5/16/13

day to day india: Mehndi magic


Back at the hotel we have just enough time for a quick nap before showering and changing for the evening festivities at Mehkri Circle, where  Addu's mother has coordinated a house party and Mehndi to celebrate Dinky & George's marriage. On my first visit to their home we spent the time at their apartment and today we explore the rooftop of the building where the party is underway beneath a purple, red & yellow tent.  There is an elevated stage at the front of the and seating area. In a separate room off to the side three henna artists painted the hands and arms of the female guests, intricate designs made freehand. (Note: Dinky's arms and feet were beautifully decorated this afternoon before everyone arrived.)

Up until now I haven't met a lot of the family and it is at the Mehndi that the multigenerational women come together.  Friends and relatives are seated on the folded futon to the right waiting their turn for a sitting. Here I meet Shakuntala (Bangalore) and her daughter Priya, who is from Bombay. Shakuntala is a longtime friend of Ramani. Tanvi joins, as well as Addu's cousins, 18 year old Pritika and 15 year old Priyanka. Both are stunning and sure to be heartbreakers in a few years (if thethaten't already).  Then there is Indu and Sabrina, other friends of Ramani.  We chitchat as the three artisans decorate the hands of those ahead of us. It is a contrast of colors, the artists in neutral muted colors, the guests in bright party clothes the bridge between forged by symbols on skin. The artists work the design as if in a trance, the brown ink piping curlicues and scallops, ribbons and feathers like a Happy Birthday message on a Carvel sheet cake. Your individual body temperature determines the outcome of the color once the design dries, and a debate breaks out on whether or not you should brush on a paste of lemon and sugar water to make the color last longer.  It takes 10-15 minutes plus an additional 10 for the ink to dry; there is an element of eucalyptus oil in the ink that cools the hand.
 
This is not the first time I've had a henna tattoo.  A few summers ago I bought a Living Social deal for Akiyo, a local artist and had a piece done as decoration for an upcoming event. She worked out of her home, a sunny and airy railroad in Queens. I went by myself and having experienced the real thing, I think I prefer the camaraderie of a Mehndi party with friends, it's much more fun.

Hands painted it's time to join the party, in the outer room on the terrace. Here they are getting ready for the performances where members of the bridal party dance for the bride and groom. First there is Addu and her mother, than the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, and a combination of the two. Then Advaitha comes out for a solo--I'm sure I knew that she could dance the traditional folk style but it's a nice surprise to see her in moving her hands and head in a fusion of classic and modern mudras. Next Divyanka who is a vocalist by trade serenades George with an a cappella version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You."
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