Ever since we saw some signs for mehendi in Jaipur, I knew I wanted to have this done on my hands while we would be in India. Mehendi is a form of body art in India and the surrounding regions in Asia where decorative designs are created on the body using a paste that is made from powered, dried leaves of a plant called henna. Traditionally, as least from what I have seen and read, henna is done for special occasions such as weddings or major holidays on the hands, arms, and feet. Some women even get this done on their pregnant bellies. If done and maintained properly, the temporary paint on the skin should last anywhere from two to three weeks.

I’m honestly not sure where that ballpark estimate came from because everything seems to be the enemy of henna: sweat, lotion, sunscreen, washing of the hands. Those are all things that you have during the heat and humidity of summers in India! We found a henna artist in Chennai today, and he did my right hand/arm on the top and the bottom. Using his booklet of images, I pointed out the design I wanted, and he immediately shut the book, pulled out his henna cone, and started painting away, completely free hand, without looking at the images at all — all from memory. It was pretty amazing how skilled he was, and how swiftly he did each of the strokes. Watching him in action was like watching an artist paint, just on my body.

It took about twenty minutes for him to complete both the top and bottom of my right hand and arm, and he suggested another twenty minutes to dry. Well, I read that you should really keep the stain on as long as possible before scraping the dried paint off, and then afterwards, keep the area away from soap or water at least overnight. So I followed this general procedure and woke up to a much darker stain on both sides. I obsessed over how good the design looked, and then I immediately felt sad knowing that all the things that degrade henna would have to be a part of my everyday life for the next week, so there was no way my mehendi was going to last as long as the general guides say. But I’ll enjoy it as long as it lasts.


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