Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{August 3, 2007}   Shalu’s Mehndi

Wednesday was Shalu’s Mehndi (a.k.a. henna party). Like the Sangeet last week, this was a first for me. As many of my friends will attest, I’d been looking forward to this for a while1.

When we arrived, Shalu was already being hennaed. As the bride, she got very intricate henna work done on the front and back for both hands and forearms, and both feet. This is how she looked when we got there, with the henna artist working on her foot:


The henna artist that they hired was amazing! Now, I know that I’m not really qualified to judge that, as I’ve never even seen a henna artist at work before, but several people who have been to many henna parties remarked over the course of the evening about how impressed they were with both the speed and the quality of her work. I was astounded by watching her – she had a small plastic bag filled with henna, with a hole cut out of the end, not unlike the way you decorate a cake2 – and she would draw these really intricate patterns, flawlessly, faster than most people could draw with a pen!

And look at the result! These are Shalu’s hands:


I recommend clicking on that photo to see the bigger sized picture, so you can fully appreciate the detail!

In total, Shalu was being decorated for an hour and a half! Also, in the pattern, the artist wrote Deepak’s name and then Shalu had to try to find it!

After Shalu, anyone who wanted could put their name down on a list and get their henna done. There was a page of different patterns that you could chose from and you could chose to have either the palm of your hand or the back of your hand done. Henna turns out darker on the palm of your hand, because the skin there contains more keratin3 than the back of your hand, but apparently it also wears off faster. I decided to get the back of my hand done because I want it to last until Erika’s wedding next weekend. And because it’s more noticeable and you know me, I like attention.

Here is the henna artist working on my hand:


And here is what it looked like once she was done:


In the above picture, the henna paste is still wet. The longer you leave the paste on, the darker the resulting design will be. So there were a lot of girls walking around the party only using one hand, trying not to disturb their henna paste.

Eventually, the paste dries out and starts to flake off and the design appears as a bright orange:


The henna artist assured those of us “who have never had henna done before”4 that the orange was temporary, the colour would turn brown overnight.

And it did, as you can see here in this photo that I took the next day:


Also, when we had arrived at Shalu’s house, there was a giant S in the driveway, made out of candles. Mina decided that Kai and I should fill in the ends of the S to make a yin yang:


Did I mention that there was wine? Lots of wine. Every time I turned around, Shalu’s dad or her friend Sonny was filling up my wine glass. Literally, I wouldn’t even be looking and I’d turn around and one of them was pouring more wine into my glass. And the food was incredible! I think Shalu’s mom is the best cook I’ve ever met!

And now I’m off to the tailor to pick up my sari5 and buy some bling to go with it. I’m going to wear my sari to the wedding ceremony tomorrow and to the reception on Sunday. So excited for the rest of this weekend!

1 translation: I haven’t shut up about how excited I was for the henna party for weeks.
2 in fact, someone mentioned that to the henna artist and she said that she used to decorate cakes before she got into doing henna.
3a protein in skin.
4translation: “hey you, lone white girl! Yeah, I’m talking to you!”

5fingers crossed that it’s ready!

Kelly says:

Very nice designs, Beth!

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