Ashok ji. The Mall’s young hairstylist had a reputation even then and the parlour in the early 80s was the place to be to for all your beauty treatments.
The young maiden, in touch with the fashion of the times, had her hair styled out with much patience applied in using a rickety hair dryer and a prickly thorny hairbrush that had seen better days.
The looks that came through after the long exercise was two tight sausage rolls that framed Bedian beauties face on both sides while the remaining hair was curled inwards.
Stepping out from the parlour, straight onto The Mall, with a cola in one hand and a cigarette in the other, the style statement was completed by boldly going for a stroll on the famous street and then walking all the way back to St Bede’s College at the other end of the town.
The incident created a buzz in all of Shimla, for with every step the girl took, a small scandalous history she made.
Where the three hours of notorious fame of the Bombay girl were short-lived, the parlour and Ashokji became famous overnight.
For the next decade, women from the age group of 15 to 75, proudly donned the two sausages style on either side of their faces with the stylist one improvising his art with each sausage that he doled out over the years since the early experimentation.
The bold and beautiful of the town took pride in walking up the stairs for a coffee, at the iconic Fascination, a restaurant now closed.
It was an irony of the time for the boys and girls, eying each other, got to sit separately. Boys and girls talking to each other while sipping a coffee was still a taboo and reputation of well to do families was at stake for violating the unwritten code.
Observing a few young men show off a different set curls by simply donning a T-shirt and exposing well toned bodies in thick of winter was another style statement that one got to witness.
Everyone discussed every town resident very minutely. Everybody knew every other regular resident. Fashionable aunts sashayed about in the clubs leaving behind a fragrance that was heady and other gossipy, dowdy aunts waddled about not wanting to miss any glance of the boldness that Simla society often displayed.
Not just the young, but even the older generation were part of the grand display on show out there. Everyone had done something that was worthy of note which in turn would get discussed endlessly over many cups of steaming hot tea .
That was also a time of no social media distractions…..a walk on The Mall Road was enough attraction of the times