Designing My Love!
Designing My Love!
“From where can I get fresh henna?” Dorothy questioned her sister curiously. It is the month of November. Everyone at the college proudly displayed their hands decorated with so many intricate designs of fresh henna. Dorothy did not want to get the henna powder that is available at the provision store.
Dorothy wanted to apply henna to show her heart. She always wished the designs of the henna on a girl’s hand to reflect not only the deep love, but also their passion for their mate. As she would be getting married during the month of November, she wanted fresh henna. Usually, it rained heavily during the month of October and it refreshed the dry twigs of henna with tender leaves. At the end of October, the entire bush looked dark green with fresh leaves. The beginning of November filled the henna bush with flowers. Every twig with bunches of flowers looked delightful.
During her school days, there were a greater number of independent houses. No house was there without a henna plant. She remembered plucking fresh leaves from the plant and then ground the leaves in the stone grinder at the backyard. Everyone would apply henna and bet to see who got the darkest shade of henna. They simply applied the henna paste on the fingers and hands.
Rarely did parents encourage the girls to draw intricate designs on their hands with the henna paste. Sometimes her mother would collect the fresh henna flowers, dry them and soak it in the coconut oil. Then she would keep the bottle every day in the sun till the oil turned red in color. The oil soaked with henna flowers helped to keep the body cool and it also helped in the growth of dark and lengthy hair.
Dorothy remembered vaguely an incident at school. One of her school friends who came from a place near Cochin came to school one day with her hands decorated with intricate designs of henna. All the girls surrounded her friend and asked her how to apply the henna paste to get such intricate designs. As if it was a secret, the girl refused to tell them. But, that happened a decade ago.
The tattoo and henna body art have grown much like a modern day requirement rather than as a traditional custom. Yet, in middle class families, parents encouraged their girls to have henna body art rather than tattoos on their body.
The city crowded with so many beauty parlors offered excellent henna body art services. The parlors provided exclusive bridal packages for henna body art decoration. The qualified beauticians took care of the entire thing and with their professional expertise they chose the best that would suit the bride. But Dorothy did not want to go to a professional beautician. She wanted to accept the help of her friend, Neena, who is an expert in henna body art.
As Neena would understand what she wanted, Dorothy preferred her. The only issue in this was that Dorothy needed fresh henna leaves. Unaware of the issues that would follow her attempt to collect fresh henna leaves, Dorothy approached the green vendor near her house. As promised, the green vendor brought her fresh henna leaves.
Neena came to Dorothy’s house one evening and prepared the henna paste. She diligently prepared the paste and left it on the top shelf before she went to the dining room to have her food. At that time, little kids playing in front of the house came inside in search of the ball they were playing with. One of the little girls climbed the shelf and her curious eyes found the bowl with henna paste. She brought the bowl down and they all started to apply henna on their hands.
When Neena came back the entire place was in a chaos. To her shock, she found Dorothy’s little niece licking her fingers, which were smeared with henna paste, and she could not help screaming aloud. Without expecting anyone to help her, she rushed with the child to the nearby clinic. As she knew about the ingredients mixed in the henna paste, she did not want to take a chance. The doctor at the clinic helped the child to vomit and then prescribed some medicine. When Neena came back she was upset and she left the place immediately.
Dorothy did not compel Neena to stay back, and she immediately decided to go to a reputed beauty parlor in the city. Dorothy was made to spend more than three hours to get the henna done. Her excitement about applying henna paste to her liking had vanished and she left the entire thing to the beautician. The beautician with her expertise transformed her hands and legs, which were a treat to admire.
The bridal henna body art always included hidden words, usually the groom’s name. It is believed that if the groom failed to find his name within those intricate patterns, the bride will be dominant in their married life. Sometimes, the wedding night is not allowed to start until the groom has found the names. Most of the middle class marriages in India are arranged and so the bride and bride groom see each other only on the day of their wedding. Though things are different in cities, people living in towns and villages still do not encourage earlier interaction before marriage. In this situation, the tradition allows the groom to touch the bride’s hands to find his name and initiates a physical relationship.
Even Neena was surprised to see the intricate designs on Dorothy’s hands. As the beautician knew about the latest trend and taste of the younger generation, she took the maximum care to draw designs that reflected the times. Dorothy’s fiancée, Rajesh, was much impressed when he got a glimpse of the henna art on her hands. After the engagement, he talked to her over the phone for a few times only. He did not get the chance to chat whole-heartedly before marriage, as Dorothy refused, quoting her mother. Her mother did not want to encourage such things. Though Dorothy argued about why she could not chat with Rajesh, she restricted herself. Colleagues at the office made fun of Rajesh and mocked him by telling him that he did not belong to the year 2010, but the late seventies and eighties.
The day of their marriage dawned, and now Rajesh desperately waited for Dorothy at the marriage dais. After five minutes, Dorothy walked to the dais with her friends. Rajesh could only steal a few glances at Dorothy. One thing that immediately caught his attention was the intricate henna designs on both her hands. It brought a pleasant smile to his face. Right from his childhood, Rajesh admired hands which were richly decorated with henna. He remembered how his mother used to decorate her hands often with henna. She never left her hands bare of henna.
As they had a very big henna bush in their backyard, once every two months, she used to apply henna to her hands. Rajesh loved to pluck the leaves from the henna bush and help his mother to grind it into a paste. Whenever, she applied henna, she would apply it for Rajesh also. Rajesh’s father and his friends laughed at him and made fun of him, but Rajesh loved henna as much as his mother liked it. He loved to be a mother’s pet. Every time when she applied the henna, he would ask his mother to apply henna with a new design. He never wanted her to apply the henna paste with the same old design. He slowly came out of his obsession for henna once he entered high school. He did not want to get mocked by the girls in his class and this became his excuse for not applying henna.
Rajesh could not resist his desire to hold Dorothy’s hands and admire the intricate designs of henna. Yet, the place prevented him from doing so for he sat at the marriage dais. After the rituals, someone asked him to hold Dorothy’s right hand. His fingers restlessly squeezed Dorothy’s hand and tried to feel the smoothness of the intricate designs of henna. The touch of henna brought to him fresh childhood memories. For a few seconds, Rajesh went into a trance. He starred at everyone without any expression.
“Hi, Rajesh, what happened?” Rajesh’s friend Kumar whispered into his ears. Pulled back into reality, Rajesh nodded his head. “Nothing,” he whispered to his friend.
“Is it so. I believe.” With a mischievous look, Kumar left the dais.
After the marriage, the newly married couple first visited the famous temple in the town. When Rajesh reached his home along with his newlywed bride, the little girls crowded around Dorothy and asked her to show the henna designs. They did not let her hands escape them and Dorothy sat smiling at them. Rajesh eyed them with jealousy and wished everyone would leave them alone for a while.
At the same time, one of his aunts called him. “Rajesh, can you find your name in the designs?” She took the hands of Dorothy and pushed them into his hands.
“It is a challenge. Can you find it?”
“Yes, I can. What is the deal?” Rajesh also joined her.
“First find it. If you can’t, you have to give us five hundred rupees.”
“Accepted.” With a cheer, Rajesh took her hands and started to search for his name in the intricate designs of henna. His eyes meticulously searched for his name. The henna designs started from the fingers and extended till the elbows. Dorothy with a blushing smile showed her hands patiently. Rajesh searched again and again for more than ten minutes for his name. Still, he could not spot it.
The designs were so intricate it appeared with a different pattern each time. More than fifteen minutes went by and still he could not find his name amid the patterns. Rajesh did not want to accept his failure. He threw a secret glance at Dorothy requesting her to help him to find it. Though she knew where his name was written, she did not want to tell him. Dorothy wanted to enjoy the fun and she cheered him along with the other little girls.
“Rajesh, come and have your lunch.” When Rajesh’s mother called them for lunch, he started to walk away from there.
“We will not allow you to go.” Little girls and women from their family cheered him on. Rajesh took his purse and handed over the five hundred rupees to them.
“Dorothy, he is at your feet. You will dominate him.” All the young girls cheered at Dorothy. With a blush, Dorothy followed him to the lunch table.