It has been three months since the wedding and the bridal mehendi (henna) remnants are now just waning moons on my toe and finger nails. But whenever I look at them, my lips curl up into a slight smile. The smile is because of the associated story.
I have always known how I wanted my bridal mehendi. It should not be too intricate or too small designs, but should be flowing and paisley based. As the wedding was to be held in Delhi, I told my sister to arrange a mehendi artist for us. As she resides next to a CC market, she knew such artists. Now these artists are very busy ones and during the wedding season, their schedules are tightly packed. So she booked one of them almost two months before the D-day.
I was to have my mehendi done a day after the ‘Haldi (turmeric)’ ceremony. The artists were to come in the late afternoon and weave their magic on my hands and feet. As it was a festive season with Diwali just around the corner, only one artist (A-1) could come. His partner (A-2) was tied up in their shop. A-2 was supposed to run to our place as soon as he could.
Now my sister was somewhat tensed. I had given her the mehendi responsibility and if the job did not turn out good, she would to hear about it from me for the rest of our lives. So she had all her fingers and toes crossed. A-1 came, handed over their works album to me to select while he prepared his mehendi cones. Looking at the photographs, I as well as my sister were reassured that these guys are good. Mehendi was to cover my hands up to my arms and feet almost up to the knees. Initially I was all enthusiastic and excited. The show started sometime before 5 PM. As A-1 worked out his designs, I was getting happier. As only one hand was being worked on, I clicked pictures with my free hand and sent them to the groom so that my mother-in-law could see. But as A-1 started working on the second hand, I was somewhat crippled.
I have to say, mehendi art is not a easy job. It involves a lot of patience, precision and of course talent. A-1 was quite fast, but since it was bridal mehendi, he had to make beautiful designs. And he was giving utmost attention to detailing. As he was working, I asked him how and when he joined this profession. He started telling his life story of how he got inspired while working as a shop assistant of a mehendi artist. He spoke about the various artists he worked with and about his current senior and partner, A-2, who is just like an elder brother. Since it was a wedding season, he had not had much sleep during the last few nights and spoke about the absurd requests of the brides. Like one bride had quite thin hands and how she wanted Shivji, Ganeshji, Lakshmiji and even Krishnaji on her arms. And when the picture did not turn out like she wanted, she started crying. I just hoped that I would not do anything which would make me look like a crazy bride too.
By the time my both hands were done, it was around 10 PM. And A-1 went out for dinner. After five hours of holding my hands straight in one position, they were cold and numb. And when you know that you cannot use your hands, your body starts to itch all over. So somebody had to be there all the time on my beck and call. The worst is in the case of a nature’s call. And my feet were yet to be done. Meanwhile, Maa fed me my dinner.
A-1 came back in an hour’s time and started working on my feet. I was tired and could see that A-1 was tired too. I said to him that he need not make complicated designs and can go with simple ones. But he was too honest and replied that he can not lie to his work and he has to do a fabulous job. So he continued with what he intended. Around almost midnight, A-2 arrived after closing their shop for the day. Immediately he started to work on my other foot. He was actually faster than A-1. After he was done with my foot, he did Maa’s hands. By then both my feet were done and then my sisters’ turns came. As all of us hands’ would be tied, my sister had kept the charged fee ready to be taken away. Deta had gone to sleep. By the time both artists’ work was done, it was 1.30 AM. And of course we had to sleep with the mehendi on. By the regular application of sugar and lemon syrup on the drying mehendi, it had stuck to the skin. Hands and feet imprisoned, I went to sleep.
First job in the morning was to remove the mehendi. It was relatively easier for the others to remove theirs as they had only their hands done. Even after application of mustard oil, mine had to be scrapped out with a knife and scratched off with cotton cloth. Thanks to both my sisters, I was free at last.
I was very very happy with the artist. He truly did a commendable job. My mehendi was just the way I dreamed it would be. And the pain, immobility and investment paid off and was actually worth every moment and penny. My sister was relieved too. She was so happy the previous night that she wanted to pay more than what was bargained! But Maa did not allow her to have her way. The colour became deeper with each passing day and looked fresh on both of the wedding receptions within a week, held at venues 1800 kilometers apart.
May be in two months time, the waning moons on my nails will completely vanish. But I am surely going to miss their telling me my mehendi story.