Painted Ladies

If you’re a bride in the US, your friends and relatives give you a shower. You have lots of good things to eat, gossip, play games, drink wine, get some presents, and have a good time. Sometimes, the bridesmaids will go together for a manicure and pedicure. Here in India, it is common to have a Mehandi party for your friends and relatives. Mehandi is the henna dye designs for hands and feet the bride wears for the wedding. Here’s Rashmi getting beautiful for her wedding.

The designs take a long time to apply. Rashmi began around 10 and finished up about 4…a long time to wait for beauty. Once the henna has been applied to your skin, you can’t touch anything. Your palms and tops of hands are covered. If you want to eat or drink, someone has to help you. Of course we were all drinking and eating and yakking on our mobile phones. I felt really strange having Rashmi’s auntie hold my phone!
There are many designs and patterns for mehandi. Rashmi has the traditional Hindu pattern of tiny, intricate designs of paisley and lace. To get a deep color, you have to leave the dye on for a long time. Once it dries, it flakes off, so we dab our design with lemon-sugar water to make it stick and stay on.

When the design was finished, the artist colored Rashmi’s fingertips a very dark color. Later, she painted her nails a bright orange-red that complimented her wedding saree.

Most of us chose to have our mehandi done in the Arabic or Middle East style. These are large floral patterns that leave most of the skin free of color. Here is my pattern.

Here I am having the design applied: The artist uses a little tube similar to a cake decorating bag, with an extremely fine nozzle.

Everyone says if your design turns out dark, your husband really loves you. It is really a function of body heat and the length of time you leave the dye on, but it’s nice to feel loved anyway.

There is also a tradition where the artist writes your husband’s name someplace on your hands or feet. If he can find his name, you have to buy him a gift. If he can’t, he buys you a gift. Tom easily found his name, my design was so simple. I haven’t seen Rashmi since the wedding, but I bet it took Kiran a long time to find HIS name. Tom’s name is on the inside of my left hand ring finger. I felt like I was in 8th grade and wrote my boyfriend’s name on my hand. I never actually did that, but some kids did. One of the young women at the party had no husband, but lots of suitors. Everyone teased her about the number of names she’d have.

Here’s a close up of Rashmi’s hands at the wedding:
Rashmi and Kiran

Here I am again.

We have to have a picture of Tom in here, even though men don’t get mehandi. He is too spiffy to leave out!

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