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Bride and grooming
Exactly twenty days from now, Bhagyashree Thakur will circle a sacred fire and promise to keep no secrets from the man in front, except maybe one. At least until June 5, the day Thakur ties the knot, her fiance will not know the reason behind her progressively radiant smile. No one will. The only people privy to that secret are her parents and of course the bespectacled doctor whom she paid a rather large yet "appropriate" amount to hide what's been her constant source of embarrassment since Class VII. Six months ago, makeover expert Dr Abhijit Desai of Mumbai affixed invisible ceramic braces on the inside of Thakur's uneven front teeth and made sure that all the cameraphobe's schoolgirlish inhibitions that had resulted from sporting steel braces for five years disappeared before the day she wanted to smile the most.
The invisible braces set Thakur back more than Rs 80, 000, but "everyone wants to look beautiful on their wedding day", she rationalises. It's just the kind of pre-marital feeling, propped up by a good bit of marketing propaganda, compelling before-and-after images and the instant promises of cosmetology, that is now inducing many brides-to-be to think out of the parlour. The appointment diary of the modern, working bride now comprises not just the hackneyed facial-hairand-make-up checklist but a makeover that lends the kind of glow which lasts much longer than foundation. That's perhaps why dentists, cosmetologists and even spa owners now mark the start of the wedding season by the number of young women (and sometimes men) dropping in with requests for such specialised procedures as mole removal, smile designing, diamond skin polishing, invisible braces and even tooth jewellery.
"They want to improve not just their face value but also the quality of their life through these makeovers," explains Punebased dentist Dr Vijay Tamhane, who has observed a lot of brides-to-be opting for tooth bleaching, smile correction and tooth jewellery. The last rather arcane appellation refers to the practice of cementing a oneby-one mm piece of coloured gemstone on to the canine tooth, making it literally sparkle. The stone, which can be removed later on by the dentist, is, Tamhane says, a hot favourite with fashion-conscious brides. Ask Swapnali Joshi, a former software engineer who sported a maroon diamond on her tooth during her wedding last month. Two months before her big day, Joshi had described her face structure and bridal dress over the phone, and when she went in for her next appointment, Tamhane had the stone ready. It set off her maroon reception outfit perfectly. "People kept asking me. 'What happened to your tooth? It's sparkling!'" recalls Joshi, who smiled even more in return. Now she uses every occasion to show off the dental ornament, which cost her a whopping Rs 35,000 but makes her "feel rich".
Make-up may hide flaws but it's the confidence that results from erasing these flaws that both brides and makeover experts are now banking on. "Also, non-medical and non-scientific treatments can result in rashes and other side-effects," says Dr Abhijit Desai, managing director of Evlove Med Spa in Mumbai, which offers skin and dental makeovers. "Those concerns are eliminated during scientific makeover treatments, as you are in safe hands," claims the doctor, who has seen not just the well-heeled but also middleclass women going in for expensive treatments like teeth bleaching, skin polishing (Rs 20,000) and even mole removal. About a month ago, Mumbai's Sangeeta Khanna, who has a flawless complexion, approached him with a request. "I had a small mole under my right eye and I wanted him to remove it," says the 23-year-old. Ten days later, the scars and the mole were gone. Even parlours these days are going beyond the conventional treatments. The latest is a Brazilian wax for the nose so that the bride-to-be can get rid of the unsightly nostril hair.
Experts swear by the emotional high and social confidence that such transformations beget. Take 25-year-old Gunjan Wathodkar, a digital marketing professional and self-confessed "tomboy". The blemishes on her face, dark circles under her eyes and a gap in her front teeth had resulted in very low self-esteem and an awkward smile. But Wathodkar, who couldn't tell lipstick from lip gloss, was determined to set things right before her wedding. She got not just veneers (the ultra-thin shells of ceramic or resin materials that are bonded to the front or back of the tooth) to take care of the dental gap, but also underwent a "fairness" treatment and a skin polishing procedure (a method of skin rejuvenation which removes the dead skin cells) that now makes her feel "beautiful". The ultimate high was the compliment she got from the man she is about to marry. A day after the fairness treatment, Wathodkar went to meet him with her face covered with a piece of cloth, "looking like a terrorist". Once the mask was off, he was anything but terrorised. "Your skin is softer," he said. "It's love," she lied.
(Some names have been changed)
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