Neha is 21 and has a BMI of 22. She was among the few selected to the Indian Air Force batch of women pilots in 2010. The dream job came easy, but she faced two strange problems—the helmets used while flying the fighter planes were loose for her head. The trainer somehow managed with additional padding for the helmet. The bigger problem was that she could not fit into the pilot's seat and, hence, was left behind with an on-ground job. Her hips were too large for the seat. Without wasting time, she got herself contoured to fit in. Today, she has joined her flying pals with ease and pride.
Air hostess and model Harshita, 23, always feared experimenting with her face or body but there was something about her facial features that she disliked. After a cosmetic correction, people close to her see a big change, but what is it? “I just got some minor corrections done on my face!'' says Harshita. Last October, she went under the scalpel to get a sharper nose and also got her chin augmented to get a long face. “I was never for it initially but agreed after discussing with the doctor. Now I am glad I did it for it has not only changed the way I look but also made me feel confident on the job," she says.
Surprisingly, it is not just air hostesses, actors, models and college students who indulge in such cosmetic corrections. The trend is fast catching up among both the young and the middle-aged—married and unmarried.
There are many from the non-glamour fields and smaller cities as well, says Dr Gunasekar Vuppalapati, consultant aesthetic plastic surgeon and medical director, GVG Aesthetic Health Centre Bangalore. He has his hands full with cases of software engineers, lawyers and businesspersons. The advanced surgeries cost anywhere between 020,000 and 08 lakh depending on the body part to be corrected and the number of corrections required or requested.
Vuppalapati recalls the case of a 25-year-old software engineer who came in for breast and arms reduction last month and then for body sculpting with vaser liposuction. She was awake through the surgery performed under local anaesthesia that lasted four and a half hours. She stepped out of the OT and walked to her bed. “I thought she will complain of pain but she only complained of hunger and asked for a mirror,” says Vuppalapati. “We gave her mango shake and then took her close to the mirror. She smiled in relief saying, 'I was not suffering from any pain, just low self-confidence. Now I have it back'.”
A businesswoman and mother of two at 35 had consulted the doctor in November 2008 after five unsuccessful surgeries to correct some facial deformities. “Today, after three-four procedures again, I finally feel confident, good and normal as anybody else I work or deal with. I have completely forgotten about my deformity," she says in a voice testimonial left behind for her doctor who made it possible.
Women are outspoken about the cosmetic change and tolerate pain better. Men, too, are opting for cosmetic surgeries; gynaecomastia for flatter, firmer chests and high definition body sculpting for six-pack abs are a rage now. But they seem to prefer to keep it under wraps. There are engineers who opt for rhinoplasty to look presentable on the job and keep the nose job a secret, says Dr Rohit Krishna, consultant cosmetic and plastic surgeon at Max Hospital, Gurgaon. “At least 60 per cent of the people who come for cosmetic corrections do so for career prospects,” says Krishna. “I also find it common among those who come to cities from smaller town for work. They feel insecure about how they look and that affects their confidence. The age group is mainly 20 to 30 years. As far as surgery is concerned, Vaser liposuction is becoming very popular and is the latest in ultrasound liposuction technique.”
And nothing can stop those who wish to enhance their looks, not even age. Bangalore-based lawyer Neelam, who is married for 25 years, spent over 02 lakh on two quick surgeries recently, to look "complete" when she looks at herself in the mirror, and feel "confident" when she meets her clients. First, she went in for breast augmentation. Months later she braved a lower abdomen liposuction. A part of the 'ugly' fat from her tummy was transferred to her face for a correction. It was painful. At times, it was unbearable. But she braved it all for a career boost. She refrains from revealing her full name and identity fearing that it might trigger unwanted criticism in her family. “At this age, I didn't do it to attract other men. I just wanted to look good and presentable. My job demands it, especially when you feel you are not young and energetic anymore. When people look at you, it's the personality that adds to the impression,” she says. “Now I look good and it feels good to look different. It's made me more confident at work. I feel like I have made another fresh start after so many years."
Sometimes it's just the smile that matters on the job. And people are spending over a lakh for just a smile makeover. The dental spas are proof enough. “You are never fully dressed for a job without a smile. Smile makeovers and bleaching teeth are becoming a regular makeover affair just like getting the hair or eyebrows done," says Dr Aqeel Reshamvala of the Smiles Ahead dental clinic in Navi Mumbai.
He had a client with low confidence levels after three years of unsuccessful job hunt. “He had a missing tooth since childhood and was conscious about it every time he smiled. During one of his interviews, the recruiters even asked him bluntly to look up and smile," says Reshamvala. "We gave him a quick smile makeover based on his skin tone, lips and colour of eyes and hair. He visited us again last week with sweets, a wide smile and a lot of confidence as he finally got a salesperson job at a car showroom."
The other side
Increasing cosmetic surgeries and demands apart, there are experts like Dr Shrirang Purohit who refuse to do surgery when it is solely to increase job prospects. “I do not think that this [job prospect] is a medical indication for surgery but I do keep getting requests from patients, more so from the non-glamour fields, to improve the way they look,” says Purohit, consultant plastic and cosmetic surgeon in Mumbai. “I do not encourage patients to undergo the surgical procedure. It is very risky and prone to problems if the surgery that is done does not ensure them the job or career growth they aspire for. Except for the glamour industry, there is no correlation between surgery and better job prospects. I do not do any surgery for increasing job prospects."