Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Henna bolo bolo

"WHAT? Go to Little India? On a Friday night? On my own?? Yeah, right! Over my dead body!" This would have been my typical reaction.

But last Friday night, I was forced to eat my words and my hat, skip over my own dead body and make my way to the only area in Singapore I am scared to go to by myself -- Little India.

So why did I go?

Sigh... a song comes to mind... with a little modification...

Charity ke liye sala kuchh bhi karega.

Just before midnight, I had received a message from SVC - Student Volunteer Corps - for whom I had done some fund-raising work last year (I had blogged about it here.) They wanted to ask me if I was available to do the same this year.

I'd love to, I told them, except that I did not have any materials on me. And the only place in Singapore that I knew would have henna cones was Little India. So I braced myself and made the arduous journey to Little India, got lost, called a friend who guided me, wandered the streets of Little India until I finally found a shop that sold henna cones. Phew.

I was up very early on saturday morning and reported to Singapore Polytechnic - the venue of the fund-raising event. I was to be a part of a carnival where I would do henna for people all day. The volunteer who had approached me showed me my table.

And the table-mat... errrr... I mean table-mate who came with it.

Now I had never done joint-venture fund-raising before. In the last 6-7 years of doing this, I'd always had a table to myself.

"This is the face-painting lady, and you'll be sharing the table with her." She told me.

I looked at the FPL just as suspiciously as she looked at me. We exchanged polite hellos.

It was still quite early, and after setting up the stall, I found myself quite jobless. Ditto for her. So we started talking.

"So where's your henna shop?" She asked.

"Err... I don't have a henna shop. I only this one in a while for charity."

"Oh okie..."

"Where's your face-painting shop?" I had to ask.

"I don't have a face painting shop. I only do this as a part-time business at birthday parties and other events."

"So what do you do?"

"I'm a senior editor in a book publishing company."

"Oh okie..."

"What about you?"

"I'm a freelance graphic designer."

Whoa, the things we had in common.

"What's your name?" She asked.

I told her. "And yours?" I asked.


"Hazel... hmmm..."

Looooong pause.

"So did you get teased
a lot in school?" Suddenly I found myself blurting out.

"As in?"

"As in... You know... "Hazel, you're a nut!" type of teasing?"

The moment I said it, I regretted it. I barely knew her, what the hell was I doing cracking bad jokes about her name?!

Thankfully, she started laughing. "Yes, I got teased a lot. I hated my name all through school."

"I like the name 'Hazel'." I said.

"Yeah, me too. Now." She smiled. "Hey, you want to make a poster for our table??"


And suddenly we were friends. I guess sometimes a bad joke is all it takes to break the ice and become friends with someone.

So I made our table poster, careful to use exactly half of the sheet of paper to advertise my henna and half to advertise her face painting.

"So when's it gonna start?" I asked.

"Not sure... the chief guest is not here yet... Hey, you wanna make me a henna design meanwhile??"

"Sure!" I was too happy to do it.

After I semi-handicapped her due to the wet henna on her hand, I took over making the pokemon models. She'd been making them to sell at the carnival.

We made shitloads of them but ended up giving away all for free to the children with Down's syndrome who visited our stall.

There was a balloon sculpture stall next to ours. When I saw the balloon sculptor, I did a double take.

I walked over to him and said, "Hi, are you Victor?"

"Yes, I am! How do you know me?"

"You were featured in my magazine last year, remember?"

"Ohhh! Yes yes, you are the editor! Small world, huh? Are you still with them or doing henna fulltime?"

"Haha! No, I'm still with them."

"Give me your number, I will call you when I get calls to do balloon sculpturing at birthday parties, we can set up shop together!"

"Errr... uhhh... I don't really... why don't you ask Hazel? She's the face-painting lady!"

In five minutes or so, numbers had been exchanged and we were ready to become the trio that terrorised kids at birthday parties.

Speaking of kids, some had soon materialised at our stall out of nowhere. Hazel got busy painting the most adorable spiderman on this kid's arm.

The kid came back later to get a spider's web painted on his face. Then he asked Hazel for a mirror so he could look at it. He then proceeded to use the mirror to examine the spiderman on his arm. Hazel, the kid's mother and I burst into laughter.

"You can look at it directly, you know. You don't need a mirror." Hazel said.

The kid gave all three of us a disgusted 'What-do-you-grown-ups-know' look and continued with his inspection.

Meanwhile, I had a queue of teenagers waiting to get henna done. I soon got to work, and both Hazel and I stayed busy till it was lunchtime.

A kid was observing me as I was making this design. He remarked, "Is that a waffle in the centre?" I laughed so hard, I almost lost control of the cone.

This girl asked me if I had any design samples to show her. "Oops, all the designs are in my head. I just follow the shape of the hand... if you can trust that." I'm glad she did. This was one of my favourites that day.

As I encountered some strange requests, I remembered a few funny incidents from last year's carnival. When the children with Down's syndrome came down to the stall, (Actually it's difficult to guess the age of someone who has Down's syndrome, so we'd been told to refer to all of them as children) there was a very shy boy amongst them. So this shy boy - I call him Bashful Benny - was looking at the henna and smiling.

"Do you want it done?" I asked him.

He pointed to his arm.

"Okay, let's do a design on your arm. What do you want?"

"My name."

"Your name? Great! What's your name?"


"Okay, Benny, here you go!" I wrote 'Benny' on his arm.

Soon, there were two more of them at my stall asking for the same thing.

"Same thing? Okay, so what's your name?" I asked the first one, while the second one waited.

"No, I want you to write 'Benny'."

"You want me to write 'Benny'??" I glanced at his name tag. His name was something else.


"Err... Okay." So I wrote 'Benny' on his arm.

The second one also wanted me to write 'Benny' on his arm!

The real Benny was standing there, enjoying the spectacle.

"You see, Benny? You're a celebrity! Everyone wants me to write your name!" I told him. He blushed again. They stuck around for a while, and soon Bashful Benny and the other two 'Bennys' were escorted away by the volunteers.

This year, I was slightly more prepared. Girls are never a problem, but usually, I have to think of what to draw for guys. The most popular guy-designs are barbed wire, lizard, spider and its web (see picture), etc.

Once I even had someone asking me to draw a dragon. I had no idea how to draw a dragon with henna, and I told him so. He insisted. I drew what I thought looked considerably like a dragon, till his girlfriend came along, took one look and exclaimed, "Wow! Dolphin! Cool!"

Gee, thanks a lot. :|

Coming back to this year's carnival, the performances by the disabled had started, and people settled down in chairs. I saw some of the most amazing performances ever. A secondary school boy wowed us with a song in Chinese. I seriously believe he was better than some of the finalists in Singapore Idol!

Next, a troup of speech and hearing impaired musicians played some very beautiful pieces. I still can't get over how someone who can't hear music can make music. Amazing.

The SVC volunteers were next, and they put up a very unique performance. They played songs by boybands, and used sign language to translate them to the audience. It looked like a very well-choreographed dance, especially because they were all in sync. Brilliant idea, I must say. And I wondered how come the actual singers in the boybands -- even though they do almost the same actions -- look like such dhakkans in their videos.

Hazel then asked me if I wanted her to paint something for me. I jumped at the chance.

"Yes yes, I want!"

"What do you want?"

"What is your favourite?"

"Powerpuff girls."


"All three of them?"

"Three?? Whoa! No, one maybe?"

"Which one?"

"What do you mean?"

"Blossom, Bubbles or Buttercup?"


"I dunno! I'm not really a fan." I said. "The pink one maybe?"

"Oh great! She's Blossom, she's the most popular one."

So she painted this really cool tattoo-like Blossom on my hand.

(By the way, the colour she had used for the hair was a tad stronger than the rest, so after my bath the next morning, everything else had been washed off, but an eerie orange wig was around on my hand for one whole day.)

At the end of the day, I was so dead tired that I felt like going home and collapsing into it, dead to the world until sunday afternoon. But I was supposed to meet my friends for dinner and I turned up, proudly showing off my Powerpuff Girl.

I was tired but I felt really good on the inside. I guess that's the thing about volunteer work -- it's a win-win situation. Someone benefits and you feel really great.

It is probably the only place where the time=money equation is so obvious. Time or money -- give whatever you have more of.

Though sometimes I do wonder if one is really supposed to have so much fun doing volunteer work.


Sudeep said...


Sudeep said...

gosh!! cant believe it.. he he

:P to whomsoever it concerns :)

shub said...

awesome! you do good henna, girl! :)
and yup, the fun-ner the volunteer work is, teh better! >:D<

Sudeep said...

its nice to be a volunteer sometimes..

i hate heena ka smell

n Hazel is a nice name.. i read/heard tht nut joke for the 1st time.. nice

Inder said...

your dragon turned out to be a dolphin? haha.. :P

Just Jane said...

those are real neat designs, i love 'em :D even the spider in his web is so cute!

and whadya know? next time we have a bachelorette party, inhouse hennawaali is readily available! :)) pata hi nahin tha ki bhai ko itna achcha drawing aata hai!

blossom thingy was real cool too. orange wig?? hahahahaha!

you're lucky to have been a part of such an event. and if its fun on top of the hard work, even better! i enjoy volunteering too, altho' what i do is not really fun like your event, so enjoy it whenever you can :D

Sakshi said...

What consistency.. Still in top 10. But no time to actually read the blog...

Anonymous said...

yup! aapke designs toh kammal ke hain!

toh thought abt quitting editorgiri and doing it fulltime?? :d

chaliye bye!

Sakshi said...

Loved the spider.. I wanna one too .....
I never thought about doing that.. I had done the barbed wire last year at the summer party. I am going to get the spider this year..
And the other designs were simply great.. freelance..

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hahah trust sayesha to break the ice with her bad jokes. :p

looks like you had fun girl. sure, one must have fun volunteering. it's best when you work on the fringe and are not involved in the organisational nitty gritty, that's where things get quite demanding and also ugly sometimes.

Kathy said...! Sudeep had the gold?? watch out dude, u will be beaten by many hehe ^_^

...aww i love that sweet lil girls hand with henna , kawaiii ^_^ i'll do it with Rina this summer vacation.

..oops yeah, im back sweetie ^_^ and im wonderin' what happened to ur Orkut? u deleted ur account? sorry for askin'...

..take care!


Venky said...

hey u r seemingly gud at this henna business!!

psst: u can mail me later as to who actually did those henna jobs in the pic

Daroga said...

ur henna designs are awesome..... simply great........

Archana said...

Beautiful henna patterns :-)! Doing hands-on volunteer work gives a really warm, nice and fuzzy feeling :-). Good to see you had fun!

Anonymous said...

i used to do the hand/face-painting volunteer thing too (not possessing a modicum of skill with henna)!

the easiest customers were the ones who wanted brands. particularly the one who demanded to have D&G written on his arm in black paint and happily paid something like $3 for it

Anonymous said...

You are a darling!! :)
Keep up the good work...and dont mind the dragon-turned-dolphin thingy ;)
take care

Rays Of Sun said...

I want mehendi too:(

R said...

i think I am in love with the spider in webbb

R said...

i think I am in love with the spider in the webbb

embarq said...

You are one amazing lady and a writer wow i loved all your posts.. just dropped on your blog man you write so cool ...

Love you writings...

Good Luck ...


Iday said...

The henna designs are really cool. Some backup source of income there :P

qsg said...

How talented are you? :p
Good stuff, man!
I am removing word verification, finally! :))

Sayesha said...

Hahaha! ROFL at your :P in bold! :D

Hehehe... Thanks! Will do for you when we hold our next SATC party! ;)

Kya bol raha hai?? I love the smell of henna! :D

//i read/heard tht nut joke for the 1st time.. nice

Original tha na baba! :P

You're laughing at me! Grrrr! :@ :'(

#The chosen one,
Inhouse hennawali! Hahaha! Sure sure! World Gal ki party mein yehi karenge! :D

Hahaha! I thought you were talking about the consistency of the henna! :P

//toh thought abt quitting editorgiri and doing it fulltime?? :d

Never! :D

Thanks! Put pics after you get your spider done, okie? :P I never thought of doing this as freelance... this year is already packed with stuff... work, master's, language classes... besides, I need some more practice with henna... as of now, I only do it once or twice a year :)

#Ipanema Gal,
//hahah trust sayesha to break the ice with her bad jokes. :p

Trust Ipanema Gal to break Sayesha's heart with a remark like that. :p

//it's best when you work on the fringe and are not involved in the organisational nitty gritty, that's where things get quite demanding and also ugly sometimes.

YEAH! I think you hit the nail on the head! THAT's exactly why I enjoy it so much!! Cos I'm an independent volunteer! No meetings to attend, no doing what I dun wanna do, etc.

Hey! Upload pic's of the henna on Rina's hand, okie? :)

About Orkut, looooong story! Well, after the merger of google and orkut, my old orkut account (which I had deleted millions of years ago) was revived! And it had all my old contacts! So I just decided to keep one account. :)

Thanks! :)

//u can mail me later as to who actually did those henna jobs in the pic

Oye! Achha baba, you did it. Ab khush? :D

Thanks :)

//Doing hands-on volunteer work gives a really warm, nice and fuzzy feeling :-)

Hehe... true... :)

#Kel Tamashek,
Hahaha! I think people wanna donate money but they do want a little token in return... and that's how the face-painting/henna fund-raising stalls work. It's a good arrangement :)

Thanks, dear! :)
Inder ka bacha just laughed at my dolphin! Hmmmph! :/

Singapore aa ja, on a holiday. I'll do henna for you :)

#Raam Pyari,
Makdi se pyaar??
Woh bhi do do baar??
Hehehe! :D

Welcome to Sayeshaz! Glad you like it here :) Thanks for dropping by the comment space :)

Hehehe... yeah, if I ever become so rich that I can afford to quit my job and chill for a while, I may take it up :P

Hehehe... *gotta act modest and all* thodi si :P

Achha kiya WV hataya! Ufff kya nuisance tha! :|

Mohan Kodali said...

turning a dragon into dolphin :O

do u belong to some mutant group :D

volunteering sometimes suck as in... our coll :(

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember during Deepavali last year I badly wanted you to henna my hand.... But you were inundated with so many 'customers'. :( Anyway, your henna designs are very creative and it's great that you use your intuition to draw! Makes it very personalized.

Anonymous said...

That was me. RR

Anonymous said...

I really suck at putting mebbe next time i come to skool, i come with a henna cone.. ;) and MEBBE i can find can put that FIRST thing for me:D..its so prettty!!:)

Anonymous said...

first "design" i meant :D

R said...


saket or rehan koh goli maari
abb makdi hi hai mera dilbarr jaani

(I hope saket does not read your blog:O:O)

Ramkumar said...

u shudn't b wondering - one must cherish and njoy doing volunteer work.
girl..u r having such an interesting life.

Anand said...

hey wow,
thats sounds like quite an exciting day and must say a fulfilling one too...lovely henna designs!

Angelsera said...

y shdnt u have fun while doing volunteer fact that is the time to have mmoooosssstt fun :)

Angelsera said...

Hey me got an idea :)
how abt one weekend..when u r free..we organise a "get ur henna done by Sayesha day" :D
it can be like pot luck lunch :)

we can get together n get henna done...
wat do u say ??

Ekta said...

even I want spidey henna on my arm!!

Raj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Raj said...

Of course, u r supposed to have fun doing charity work. Why wud u do it again otherwise?

Waise, yoe seem to be pretty good at ur mehndi tattoo job :)

And why were u scared to go to little India?

Anonymous said...

Nice work, especially the spider in the web...must be cool to have a skill that is such a crowd puller!!


P said...

Hey..Looks like you had a fun, fun day!
Volunteering can be a lot of fun, especially when you walk away with that feel-good thing, it just makes it so worthwhile..
And henna patterns were really pretty..
A woman of many virtues?? :-)

ketki said...

beautiful henna designs i must say!

Rishit Jain said...

Damn, you do beautiful henna!

Apy said...

You do amazing Henna... loooks more like work of a pro...

Preethi said...

Arey waah.. acha henna banati hain re.. mere haath pe bhi banao naa.. :)

On a serious note, I was thinking about this.. Charity through work leaves you more satisfied with life is what I feel...

Nirwa Mehta said...

Err.. :D I saw something here... hehehehe .. ;-)

Anyway, coming to your post, your henna designs are so good!!! You are really good at it.. When I get married, you are doing henna on my hands! :P :P :P

And yes, you had fun doing voluntary work, because it gave you satisfaction, and I guess, that is the most amazing feeling you get! :-)

Good work! :-)


rachana said...

hi sayesha,, henna designs by u are beautiful.. and cheers for u ..

Just Jane said...

i forgot to ask....why is li'l india scary? in my one month holiday in sing, i spent atleast half of the days in li'l india, with company as well as alone! i never felt spooked or anything...sabne kahaan ke crime rate next to nil hai singapore mein...aur hona bhi chahiye, bhai ka ilaaka jo hai! ;D

Anonymous said...

Sash, I swear, everytime I come online to comment on your blog, *poof* my connection goes weird on me! :(
Oh well, anyways, I was curious why is little India scary?:D Well I'm just as scared of little India out here too but I've come to terms with it now realising its the best place for all the latest hindi dvd's here:D
Oh and keep up the good work:) Nice henna designs!

Ravi said...

What intricate designs! You perfectionist!

That was a compliment. Promise.

I wanted to see the errie orange wig. It would have been cute.

Sayesha said...


Hehehehe! Yeah yeah... you went to my competitor I remember! :P

Sure sure! :)

#Raam Pyari,
Heheheeh... tujhe kuchh nahin pata... maybe Saket has confided in me all about his e-crush! ;)

Yeah, I think you're right... I shouldn't wonder :)

Thanks :)

Well, I just wonder at times... whether it's "normal" to be enjoying oneself so much doing volunteer work... shouldn't it be taking more out of me? It's like I'm at a party or something! :P
ps: And the henna party sounds awesome! :)

Come over and get it done! :D

That's the thing... I'm not sure if you're supposed to have so much fun doing charity work :) but I'm beginning to change my mind :P

And Little India freaks me out... I don't feel safe :(

Thanks :)

Thanks :) It's my cover for all the bhai-giri! ;)

Welcome to Sayeshaz! Thanks :)

Hey welcome to Sayeshaz! And thanks! :)

Whoa! That's quite a compliment... but I'm still nowhere near the amazing work that the mehndi walis in India do :)

#Smiling Girl,
Thanks :)

Hahahahaha! I saw something here too! ;)
I hope I can make it to your shaadi. Teri shaadi ki mehndi on me! :)

Thanks! :)

#The chosen one,
Well, yeah the crime rates are low.. but I don't think it's very safe to be there alone on a Friday night. :S

Thanks! :)
ps: I don't like Little India. It gives me the creeps during weekends. :O

Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

hey thats really cool.. and definitely uve got to have fun doing volunteer work.. me into special a teacher in a school. this y first yr..and its scary but real fun.. kids are real cute.-archana-

Anonymous said...

and duuude, you've been staying here for 8 years, so its time you got used to little India! ab bacchi nahi rahi! :P

Anonymous said...

before I get misunderstood to be one of the hallowed MACs, that prev comment was me, shub

Koi Pahailee said...

i enjoyed reading this

Sayesha said...

Wow, I really admire you! I run from the responsible kind of volunteering you see... mine is on and off, when I want to... and I like it that way... yours is a fully committed thing. Kudos, gal! :)

I'm not too fond of Little India... :S If not for Mustafa, I'd never go there.
The crowd, the smell, the stares... it just gets to me... :S

#Koi Pahailee,
Thanks :)

Apy said...

Okay .. if you say so... :P

Abhishek Upadhyay said...

Wow you are such a good Daya Ka Sagar,Greatness ka temple Sayesha Bhai.

Good keep it up; your Volunteer work.

You make really very good henna designs on hand.....I will invite you for my birthday party :p.

Anonymous said...

Hehe, perhaps walking arnd in school with a hena cone is not the best idea..:) But I'll definitely wanna come for that hena party Angelsera was talking about!:D

The Inquisitive Akka said...

How do I contact you??:)

Preethi said...

Just trying to see if I can post a comment or not!!

Sayesha said...

I do. :P

//such a good Daya Ka Sagar,Greatness ka temple Sayesha Bhai

Arree?? That's all?? Where's mamta ki moorat, pariyon si soorat, gyan ki devi, kala ka bhandaar??? :-/

//I will invite you for my birthday party :p.

Apne budday par mehndi lagayega?? :D

If that party really happens, rest assured you will be there! :D

Just drop me an email at and I will email you my mobile number. :)

#Smiling Girl,
Ya allah! Bewdi!! :D

The Inquisitive Akka said...

Will do, thanks!

Kish said...

was blog surfing and came to ur blog. great work. charity and having fun. two things at the same time.i appreciate the work done by people like you.keep up the good work

Sayesha said...


Welcome to Sayeshaz and thanks for dropping by :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I got into tattoos recently.
Love your blog articles.
I've created my own blog as an ode to the art form. :-)