Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mehndi moments

I'm off to a wedding tomorrow so I thought it would be a good occasion to have my hands decorated Indian style. Called mehndi , it involves painting intricate patterns using henna and you usually have it done for special occasions– in fact it's an integral part of the marriage ceremony for the bride. Dillip's wife, Reena, said one of her neighbour would be able to do it for me so this afternoon I strolled down the road with her and a girl from the office called Suchi to be tattooed - albeit temporarily. Although I had little to say in the matter, there was much discussion amongst those much more experienced than me on what I should have – one hand or two, only my hands or up my arms as well – until it was decided I should have the whole lot … well why not I thought I might never have it done again. The henna was applied from what looked like a miniature icing bag - in fact I felt a bit like a cake being decorated. Although the lines were much finer, they were quite deep and you could feel it drying on you. At times it looked as though she was doodling – much as you I would on a notepad during a boring meeting – and there were frequent stops to think about what to do and where to go next. The results, however, were much better than I've ever produced in a meeting and there's clearly a lot of skill and artistry involved in the process. Each hand and arm has a different but complimentary design and as my left arm was being done, the completed right one was dabbed with lemon juice which apparently ensures a better colour. During the proceedings I was offered a dish of noodles and, forgetting that one hand was covered in layers of gooey mixture and other was in the process of joining it, I accepted and then realised the only way to eat my snack was to be fed like a two-year old – Suchi obliged. Suitably nourished, I then had to wait for two hours for the henna to dry and to soak into my skin so, continuing in her motherly role – although I'm probably old enough to be her mother - Suchi very kindly offered to escort me home and carry my bags on her bicycle – it's amazing how incapacitated you feel when you can't touch or hold anything. On arrival, I was dabbed with sugared water – again to improve the colour - and then I sat, twiddling my toes, feeling very sticky – what with the lemon and the sugar – for what seemed like eternity until I could wash the stuff off. At first the finished effect had a very orange look to it – rather like American-tan tights – but as this evening has worn on the colour has become much browner – apart from the palms of my hands which for some reason are a completely different colour from the rest despite being done at the same time and with the same mixture. Maybe they'll go brown overnight or maybe they won't in any event I rather like it and think it will look really good when I don my sari again for the wedding.  To see more pictures click here.

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