Friday, November 20, 2015

Mehendi laga ke rakhna

In 1986, my dad got posted to Patna. It was my first tryst with all things Bihari, and the beginning of a 12-year stay in Bihar. Even now I consider myself more Bihari than anything else. It was also my first encounter with the Hindi language, and how I survived in an English-medium school where all the teachers taught all the subjects in Hindi, is beyond my comprehension.

It was in this city that I first came across this wonder of nature called mehendi. There were two entities in my neighbourhood that had a profound effect on my childhood. One was a mehendi tree (oh yes!) right next to our playground (and by playground, I mean the street, of course), and the other was 'Lalli ki mummy'. Lalli ki mummy was a prominent figure in our neighbourhood. I wonder if anyone at all knew her name. She was 'Lalli ki mummy' to everyone -- from the kids to their mothers and even to the sabziwala.

And she had a grinding stone.

We would pluck leaves from the mehendi tree and take it to her, and she would grind it and give us the paste. We would then apply it on our hands in very intricate patterns, which can be best described as 'one big circle in the centre, surrounded by four not-so-big circles'.

I was fascinated by the concept of mehendi. Soon, we figured out how to make it darker, how to make the colour last longer. But the circle design stayed. I didn't know what to do with it. Till my sister, my very artistic sister, decided to help this poor soul out. She cut open a milk packet, washed it and made a cone out of it. Our first mehendi cone! We used mehendi powder instead of leaves and soon, instead of the big circles, we were making real mehendi designs.

She got bored of it soon, having pushed me towards the path of enlightenment, but I was never bored of it. To this day. I love love love putting it on my hands, or on anyone's hands for that matter.

And I thought Xena would inherit my love for mehendi.

However, I was in for a big disappointment when I introduced mehendi to her. All of two, she looked at the mehendi on my hands, tossed her dainty little head and commented, "Dirty."

I was devastated. Dirty? DIRTY? My only daughter, MY only daughter thought mehendi was dirty?

Well, I didn't give up. Next year, I showed it to her again. She didn't call it dirty. Wooohoooo! Wait a minute. She paused, came closer and then casually said, "It's smelly..."


The next year (which is this year), things changed. Magically. I bought a cone at Mustafa a few weeks before Diwali and put mehendi on my hand. She was fascinated. "Can I have it too?" She asked. I tell you, I wept internal tears of joy.

"Sure! What design do you want?"

"A vacuum cleaner."

"A what?!"

"I want a vacuum cleaner design."

"You want a vacuum cleaner design? With mehendi?"


Okay fine. I swallowed my pride and Viv drew a prototype on paper and I followed it. It didn't look like a vacuum cleaner. More like a snake in the middle of moulting. Oh, well.

She loved it. She showed it off at school and at the playground and everywhere else. When the design faded, she asked me to make something else.

"No vacuum cleaner this time, okay?"

"Ok. I want a butterfly."

Great! Butterfly was definitely more mehendi-friendly than a vacuum cleaner. So I made a butterfly just before her nap and asked her not to take it off or wash it till the evening. She did, and the mehendi came out super dark.

"Darker than yours!" She said.

"Oh yes!"

Over the next few weeks, she had gazillions of designs all over her hands. As soon as one would fade, she would ask me to make something else.

This is what the monkey did when I told her she can't let the mehendi touch ANYTHING till it dries.

She has now mastered the art of going to sleep with mehendi on her hands.

During the Diwali week, she had mehendi on both hands, on both sides, at all times. Our days were literally full of mehendi. I volunteered to do a Diwali workshop at her preschool and all the kids queued up to get mehendi done. I had some very strange requests from the kids too -- a heart with a snowflake inside, a spider, a car, a BIG school bus, and what not.

I also put mehendi for some of my neighbours for karwa chauth. She accompanied me without complaint, and watched with fascination.

I made this on my hand for Diwali. 

She wanted the exact design on hers!

She even compared both and remarked that they're not exactly the same, but it was fine because hers was darker. Sheesh.

Here's my happy little bunny with her mehendi. 

And her mama is also one happy little bunny now. Kid finally likes mehendi. Yay!


Prathima said...

No wonder you couldn't type in a blog post. What with mehendi all over your hands all day :-) Knew you loved mehendi, now got to know the history behind it. The mango design is beautiful.

Bubblegum.... said...

Such a cutie post. I almost cried seeing so many hands, full Of Mehendi. I am seeing you are not too much into those clutter Marvadi style Mehendi is it? I love Mehendi designs with gaps at right places! Gives awesome illusion! :D

(J)Heena sirf mere lie.... When I visit you guys :D

Arun said...

Vacuum cleaner! LOL!

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