Upon meeting her, I adored Kalendi. She is mischievous in a very endearing way, always has something to say (in her own dialect), and is the class clown. From the very first day, she was ready to get right into haircutting even though she’d never even held a water spray bottle or comb, let alone scissors in her hands. She was present everyday, and although the training with rollers, pin curls and finger waves weren’t quite her forte, an amazing shift occurred as soon as she held scissors in her hands – she was a haircutting diamond in the rough.
Aarti, who is Kalendi’s younger sister, is the exact opposite of Kalendi’s playful nature. She is serious and quiet, she barely admits to understanding any of my English, and she is a strict enforcer of my proper Hindi pronunciation. She’s the toughest nut for me to crack, but we definitely connected. Aarti was fully present everyday, some days she grasped the techniques with ease and some days she struggled, but she always persistently tackled the daily lessons. She has the hands of an artist and she graciously shared her gifts with me in her stunning mhendi designs on my hands.
On March 15, 2015, at 17 years of age, Kalendi moved away to get married. Something like freedom of choice and the ability to create the life we want for ourselves, things that many of us take for granted, are foreign concepts for most of our Fearless Women. We will likely never see her again. This is one of the realities that these young Indian women face.