November 28, 2000

mehandi laga ke rakhna…

mmmmmm! how i love the smell of fresh and dark mehandi on my hands!

i finally managed to get out of office and leave for sanjeev’s place in the evening, to attend the mehandi and sangeet before anjani’s wedding on the 30th.

i remembered how jyoti (my didi) and i used to get ‘orders’ for such mehandi ceremonies…and i used to accompany jyoti as her “assistant”.

my first assignment was to apply mehandi to a bride (on her feet, all the way up to her knees) for 7 (seven) looooong hours. my eyes used to almost pop out, applying the delicate design, with all the eucalyptus vapours stinging my eyes. but i loved it. i’m not sure, but i think i’d just entered college then.

since the mehandi custom is alien to the south, it was a chance for me to see and participate in different cultures … i’ve been to rajasthani, sindhi and gujarati weddings (for mehandi, specifically, apart from my own cousins’ weddings), but it was interesting to observe that the excitement would be the same everywhere.

at the end of the day (which would often extend up to 11:00 pm), didi would give me my share of the money we earned.

gawd, it was fun…the age when girls meant a lot of mischief and boys meant cousins who pulled your hair and your leg, and stole sweets from your plate.

i miss those really hard-earned paid-by-the-hour-wages.

i miss the times we cousins would sit together to clean and filter the dry mehandi powder, and then mix it in a concoction of tea water, eucalyptus oil and methi seeds left overnight. all this was done at least a day before we made the cones, ourselves. i miss that almost-spontaneous-and-creative-at-pressure exercise, when you have to apply delicate mehandi using a cone that was ready to burst any moment, amid all that excitement and noise.

and while the mehandi artist at sanjeev’s house was applying mehandi on my palms that night, my eyes stung again.

where, and *when* did all that innocence disappear?

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