It would be a mistake to think that the concept of housewife does not exist in Russia, but it is far from being a major trend. In India, Russian women married to Indians most often become housewives, especially at the initial stage of adjusting to a new life.
However, a growing number of them are finding corporate jobs, getting involved in part-time projects or working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). A few Russian wives are even running their own businesses, inspiring others to be brave and daring too.
Her day starts with laundry. Dozens of bed sheets and towels are transported from her salon to her home, before being taken for bleaching, cleaning and drying. The same procedure has been followed every single day for the past five years. “I want to be sure that hygiene standards are met,” says Yuliya Pednekar, the owner of Oracle Salon in the Mumbai suburb of Malad. “This is something I cannot compromise on.”
It took Pednekar a long time to pluck up the courage to open her own business after coming to Mumbai from Almaty, Kazakhstan, with her Indian husband in 1997. A graduate in hospitality management, she kept searching for opportunities and finally got into the beauty sector, first as a make-up artist and then as a hairstylist.
“I didn’t have any education or training as a hairstylist when the manager, Lakme, offered me the job. The staff convinced me that I’d manage,” she recalls. “Well, I messed up a couple of times initially, but I believe that my innate sense of aesthetics helped me a lot.”
After six months of working for Lakme, Pednekar felt that she needed to perfect her newly acquired skills and went to Kazakhstan to study hairdressing. Not only did her education open up new opportunities on her return to India, it also instilled in her greater self-confidence.
Over the past few years, she has obtained the international CIDESCO and CIBTAC certificates – both prestigious qualifications in the aesthetics and beauty therapy industries. “My aim was to be independent from my husband, financially and practically – and to realise my potential, skills, talents and knowledge,” Pednekar says.
Today she manages a salon, leading a team of five beauticians. Although her husband is a proprietor of the company on paper, he hardly interferes in her business. “He deals with all paperwork, taxes and formalities, of course. With my artistic personality and chaotic work style, I would not be able to do such work,” she says.
“There are other elements that disturb business too, from Mumbai’s municipal officials to quasi-mafia representatives collecting funds for religious festivals and political parties. I’ve learned how to deal with them with the help of my husband.”
Being a foreigner does not make it harder for Pednekar to run her business. Since she’s fluent in Marathi and Hindi, she manages her employees and customers with great ease. “Sometimes people are confused seeing a firangi (foreigner), but the moment you relate to them by discussing kids or Punjabi outfits, they accept you,” she says.
Pednekar believes that for the many young girls she employs, this work offers a different experience. “They feel safe and relaxed here, they explore the world through interacting with people,” she says. “I respect them and trust them. Although I know that bosses should behave differently, I just cannot.”
full article in BRICS Journal’s 6th Issue