The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Back to school for the finishing touch

What working women want — investment ideas, book-keeping and saving strategies…

What working men want — dandruff-free hair, proper nails and a good posture…

The starting block in grooming schools is where everyone wants to be, but the finishing line differs for different folk. It’s a mixed crowd that throngs the catch-up classrooms — housewives to businessmen to college-goers. And their needs vary — make-up tips to investment advice, catwalk to communication skills.

A survey by Davina Gorsia, of La Perfecion, has thrown up fascinating findings — working women want investment ideas while men seek beauty tips (see box). “Dandruff, acne marks and bad nails are what bother men, even those on the wrong side of 50. They also give a lot of thought to posture, how to sit and what to do with their hands,” says Gorsia.

Agrees Roshan Chowdhury of Persona: “The hair-styling module is a major area of interest among men. While younger men spell out definite choices — spiked look, Dil Chahta Hai-style or streaked hair — the older ones first ask what would suit them, before venturing to name a style they have heard of.”

Working women in their 30s, especially those who want to start their own business, be it as a hair-stylist or in a boutique, want to know how to keep accounts and how to save. Therefore, money management figures in courses at both Persona and La Perfecion. “Men perhaps are born with it, but women ask for advice,” says Chowdhury, whose afternoon classes draw mostly housewives with a fascination for feng shui and spoken English.

Take Zakia Sultana of Park Circus, who has signed up at La Perfecion. Mother of three children who attend La Martiniere, she missed out on English-medium education and is now making up for lost time and opportunity. “When I accompany my husband to parties, he has pointed out that my communication skills are not at par. Hum pichhey nahin rehna chahte. Other than spoken English skills, I am also picking up fashion tips at the school,” says the resolute lady, who has also learnt driving with her pocket money.

The school-leaving and college-going crowd forms a sizeable section of the finishing-school clientele. “Since these kids will soon be applying for jobs, we teach them techniques to face interviews and write resumes, as well the finer points of party-dressing and hair-styling,” says Nibedita Chatterjee, who is in charge of the finishing school section at Birla Institute of Futuristic Studies.

Ritisha Ghosh signed up at a finishing school with half a dozen friends, “just like that”, after the school-leaving exams. “The choice was between this and computers. I just had a feeling a grooming course would be more helpful,” said the first-year student, who is now a smash hit at home with the mocktail recipes she picked up. She is also high on confidence — “about carrying myself and speaking in public” — after sessions with fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

Meeting celebrities, incidentally, is a huge plus that comes with the package, with each school having its own glamour line-up — from Sharon Prabhakar to Reshmi Ghosh.

“Many people come with specific needs,” observes Gorsia. Ronojit Dutta, an aspiring model studying in first year, St Xaviers, needed to know more about ramp-walk and make-up.

“It is great that we have a place where we can perfect ourselves, while our predecessors had to learn on the job,” says Ronojit. He also expects to build up industry contacts while appearing for the fashion shows the school will arrange towards the end of the term.

There are takers among office-goers and entrepreneurs, as well. Abhijit Samanta, a marine engineer with an Italian company, had problems with table manners when he went out to dine with foreign nationals. So, he took up a course on finesse at Aria Finishing School. “The six-week course has helped me pick up both office and party etiquette,” he smiles.

Amit Vijaya was feeling low, having been brow-beaten into decisions he did not agree with at a meeting. He chanced upon an ad promising “a positive attitude”. “That was exactly what I was looking for,” says the young entrepreneur, now enrolled with a grooming course.

Ruby Bhatia, brand ambassador of Aria, points out: “The country is at a critical threshold and the youth have everything going for them. All they need is that edge to make an impact. That is why finishing schools have struck such a popular chord. ”

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