Wednesday, January 23, 2008

All about the mehndi

Mehndi is both totally cool and a massive pain in the butt. Reena here did my hands. Did I mention that she is 10? She was a little pushy with suggesting which designs to choose from the design book (it was clear that either a: she wanted to do certain ones or b: she was more comfortable with those designs) but whatever- I didn't have strong opinions anyway. She and I got along very well for two people who don't speak the same languages. (Even hand gesture wise- I would wave hello and she would walk towards me because apparently waving hello means 'come here' in India. Oops. I did this to many children over the course of the 5 day trip. You'd think I would have learned.)
Desh wanted pictures of the mehndi against a white background, so I crouched on the floor to oblige him. Then he took this remarkably attractive photo of me, thanks man. Once the henna paste is on your skin you are pretty much immobilized until it dries, and more specifically flakes off. I only had the henna on one side of my arms, which gave me an advantage over Sarah who had it on both sides. Until it is dry you also can't touch anything and you really shouldn't bend any joints that it is on for fear of smearing. This meant that Sarah spent a lot of time with her arms above her head or resting not very gracefully on her elbows. Desh was pressed into service feeding us dinner. Anne, Sarah, and I sat in a row on the couch/bed (which probably has a more specific name) while Desh sat on a stool in front of us with a plate and alternated who he was spooning food into. It was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. Oooh, but there was this really amazing tomato salad thingy that was divinely delicious. We ate a lot of it while discussing ways that various cultures immobilize women.
So you know how we couldn't move until it dried? Once we could move a bit we then still had to wait for the henna to flake off. It itches as it flakes off, so this combined with my astounding number of mosquito bites made for an uncomfortable night. Here is my side of the bed the morning after the mehndi had been put on. Sarah's was even more ridiculous, so itchy flakiness and then you get to sleep in it. Surely there is a better way of doing this.
The next morning one of the aunties, Smita (spelling? My favorite of the aunties) gave us coconut oil to get the last of the henna off. I can't even begin to explain how happy this made us to finally have some mobility. And our hands! We had our hands back! This photo is from right after the last of the paste came off, the color darkened considerably by the end of the day. My hands are pointing to the left and Sarah's are pointing to the right. Anne was exhausted because the night before the water tank at the apartment we were staying at overflowed. I slept through this, but Anne didn't so she didn't get much sleep at all and was taking a nap during these photos.
Our feet, I couldn't stand having the henna on any longer, so I oiled the last of it off, but Sarah didn't really mind- so you can see what it looked like to have some of the paste still on. I'm pointing up and Sarah's feet are pointing down.
Today I had my first Bonner primary school day for the Globetown project. It went really well, but what was interesting was how the mehndi gave me an automatic in with most of the girls in the class. "Oh, that's beautiful" "May I see your mehndi?" "My mom does that"


Anonymous said...

Your mehndi is much more elaborate than what I had. I think Reena has a much better eye and hand than the woman who did mine. It took about 2 weeks for it to completely wear off. The henna paste had all flaked off (or I picked it off) before I went to bed. Was really surprised at how much darker the design was by morning.
Glad you had a wonderful time and thanks for the pics.

Casitareina said...

ooh, when did you have it done?

Anonymous said...

Just after Thanksgiving. It was a treat from Michele for our group at Earthues.