Every year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of them are hard, some are easy, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about other new things I’ve tried here. This is the story of when I got mehndi while I was traveling through India.
What Getting a Mehndi is like in India
Not surprisingly, when I decided that I wanted to get mehndi, I wanted to get The Best Mehndi Ever. I’m not sure that there’s a way to measure the inherent awesomeness of one’s mehndi, but I was sure that I wanted to win at mehndi. So I obviously chose to get it from a random sidewalk vendor in Bangalore.I spent six weeks in India last year, teaching at a school for special needs kids. After I’d finish my teaching gig, I’d wander around the Jayanagar neighborhood, buying juice and dodging cows. On one of these afternoons, I happened past two guys sitting on tiny plastic stools, flashing around a binder full of photos showcasing mehndied limbs. Well, this is obviously the best place to do it, I thought. On this Tuesday afternoon, on a plastic stool, on the sidewalk.After I bargained them down from the tourist price and selected my pattern (peacocks, thankyouverymuch). I hunkered down to let them mehndi away. They pulled out what looked like tiny icing piping tubes and started to squeeze the cold, brown paste onto my forearms.
A crowd started to gather at the spectacle of a white girl off the tourist beat, squatting in the street. “We’re just very curious” said a little old lady, patting my shoulder reassuringly. After about twenty minutes of extremely detailed piping and crowd commentary, I was finished. There was wet brown paste from my fingertips to my elbows. Fantastic! And where should I wash it off? No, friend. There will be no washing off. I hadn’t realized that when you get mehndi, you need to let the paste set for several hours. There will be no rubbing, no changing of clothes, no fishing in your bag for money.
What followed was this:
Having the street vendor guys fish through my bag for the money
Walking eight blocks back to my hostel with my arms held in front of me like I was holding an imaginary tray
Being licked by a street cow as I stood on the corner with my arms in front of me, ineffectively yelping and trying to kick it as gently as possible
Laying on my bed watching Bollywood movies for three hours while my arms dried
But you know what? All that ridiculousness was totally worth it! The result was 100% amazing. I spent the next week gesticulating flashily and waving way more than necessary.
Have you ever gotten mehndi? Or any other unusual beauty treatments while you’ve been traveling? Pssst! If you’ve got the travel bug and want to know how to quit your job and travel on the cheap, may I recommend my ebooks? Cheap as chips! Super useful!
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