In a time when the selfie has been called an epidemic and life-taker, we follow a woman transformed by it
Pia Balwani’s favourite spot to take a selfie is in her car on her way to work every morning. Her make-up is fresh, she has just washed her hair and likes the light that comes in through the window pane. She tilts her head, pouts ever so slightly and sits at an angle that makes her “look thin”. And then she sets the filter to “chrome” on her iPhone and clicks. It’s a picture ready to be admired and uploaded on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. It’s 10 am, and the day has just begun.
Show me some love! Hairstylist Pia Balwani takes a selfie with her mother at Churchgate salon. Pic/Aastha Atray Banan
Balwani, who runs a salon at Churchgate, clicks an average of seven selfies a day. India is a country where the “selfie” has acquired a dubious reputation — it had the highest number of selfie deaths till 2016. According to a Washington Post report, out of 27 deaths across the world in 2015, half of them were in India. But Balwani is an unabashed lover of the phenomenon. “If I look good in selfie, I am doing okay, right?”
She says she has mastered the art over the last three years. She knows how to make herself look thin, the collarbones appear prominent and the filters to use to compliment the contours of her face.
It’s a skill that has empowered her to get over her consciousness about being plump. Till a few years ago, 26-year-old Balwani would shy away from the camera. Then one day, she took a picture which she thought was half decent and put it up on Facebook. “So many people liked that one. It gave me a certain self-confidence.” Since then, she has started looking after herself too, so that’s she always looks perfect in a selfie. “As a hairstylist, you have to always be well turned out, and I am, and it shows in my photos.”
This means she always has her hair in whip-ready shape and her make-up is touched up through the day. She loves taking selfies and also posing for pictures for her friends. With 1,600 followers on Instagram and almost the same on Sanpchat, she has a lot of people looking out for her posts.
Balwani usually likes to take self-portraits at her salon as she works, with her mom (only when she is looking nice!), when she is about town, partying with her friends. Her favourite social networking app is Snapchat, where she lets the world know what she is up to: getting a drink, hanging with her dachshund or working on a client. Her favourite Snapchat celebrities and inspirations are the Kardashians, especially Khloe. “What I like about them is that they are proud of their bodies. If their behind is big, they would still flaunt it. Why I love the selfie is because it makes me feel happy about how I am.”
The Sindhi from Kolkata says her family treats her like a “boy”, because she is outgoing and the life of the party. “My father treats me like a son. I have become this firebrand because my parents have supported me. I don’t care about what people say.” Though she loves her selfies, she does think it may be a “delusional” practice. “I look like someone else in them. People often meet me and say, ‘Oh, you look so different.
That’s because it has a filter on, and I have my best pout and best hair on.” What about all the people on the Internet, who may pass judgment and think she is self-obsessed? Balwani doesn’t wait a second before saying, “But isn’t everyone? I don’t think I am self-obsessed because I put up 10 pictures of myself. I have learnt to love myself thanks to the selfie. If you don’t love yourself, how will others love you?”
Pia Balwani gave mid-day writer Aastha Atray Banan a lesson.
“Relax your body, put your chin down, and then tilt your head. Stand with attitude and try different head whips as you pose. And smile!”