We Care We Share
An initiative of UN Bhutan- resilience tools for COVID-19
Scissors wait to cut through COVID-19
It has been more than a month since she last held a pair of scissors. The vacant salon chair cushion has regained its former shape and sits partly covered in dust. Phub Zam, a single mother, lives in a 2-room apartment with her 11-year-old son. While she lives in one of the rooms, the other is used as her salon. Many hairdressers in Thimphu have seen a huge drop in customers with the pandemic. Still not allowed to open their salons, Phub awaits the news every single night.
Due to the high risk of spreading the disease through places like salons, barbers and garment shops, the government is yet to announce the opening of such businesses. Phub always dreamed of becoming a professional hairdresser. After she dropped out of school, she was trained in Siliguri in 1999 and has been styling hair ever since.
“My salon had never been lucrative, but it allowed for me to sustain myself and that was enough. I still remember watching the news when the disease was first declared in January. At the time, I never thought it would reach Bhutan let alone affect us. Little did we know…” said Phub.
Business for Phub Zam has never been this bad. In the past, she could at least make enough to get by. However, after the first case was announced in March, only a few people have visited her salon. People started fearing the high risk of the disease spreading in such close contact areas. But Phub tried her best. Conscious of the danger of catching the disease herself, the salon was her lone source of livelihood. Starting a grocery shop or another shop was the last thing anyone would be prepared to pursue at such an uncertain time. Phub did not have a choice and it was a risk she was willing to take. She cleaned the salon every day, after every customer, sanitizing the seats, and the hair-cutting tools.
“I tried advertising through Facebook of how my salon is clean and follows all the safety measures. But I don’t think it really caught on. The health and well-being of a person often surpasses petty concerns over cutting and styling their hair at such a time,” said Phub.
When the lockdown was declared in August, Phub was taken by surprise and had not opened her shop till now. During the lockdown, days seemed mundane and indistinguishable. It became a ritual for her- cleaning the house, cooking and running small errands. In between those hours, Phub felt anxious about her empty salon, the loss of income and the increasing number of positive cases.
“I didn’t apply for Kidu. There were many people who have been impacted far more than us and in dire need of the support. Right now, with savings I have, I can manage for time being. But if this goes on, I may have to apply for Kidu too,” said Phub.
“2020 has not been easy for everyone, but the amount of effort and support of our country is like no other, we are blessed. I can only pray that the disease will soon disappear from the face of the earth,” she added.
Phub walks into her salon every day. She looks around the space. She picks up the scissors and gently cuts the air.
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