I am a steal-dealer. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me. On the outside, I look like any other reasonably sane, reasonably intelligent, reasonably content Indian woman — but show me a certain kind of deal and watch the Ms Hyde in me push down Dr Jekyl with both beringed hands. A manic gleam comes into my eye, my fingers start twitching as they hover above the ‘Buy Now’ button, and my whole being is suffused with a strange, unearthly glow.

I wasn’t always like this. I’m not the most susceptible of people — quite the contrary, in fact. Show me something that sounds promising and I go around to the rear, checking for the inevitable catch. Then again, I`m a finicky steal-dealer. I go only for certain kinds of deals, by which I mean deals to do with beautification. It`s not just me either, it`s a contingent of people the size of Europe (the contingent, not the people) For the most part, I snag great deals, but on and off, some very strange things happen. Don’t think I’m complaining, though. My funny bone stays tickled most of the time, and when I’m amused, I’m content.

The first time the weird factor kicked in was when a friend and I set off for a Chocolate Massage, down Koramangala way in Bengaluru. Landing up at what looked like a dive, we exchanged uncertain glances, then made our way in. The salon was in the closed terrace of the building, and we were to be given massages to the accompaniment of a soundtrack that played Buddhist chants on loop. Talk about mixed messages.

The candles were lit and the massage oils uncorked, even as we looked askance. “Where is the chocolate?” we asked, and the masseurs looked baffled. “You want a bar of chocolate to eat?”, one asked hesitantly. Long story short, we had booked massages at quite another body spa from the one we had meant to… the (cunning) trap lay in the fact that the original had the word “aura” in it, and this one didn’t. Our bad, obviously, but quite the kind of adventure steal-dealers find themselves undertaking, wittingly or otherwise.

So, basically in the world of beauty steal deals, you are signing a waiver that says you know what you are doing and will not pass the blame buck at any point during the transaction. Not if you get a chipped tooth after the whitening treatment. Not if you emerge with violet hair when you had distinctly asked for midnight blue. Not if the soft russet nail enamel translates to a bright orange Donald Trump would heartily approve of. Not if you get your arm nearly wrenched off during a Shiatsu massage.

But seriously, what life lessons these steal deals impart. Transactions where the facialist, bending over you in a most intimate fashion, has breath that can slay a dragon at four paces teach you all about fortitude, while also showing you how long you can hold your breath. Stylists who discuss the dire state of a co-worker`s love life even as they absently run a languid pair of scissors over your tresses reinforce the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, to attempt something without desiring a result.

Sometimes, though, the life lessons are totally indecipherable. Like conversations that go like this:

Stylist: What shampoo you use?

Self, preening at self-evident good taste in using a Parisian top brand: Clinique.

Stylist, drawing back in alarm: No! Clinic is for dandruff! Use a milder shampoo.

Or, like this:

Facialist: What face cream you use?

Self: Estée Lauder.

Facialist, with disdainful shrug: Never heard of it. Switch to Pinky`s Rosy Lotion.

I’m still trying to prise a life lesson out of that.

If, dear reader, you are wondering why I am playing to the feminine stereotype, that too in a men’s magazine, well, I have some news for you. Gentlemen, everything is not as it would seem. Even as you are chuckling indulgently, thinking to yourself, what silly (little) fools these (little) women are, let me tell you that quite a large amount of your gender avail of these beauty steal deals with as much enthusiasm and anticipation as us women.

Don’t believe me? The friend who went with me for the not-chocolate spa treatment? Male, all six and a half feet of him. The friend I went for a mud facial with? He has a glossy, luxuriant beard. My regular steal deal manipedi companion? He sports a moustache that would put any Rajput mooch to shame. I’ll let you scroll through my Whatsapp Steal Deals group, next time we meet. The ratio in there is 11 men to eight women — I swear on my Estee Lauder night cream.  

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