Star Shine and Sawdust

Star Shine and Sawdust

Arshia Ahuja rubs her eyes with a vengeance,fretting over the dark circles and trying to purge herself of yesterday’s look.

Arshia Ahuja rubs her eyes with a vengeance,fretting over the dark circles and trying to purge herself of yesterday’s look. “Several days of make-up does this,” she complains. Tissue boxes lie stacked next to McDonald’s happy meal toys in her room,though it’s easy enough to forget that she is only 18. Ahuja is the youngest model who walked the ramp this season at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) at Pragati Maidan,which concluded yesterday; she’s also a newcomer to the fashion industry,getting used to mornings spent wiping off yesterday’s face,and to the afternoons that usher in a new persona for each new show.

Home is a fluid a concept; it is where she is at in any given moment. Her bedroom in her Delhi Cantonment flat,is bare except for a few magazines with dog-eared pages — pages from which her face,doe-eyed,stare back at her. The rest of her belongings are packed in trunks,stacked on top of one another. “My father is a colonel in the Indian Army,and this is how life is for people like us. Nothing is permanent,” she says tritely. “That’s why I’ll do well in this industry,I can be where anyone wants me to be,” she nods over a breakfast of porridge.

On the final day,she has two shows lined up for designers Reynu Tandon and Tarun Tahiliani. She is the first to arrive for make-up,even before the MAC make-up artists. Hair and make-up is almost a three hour affair and there is an unspoken hierarchy,with the senior models getting dressed first. Ahuja says she doesn’t mind the wait. “I need to make space for the older models,so I come in early. It’s better if I get the chance to finish my make-up first,” she says. As the hair stylist pulls at her hair,she’s got her eyes glued to her mobile,checking out her Facebook profile. “I don’t change my profile picture that often,but I’m addicted to status updates. I change them every hour,” she says.

Bhawna Sharma,one of India’s top models,walks in and plonks herself down in the next chair. She is still lording it on the ramp,after 18 years in the industry. She slips out a word of advice to Ahuja,as she gets her hair done: “Dominate the runway. Let your personality come out.” Ahuja nods serious face.


Despite her introverted demeanour,there’s a fun side to Ahuja too. She dances on the ramp during rehearsals as others sit in,and complains when she is not happy with her hair-style. Tamara Moss,tipped as India’s next big model,quips,“Don’t be fooled,and don’t under-estimate the newcomers. Everyone is a challenge but only the best will remain.” Ahuja is clearly enjoying herself. “I like the fashion week. I am good at walking the ramp,” she says.

The hair and make-up are finally done and Ahuja is ready for her first show of the day,that of designer Tandon. Before she takes her position behind the catwalk,she sits in a corner,looking jittery. Suddenly she is just another teenager. “I’ve done these fashion weeks before,but each time I feel like it’s my first time,” she says. Stylist Gautam Kala touches up her face and comments,“Arshia is sweet,but to reach the top you need attitude.” She smiles at him as she takes her position in the queue of models,ready to step on to the ramp. It’s what she has been preparing for through the day. “Sometimes I can be loud,but hopefully,one day I’ll be wild. If that’s what this industry wants,that is,” she quips,and then with a click of her stilletoes steps in to the bright strobe lights.