- Talk to the expert 0844 879 3960
- Request a Brochure
Beaming faces that were flickered with excitement and anticipation surrounded me. One question was burning on their lips, and hovering in the air above my head like dragonflies. “Marriage? Marriage? Marriage?” The faces fell slightly with a gentle mixture of disappointment and sadness when I replied “No.” The mehndi artists kept glancing up at these faces, before continuing their work, creating a tapestry of patterns onto my skin.
Mehndi is a traditional art form in India and the Middle East. The powdered henna plant is used along with oil and tea to make a paste. This paste is then applied to the skin, before it dries and flakes off, to leave a semi-permanent mark. Patterns and the amount of detail differ depending on geographical regions and the celebration. Mehndi is a great feature of weddings, for the guests as well as the blushing bride.
In Ahmedabad, Gujarat, I ventured to one of the city’s vast malls, in search of this art form. In a corner of the ground floor was a deserted spot, where the artist was supposed to be. Apparently he had gone for lunch, and was taking his own sweet time. In India, the concept of time is very different, resulting in a slower pace of life and a more relaxed manner about approaching things. Whenever in doubt, you will always be reassured by the infamous Indian head wobble. Inevitably, I had attracted a small crowd of onlookers.
Eventually a young man, dressed in a dusty shirt, trousers, and sandals, slowly shuffled over to where I was waiting. The artist seemed surprised that his corner was not empty how he had left it. “Oh, there is someone interested in having mehndi?” He invited me to sit down. Balancing on a plastic baby seat, I was handed a dog-eared portfolio of designs to look through.
Being a Libran does not make me the world’s best decision-maker, but after a few minutes of deliberating between two designs, I finally settled for a flower-based one. During this time, another young man arrived to help out.
My hands began to tickle as the cold paste snaked out of the mehndi cones onto my skin. The men, who were decorating a hand each, kept glancing at the other’s work. It seemed they had a competition running between the two of them. Who would finish first? And whose work would be the best?
It didn’t take long before I had flowers blossoming on my skin, swirling branches and curly leaves. Patterns appeared from fairytales, and those which come from our beautiful imagination. A few hours later (let’s skip the tricky bit where you’re faced with not being able to touch anything!), the dried henna paste crumbled off. Underneath, my hands had been transformed into an Indian garden of storytelling and enchantment.