Jharna outside her huble salon named after he daughter

In fortitude, the courageous forge their providence.

This dictum holds particularly true for 43-year-old Jharna Bairagya of Nathupur slum cluster in Gurugram, Haryana.

The rapid metro whizzes overhead and the multinational offices across the road are waking up to the smell of coffee machines dispensing lattes as we enter Jharna’s one-bedroom house, darkened due to power outage.

“...and now even a couple of ‘hi-fi’ ladies from nearby apartment blocks come to my humble salon. I must be doing something right,” says the recent grandmother, her bright, impish giggle lighting up the room for a brief second.

Jharna is narrating her journey from being an impoverished housewife to becoming a successful entrepreneur running her own beauty salon in the slum cluster.

“I always knew that it won’t be easy, but I was determined to build something of my own. Nothing can compensate the freedom that comes with working for oneself,” she says.

Beyond freedom, it was the urgent need to provide for her family in face of a dysfunctional marriage that ushered Jharna to carve her own destiny.

A native of Barniya Village in West Bengal, Jharna came to Gurugram years ago, following her marriage. Soon after, she realised that her husband’s alcoholism was draining all their savings.

“He worked as a domestic help and our family income was never sufficient. His drinking problem had made our financial situation extremely uncertain. Then one day he just went away,” recalls Jharna.

Left in these perilous conditions, a close friend informed her of a skill development course being implemented near the slums by Humana People to People India and supported by Danisco India. Interested in being a beautician from a young age, Jharna quickly enrolled, mastered the skills and three months later graduated with a certificate, a beautician’s kit and an overwhelming sense of confidence.


“It was then that I decided to set up my own salon. Friends helped in identifying a shack with cheap rentals and I took a loan of Rs. 20,000 to buy some basic necessities like reclining chairs. Only when the setup was complete, the taunts started,” she recalls.

Neighbours and close relatives sneered at the jhuggi-beauty-parlour, mocking Jharna’s attempts at self-reliance. But the remarks only emboldened her resolve and soon the two-square-meter boutique was being thronged by the ladies of the shantytown.

“Today I save anywhere between Rs. 12-15,000 per month. I told the people who mocked me that one day they would make a beeline outside my salon. Now they are my most regular clients,” she says through a hearty laughter.

“The salon has now also replaced the old kabari shop as the prominent landmark.”

The power is still out and in the torch-lit room Jharna’s 5-day-old grandson is looking at her with a sense of wonder unique only to a new-born; perpetually amazed at the world they’ve been hurled into. His surprised look reflecting the incredible journey of his grandmother, which continues to inspire many around her.


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About HPPI

Humana People to People India is a development organization registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as of 21st May 1998. It is a non-political, non-religious organization. Its mission is to unite with people in India in order to create development in the broadest sense through the implementation of the projects that aim at transferring knowledge, skills and capacity to individuals and communities who need assistance to come out of poverty and other dehumanizing conditions.

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