The Big Day is drawing near and preparations are near complete. There is only 1 thing left to do. Someone started grounding the fresh henna leaves which were picked and dried the day before and another extracted juice from a basket of limes. Drops of oils from tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender were then added to the mixture so that the paste will stain better.
12 hours later and the paste is carefully spooned into a cone shaped paper and applied with utmost artistry.
An art form originating from ancient India, mehndi is typically applied to brides, even bridegrooms in certain parts of India, before the wedding ceremony. In very sophisticated patterns, the bride often has her groom's name painted into the design and as the henna binds into the bride's skin, her man is symbolically and similarly bound or bonded.
Mehndi is also applied during festivals, 7th month of pregnancy, Deepavali or Diwali and any other occasions like the grand opening of a business with big ceremonial celebration.
Natural henna only produces reddish brown mehndi. Our girls know better than to try "black henna" which is quite the rage at the palace now as "black is the new reddish brown". Many harem girls have met their maker after using this "black henna" because it contains PPD (p-Phenylenediamine nicknamed "permanent pain or death"). A most unfortunate girl even lost her feet, thanks to her need to be hip (although that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For she regained her freedom after being banished from the harem, met the man of her dreams and was frequently spotted at Tallulah's).
The Prophet Muhammed dyed his beard red using henna and his daughter, adorned her hands in mehndi. The use of henna and mehndi by the Prophet insured its place in history.
200 years later when women are too busy to wait for henna paste to set, one can purchase a nice pack of henna transfers for S$2 at any Daiso store. To apply, you peel away the pattern, put it where you want it, wet it with a tissue and then gingerly remove the paper leaving the design on the palm or the back of your hand or wherever you fancy.
Like around your belly button, where half a blossom peeps through and subtle tendrils creeps sensually round to your back.
OR at the side of a slim waist, a bold full bloom, unabashed and proud , so loud no one can miss it.
And finally the rose, the emblematic tattoo for all women who find no need to hide their sensuality or fear telling the world "I am Passion, My Love is Pure".
And if you like what you see, and must have one of these, be sure to visit Rolla and Ro, (originals only), Chandni Chowk, Sunday to Thursday. Price starts at 50 gold bars per hour (for trainee artist) or 200 gold bars per hour (for master Sumaiya Mehreen, see hand-drawn sample below or her blog )