What Henna Means
Henna is synonymous with everything desi weddings are- messy, all over the place, fussy, even smelly, but in the end, gorgeous. It’s one of those things that no wedding in indian or pakistani families is complete without. Even so far away from all the cultural roots, henna still *ahem* stains the parties red. There’s no life lessons in the leaves or the patterns, but it’s funny how much a simple ritual can signify.
Different religions have different reasons or reasonings for henna, but in the cultural hodge podge that the indian subcontinent is, henna is an absolute prerequisite for every newly wed bride, whether hindu, muslim, or sikh. There’s different patterns, spirals and leaves and flower motifs. A particular thing I didn’t know about that till today was that apparently, the groom’s name is worked into the intricate henna designs on the bride’s hands. Plus, there’s different patterns for hands and arms and legs and feet, it’s practically a science of its own! I’ve had a spate of weddings in our community here recently, and the current one’s my cousin’s wedding. Today was a looooong session of, well, just henna everywhere, really.
It’s totally not my thing. I don’t remember the last time I had henna on my hands (I’m pretty sure a butterfly on my neck doesn’t count in the traditional sense, lol). But instead of sitting on the sidelines ducking away from all the girls walking around with outstretched arms, or the so called dance floor for the ones whose hands have dried, I actually sat in the pit. And I got my hands done.
It’s messy. And it’s so, SO smelly. Not even the freshly mown grass kind of smell, or the crushed leaves kind of aroma. It’s a strong, earthy odor that quickly takes over the room (and your head, trust me). And it’s cold and ticklish, even though the ladies who apply it are seriously pro. They go swish swash swoosh across your palm with crazy detailing, and you’re done in like ten minutes, tops. It’s just… the atmosphere it sets.
But it’s beautiful too, if you look right.
It’s supposed to be a promise of happiness. Of new beginnings, and of two people starting a life together. Of families sitting together and singing and dancing and celebrating their happiness. It’s times like these when the dormant streak in me that hopes for domestic bliss, raises its head and looks around wistfully. I was sitting next to the bride, who was sitting rather gracefully for a girl splayed out like a starfish, a different artist working on each of her limbs. And the cloying surge of emotion threatened to overpower even the smell.
Just another thing I’ll never have.
Not that I particularly want to be graffitied all over, mind you. Or be one of those harried married chicks with a squalling demon baby and a straying husband. But the rest, all of it. Sometimes I find myself wanting the promise of a home, and love, and the happily ever after. Reminders of more things, just more things I’ll never have.
Never realized that flower patterns could be so depressing.
Oh well, at least I don’t have to bother with this again, at least for few years. Or till the next wedding when they manage to emotionally blackmail me into it. Whichever’s later.
That’s one thing henna’s good for, I guess. Whatever it means, but it’s good for hiding someone turning a delicate shade of jealous green. :p :p Till the moment passes, and I’m back staring exhaustedly at the people mucking about, and wondering when this torture will end.
Goddamn this smell, though. SERIOUSLY!!!!
Cheers and face masks,
Ps. Peekaboo, peekabee- you see me!