Friday, December 04, 2009

Why I love henna?

I have always told everyone I love henna but why?
Is it because I  am an Indian and henna is a very important part of the Indian culture?
Is it about getting together with your girlfriends and family ?
Is it the aroma of henna or is it the process of mixing the paste and the anticipation of getting henna done and then taking good care of it?
Is it about the color next day and seeing the color grow on you or is it about trying out different ways to help the color get richer?
Is it just another temporary pain free adornment or decoration?
I have always heard people telling me at henna parties that they love henna and cannot do without it. But I rarely do henna on myself  and hardly ever have the urge to do it as well but I love doing it for everyone else.
Then why do I love henna?
I believe for me henna is more about a connection and the art of how something so humble arising from the earth and turns into something so exotic and so beautiful.
I have a very specific memory from when I was around 6 or 7 years old.My mom did henna for me and two of the other girls around the same age who were my neighbors back home in India.
Just after she finished my friend Meghna's henna and gave her instructions to sit in one place and not touch anything till the henna dries, Meghna could not resist the urge to drive a tricycle and went about doing so with henna on her hands.
I remember vividly my mother seeing that while doing my henna and telling her to stop, then asking her to be more careful and then immediately fixing it without saying a word more about it.
I don't know what upset my mom more, her creation getting destroyed or Meghna being disappointed?
For me henna is that connection with my mother and those moments we spent together.

Like my mother, my hands are hardly ever adorned with henna and yet I still find it very relaxing while doing it for everyone else. My mother also always wanted to do henna for everyone but herself and that is also true for me.

That is what I believe henna is to different people. For all the aunts who tell me at henna parties that they love henna, I think they talk secretly about the connection back home, that moment they had shared with their families and friends.

For parents who do  henna for their daughters and their sons (I do for mine) I think its building a different connection and also that only you share with your child and also introducing them to your past.
Is it not amazing to see that every daughter at any age listens and completely follows the after care tips their mothers tell them about how to get a darker color.
Whenever I do henna; it is just I, me, myself and my henna and everything
else becomes almost non existent.
I love doing henna as it allows me the versatility and gives me the freedom to create something beautiful; like the gazelle I did for a client,a dragon and the phoenix for one bride, the bride and groom almost ready to kiss each other on a brides hand.
I love to figure out where to hide the groom's name in the bride's henna and the excitement every bride shows and that sparkle in her eyes while the groom tries to find that name or just showing it off to the guests. I like the euphoria surrounding a  henna party. I love drawing bunnies and cakes for my son and Hello Kitties for little girls.

That is why I love henna.

Tell me why you love henna:)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Ganesh Chaturthi!

As you can see I am coming back after a long long time, so thought what better occasion than the ever auspicious event of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Ganesh Chaturthi- marks the birth of Lord Ganesha on the fourth day of the first fortnight of theHindu month of Bhadrapada(hence the word Cahturthi-fourth)– the remover of obstacles(I know I have a lot of those so definitely need his blessings!).
We started celebrating the festival because my younger brother wanted to be just like his friends during our 3 year stay in Nagpur (a central city in the state of Maharashtra)

We started this wonderful tradition around 15 years back and I started it for my son here in the USA since last year as a tie between the two generations and also something common between him and my brother to talk about..
I sincerely hope that my son carries this forward for many years to come!

So for this year, we made the laddoos(made with wheat flour, clarified butter, sugar or jaggery,nutmeg,cardamom powder and a few poppy seeds)(yeah they are decadent and too good!),did our pooja(worship) everyday and seeked his blessings everyday.
As per my knowledge the one I read as legends, history books in India, my parents and grandparents passed it on to me and the ever popular folklore,this is what Ganesh Chaturthi is all about, Wikipedia sums it all up very well!
Lord Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and rides his favorite mouse wherever he goes.
The public celebration of the festival for ten days was promoted by a Freedom Fighter Lokmanya(lok meaning masses,Manya meaning well respected) Balganadahar Tilak as an effort It also support the local artists and bring all the different classes of the society to celebrate something together.
When I lived in Nagpur we lived near the lane called ChitarOli(meaning a line of artists/artifacts).
My earliest memories of Chitaroli was riding on my bike and using that route to go to school in the 8th grade. I would be fascinated by the way the statues were made. The artists all in a row would just make statues for each and every upcoming festival.
They would have an arrangement of sticks which would be used as the base of the statue and then they would use sand (do not know the type of it) and start making figures. Every day you pass the place and you could see the statues being transformed from just a blob of mud into something just spectacular. It was truly a very exhilarating experience to see it and as I am writing about this after a very long time, I can still recollect very distinctly the way everything looked. I actually think of it every Ganesh festival because we used to go buy Ganesha statues from there for our own celebrations and also the small mouse idols they would make especially for the festival.
My dad had explained me that they used all the Panch Mahabhoot (five elements of nature) while making those statues:
Jal(water) – to mix the clay and then in the end the statue would be immersed in water.
Prithvi (earth) – the clay itself
Agni (fire) - the statues were left out in the sun to dry and that would represent fire(Nagpur is known for its extreme temperatures)
Vayu (wind/air) –the wind/air would also help the statues dry and the paint had to be air dried
Aakash (space) - the symbolic meaning that it started from nothing and went into nothing.
Interesting how a lot of the eco-conscious ways of practicing art was prevalent since a long time though I do know that now due to excessive commercialization a lot of the artists use Plaster of Paris which is not as easily bio degradable as just mud/clay.
On the final day of Anant Chaturthi(meaning the fourteenth day) we went to the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple to immerse our idol which if in India we would have done it in a lake, pond,sea, river,ocean...
Here at the temple we saw hundreds of idols ready for immersion and it was very touching on a spiritual level.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Since then,...

Since my last blog in 2006 (well that was not really a blog,I just wrote a few words:))
a lot has changed in my life.Since then I became pregnant and was blessed with a handsome but an equally overactive boy who is now 2 years and 7 months old(the terrible twos started around a year and half and I believe will never end)
Henna and Beyond has also grown since then. Me and my husband(the techie) developed a cool website and had it up and running...Very very proud of that!
Also ventured into a new field of education.I started studying again in the field of Early Childhood Education.Its a slow but very very steady progress and given me a whole new perspective in bringing up my child.
I am thankful so far to my husband who is my biggest support,my son who understands that I go to school or for mehandi(henna) and dear God without whom I guess nothing is possible!