Chand Raat

I put mehndi on Myna’s hand tonight. I thought it would be a wonderful mother-daughter thing to do together. She is the unequivocal girlie girl. She is ecstatic at the prospect of wearing her eid jora tomorrow and putting on her bangles and enormous heart-shaped crystal-studded ring.

But the prospect of little old Ammi putting mehndi on her hand didn’t quite have Myna beside herself. There was no other option however, so she resigned herself to sitting down with me. She egged me on to look up designs on the internet before I started putting her mehndi on. As we proceeded however, she began feeling more and more delighted at what she saw emerging on her hands. As I felt more confident with each squiggle, I became more daring in my design. In the end her hands looked decent enough, covered in modestly pretty patterns. She showed off my handiwork to BH and her brothers, proclaimed me to be an ‘expert’ mehndi artist and asked everyone she could to pick the hand they thought had the prettier pattern.

I was reminded of when Ammi put mehndi on my hands back in 12 C. I was so excited at the prospect of it, never sceptical for an instant about Ammi’s skill. Ammi mixed the henna powder with some water to make a thick mehndi of dough-like consistency. She put a dollop in each hand. She reached out of the window to pick two leaves from the mango tree growing outside our two-storey apartment building. She put a leaf each on the henna gobs in my hands and carefully folded my fingers over them. She tied up my fists with strips of muslin and we were done. Abbu was so enamoured with his henna-burdened daughter that he fed me my dinner. It tasted much better when he fed it to me, each piece of roti artfully wrapped around the salan. He cleaned my mouth after I finished and helped me brush my teeth. And then I went to bed, hands still tied up into fists. I woke up the next morning and couldn’t wait to wash off the mehndi to see how dark a hue it had left on my hands during the night. We undid the muslin, washed my hands in the sink. The henna washed muddily down the drain and I grinned delightedly at the sight of my hands, a deep orangey-brown with the colour of henna. I held them to my nose and they smelled divine. The scent of mehndi has always been magical to me. It defines tradition and romance in a way nothing else can.

Ammi showed me the shape of a duck in the stain the lump of henna had left on my hands and I was pleased as Punch!

I can’t wait for Myna to wake up tomorrow and for the two of us to wash her mehndi off! I can’t wait for her to put on her Eid finery, her kolha-puris, her bangles, her ring! I can’t wait for BH to look at her and smile his special father smile.

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