Walking into the ‘Desi’ salon to get my eyebrows done, I had not planned for what was coming next, finding some “me time” and getting groomed seemed like a distant dream and a luxury these days, yet the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed getting it, is putting it very subtly…and why not ? Hindi music was blaring from the TV, bright colors all around, the lady who runs the place offered me some samosa and masala chai as I entered, saying they just got it from the chaat place,next door.Suddenly feeling homesick, I sunk into that huge cushioned chair.Loudly chatting to every customer on her salon chair, she headed over to me, reaching out and giving me a tight bear hug. “Where have you been all these days, “beti”(Hindi term for addressing a child or daughter) ? she asked. Holding back a tear, for the affection I felt for this kind lady, “You know I go into hibernation, for Winter, don’t you ??” I replied,making a mock annoyed expression with my eyes. We both laughed loudly & then she went on to say I needed to catch up on some of her essential services,while running her fingers thru my hair, for which I nodded happily.
Do you know the feeling you get when you take your car in for service and then your car comes out sparkling clean and shiny, that’s about the same feeling I get when I visit her place.There is much good energy in there with bouts of laughter, music and if you are lucky some good food too.It’s more like soul food or window shopping ,you go there for the joy it brings to your spirit & the added perk is the grooming . She started to thread my eyebrows, it was then that I noticed her little henna design on her palm.On a whim, I asked her if she could do it for me, coz I had some time on my hands that morning. She gladly agreed and pointed to a young and shy girl in the salon saying,” She is the henna artist,here”& called out to her, asking if she could give me a time to get my henna done, walk in’s were allowed in this salon, completely ‘desi’ style, no previous appointment needed unlike the many places here, they always can make time for their customers.How they do it, I have no idea, but most of us who leave the salon walk away feeling like million dollars or more 🙂
It has been ages since I had henna/mehendi on my hands, I had forgotten the simple pleasures of “feeling like a woman” , so when my turn came, in my ignorance,I asked the young girl , if she had a design book handy for me to pick a design from. She winked and pulled her smart phone out of her pocket, on her finger tips was Pinterest…Lo! and behold the designs that popped up on the page, had me giddy with joy, now I had a tough choice to make, I picked a simple design ( or so I thought !) to suit my heart’s desire.The young girl worked like a pro moving her fingers with the henna cone so deftly. Softly, I asked her, “Are you an artist , by any chance ? You draw the henna design, so beautifully ! ” She replied shyly, “I sketch at home, in my free time” She had real skills, I told her, she was so good at it.
Stretching my arms out to her,relaxing in the well cushioned chair, I walked down memory lane….the first time I had henna was as a kid perhaps when I was six or seven, our maid at home had gone to her native village for her annual vacation and as a humble gift she always brought back a bag of nicely ground henna paste.She would regale stories from her village as I sat listening to her patiently while she dabbed round henna balls on to my finger tips and palms with the henna paste, those days the design world of henna hadn’t emerged yet, the times when simple joys of coloring your nails and palm with henna was just as joyful as it is today. There are simply joys of growing up in rural India, which nothing in the world can compare to, so beautifully depicted in this song from a Tamil movie called, ‘Indian’.It also depicts the henna style of covering your finger tips, like the way our maid used to do it for us, apart from heart warming simple joys of being a part of a loving family.Enjoy, the song !
Years later, the same maid got us some henna plant seeds that we grew in our backyard into a beautiful henna plant, most of our weekend afternoons would be under that henna tree, picking those leaves to grind into a paste & deck our hands with come late evening.
The stories she told us the,moved on to ghost stories and the like as we grew a little older.We went into laborious research to find what would give the henna the brightest color , so in went betel leaves, lemon juice etc to the grinding mix, the magic concoction, that turned our fingers and palm into the brightest red orange color that ever was. We slept with it overnight, so the next morning when we woke up the color would be brighter, most of the times we would wake up with henna sticking to our hair or even worse coloring your sibling or cousin’s face just b’coz they slept beside you.There was always laughter associated with henna during childhood, hence the urge to revisit the memories.
The leaves are collected from the henna plant and ground into a fine paste using a traditional grinding stone,
….at least that is how it was done those days, which our maid was an expert in, these days they are available as ready made cones containing henna & they come in pre-made commercial henna paste, so if you are an artist by nature all you have to know is to work the cone.Times have changed. As I sat lost in these happy thoughts, suddenly the young girl broke my reverie by asking, ” So, is there going to be a party this weekend, what is the occasion, why all this henna ? ” she asked.
I smiled and quietly replied, “Yes, celebrating ME”.First she looked up curiously, then her eyes sparkled, she smiled and said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have heard in a while,and YES! why not?” We both smiled knowingly, suddenly in all the enthusiasm of someone so young, she said, ‘Can, I draw some flowers too ? ”
“Go, right ahead,” I said”..it’s Spring after all” and that is how we went to town with the henna, her & me.
This morning while I wash my face , I can’t but help admire the rich hue the henna has taken on my palms,…..
I smile to myself admiring her art on my hands, deep inside we are all little girls at heart, simple joys is all we crave.Go find some time and get your henna smile on , even if it for a day, it is totally worth it !
Henna or ‘Mehendi ‘as it is traditionally called has stood the test of time, over the ages it has been used in festivals, marriages and religious functions alike in India and with other cultures that follow it, it was originally thought to have travelled from Egypt to India, the Egyptians queens have been known to, supposedly have colored their hair a bright orange as a fashion statement……
It won’t be long before it catches up here in the U.S, me thinks after all, going by the hair color in political landscape, Orange is the New Black!