The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clinically correct features

Growing numbers are willing to pay whatever it takes and bear all the pain to look good and feel great. Nisha Lahiri checks out the makeover trend

Meheli Malakar went through 14 hours of surgery and then two months of having her jaws stuck together, on a liquid diet, to change the way she looked. That was two years ago. Now, she still can’t get over how much her face has changed. “Everybody comments on how good I look,” she says. “Everyone who knew me before comments on the difference after the operation.”

Mother Dipshikha explains that the 17-year-old girl had been determined to go through the process. “She was getting an inferiority complex, because her jaw was crooked. We had also saved for the expensive procedure. She knew the pain involved, but she went through it all with a smile and no complaints. She even managed to speak to her friends daily on the phone,” she smiles. “The pain wasn’t that bad,” Meheli declares. “And it was definitely worth it.”

After a story on cosmetic surgery appeared in Metro this June, the office was flooded with calls, on an average about five a day, for over a month, from men and women, young and old, who wished to get rid of facial and bodily imperfections, from scars and body hair, to crooked jaws and acne marks. And when this correspondent revisited the look-better clinics recently, it was clear that the craze to don a whole new look has hit town like never before in the past few months.

Ashok Surana, an orthodontist associated with Smile and Profile, a dental care centre, and consulting doctor to Meheli, explains: “I get about 100 consultations a month, from mainly young people, for cosmetic purposes. They have a variety of problems, which don’t really cause any medical problems, but they just want to look better. It’s a trend.”

Meheli reflects a growing pattern of people who are willing to pay what it takes and bear all the pain to look good and feel great. Although traditional methods like cosmetic surgery are still the only answer for many, there are a number of new Calcutta clinics catering to those looking for a short cut to solve less complicated — but often equally frustrating — problems.

Like unwanted hair. “It’s a very common problem,” says Dr A.K. Prasad of Nova clinic, which offers laser treatment. “There are a lot of people with body hair which is a cause for constant embarrassment. There are many social stigmas attached to this, as well. For men, it means having to hide behind clothes, and women have to spend a fortune on visits to the parlour.”

Laser has emerged as the “most pain-free permanent solution” to this and a whole host of body and facial imperfections, say experts. Entitled “lunch-break surgery” by some clinics because it is so quick that the patient is back at work once it is done, the procedure involves a series of sessions, which, in the long run, can prove to be cheaper than a lifetime of waxing and shaving, far less painful, and free of side-effects.

“I have suffered with facial hair problems for a long time,” says one young patient of Nova. “When I heard of laser surgery, I decided to try it out. After only a few sessions, I can see the difference.” She’s too young for marriage, but it’s never too early to start preparing, she asserts.

“There is a steady flow of patients wanting to get rid of this problem and it is the one area of laser surgery which is on the rise in our clinic,” says Dhiren Doshi, director of the New Look laser clinic. “Calcuttans are generally conservative and not very open to experimenting with new techniques, before they are proven. But in this case, people are desperate.”

And men are suddenly emerging as front-runners in the race to the make-over mark. Ask beautician and make-up artist Prabir Kumar De. “Men are becoming conscious. And the look these days is natural. So, removing blemishes is all the more important. Women, of course, are under greater pressure to look good, but men don’t have the cover of make-up, so it’s harder for them.

“I myself would recommend people to go in for this. I know a few who have had various things done, and it completely changes the way you look. In terms of fashion and style, Calcutta is catching up with Mumbai and Delhi, and this is just the next step.”

An important cog in the tip-to-toe makeover wheel is New Vision laser eye correction centre, a branch of New Look. Alok Mishra, a young professional, got his eyesight corrected there. He had minus-two power in both eyes. In July, he had the surgery done for Rs 16,000, along with a group of his friends, to do away with his glasses. The power, however, came back minimally, and this time, it was positive.

He had it re-done, and he’s fine now, with no side effects or glasses. Some of his friends, both men and women, with contact lenses and glasses, went in for the procedure for “practical and emotional” purposes, and are now happy with the results. “I ride a motorbike,” explains Alok. “It is difficult with glasses in the rain, because I can’t see properly. Sunglasses to avoid the glare are not an option, and removing the glasses during a downpour is impossible. This was the easiest and most logical solution. Also, it’s much cheaper in Calcutta.”

“But people are still cautious about laser eye surgery in Calcutta, because they still don’t quite trust it completely,” clarifies Doshi.

Laser, however, can treat a number of problems, from acne marks and spots, to birthmarks and pigmentation patches. A patient with sunspots undergoing laser treatment sums up: “I tried a lot of things, including Ayurvedic and herbal stuff and prescribed medication, but it didn’t help. Laser is working, and well. In a couple of more sittings, I will be done.”

But for Calcutta, the sittings in the chair of change have only just started.

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