Guru has 100,000+ followers on Facebook. His phone rings non-stop, all day and all night. He turns down bookings because he literally doesn’t have the time to do all of India’s makeup. And neato mosquito – Guru has blue hair.
To say my lifestyle is different to Guru’s is in the basement of an understatement. His family, his religion, his city, his country, his job – among other things – are wildly different. He is a makeup artist in a country famous for its elaborate weddings.Weddings that last for days on end, weddings that represent the marriage of not just two people but entire families and communities.
As we’re in the thick of India’s wedding season, Guru the fabulous makeup artist with 9 years experience, swans around Delhi to fabulous places to make people’s faces look exotically fabulous. He meets with a lot of different people with varying backgrounds and personalities, but the one thing they have in common is money to spend on weddings. Whether they are from a wealthy background or they have spent their life saving with the same dedication my brother had to collecting Looney Tunes Tazos, they have the money and they spend it on making their weddings extravagant.
For the week I was with Guru, I got to experience these emotional and glamorous occasions firsthand.
Sometimes they were lovely and intimate experiences. Young girls getting ready for their engagement parties for arranged marriages; nervous and sweet, I wanted them to be my best friends forever. Then there were actual wedding nights in swanky, or totally tacky hotels, where mothers would fuss over the bride with Guru, and I would sit in the corner eating sandwiches and drinking chai. Other times, well one time in particular, we were in the home of a wealthy Indian family, doing the makeup of women who wore velvet Juicy Couture tracksuits, and it was well and truly awkward.
There were three ladies; an older mother and her two daughters, perhaps in their late 30s. They were all getting their hair and makeup done professionally by Guru… just for the wedding of a relative.
“What will she do?” The mother asked gesturing at me as Guru applied her face.
“Her?” Guru asked, purposely blasé to buy himself time to think. “Oh she is assisting me… She is actually making a documentary.”
HA HA HA – happened inside me because it was possibly the worst lie I’d ever heard. Documentary makers don’t sit quietly playing with an iPhone 5c. I gulped because it seemed it was my turn to speak and elaborate, but luckily their maid (she was beautiful like something out of a Cinderella story) had impeccable timing and brought in some chai so I didn’t have to address it.
And while it was a great save, I’m not sure what I would have preferred: thinking on my toes and responding with my documentary story, or having to deal with the problem the chai had brought on.
I guzzled the tea enthusiastically and sat trying to look like someone who was making a documentary. The room was quiet as Guru focused on his craft and everyone else watched on.
Blurrrbrruughhg. My stomach had decided to chime in. Brrrrooobluhhbruuuugh. Oh man, I hate that.
I hadn’t been eating that much in India; terrified of Delhi belly and getting travel fat. So as a consequence I was forced to sit there for the next ten minutes rolling my intestines around to try and suppress the noises – tapping my foot loudly when a cheeky sound got loose.
It took about four hours for the three women to get ready; hair, makeup, dress, jewellery. Let me just remind you – for a relative’s wedding! The whole time everyone seemed totally suspicious of why I was in their home. The dad/husband came in and apparently asked Guru the same thing, only in Hindi so I’m not sure when that was.
All I wanted to do was walk out of the room and into all the other rooms to gawk and take pictures for you guys. The best I could do was ask to use their bathroom.
It was an awkward and uncomfortable experience that day, but luckily Guru is really good with people. He adjusts to the person, he knows when and what he should say to different people. And I know he is a good judge of character.
My favourite thing is when he calls his clients “dumb”. Because to me I automatically think he is saying they are slow and boring, but what he actually means is they are exactly like me and have no idea about makeup. They just tell him to recommend a look and do what he thinks is best. But I think he enjoys it more when they’re not “dumb” because he has more of a challenge in the job to meet the client’s expectations.
What a wonderful week I had shadowing Guru; taking pictures for him and pretending to be his manager.
This is one tiny little story about my pal Guru, but there is so much more to him and his life, which is to come in this book I’m promising.