Bridal Adornment and Bollywood Dance
On December 28th, 2010, the day after our cocktail reception, I had my bridal mehndi and Amrit and I hosted our sangeet. Normally, the mehndi and sangeet are held on separate days, but for the sake of time, Amrit and I decided to have both parties on the same day.
My mehndi ceremony began in the early afternoon. It’s during the mehndi that artists paint beautiful designs using henna paste on the bride’s hands and feet. I’ve had henna put on before, but this was by far the most extensive – I had three different people applying the paste simultaneously, and it took about two hours to cover my hands, arms, feet, and legs! Female friends and relatives of the bride also come together to sing songs and have henna applied. Overall, it was a very fun, girly kind of party. We even had baskets of bangles so that the women could pick some that would match with their saris for the wedding! Once everyone’s henna was in place, we applied a paste of lemon and sugar to really make the color soak in, and then all had to sit and wait for it to dry – about four hours! We made good use of the time, though, by chatting and watching Bollywood music videos in preparation for all of the singing and dancing that was to come later in the evening.
Since the sangeet is the traditional music and dance ceremony of an Indian wedding, my female friends and I decided that, while our henna was drying, it would be fun to choreograph a short dance to show the rest of the guests. We chose the song “Sheila ki Jawani” from the film Tees Maar Khan, which was the most popular song on the radio at the time. After drawing inspiration from a few Bollywood music videos, we were well under way in our rehearsals, and after only thirty minutes of practice we had finished our dance and were running it one last time. Imagine our surprise, then, when, during that last run, the first guest for the party arrived! We weren’t even close to being ready. No one, including myself, was dressed or made up for the party, and we hadn’t even had a chance to remove the dried mehndi paste from our skin!
I quickly dashed out to the balcony to begin removing the dried paste by rubbing my hands together – a technique that I had found was usually quite effective in removing most of the henna. I became frantic, though, when none of it came off. The lemon and sugar paste that we had applied earlier was doing more than deepen the color – it had turned into a kind of glue that made the dried henna stick stubbornly to my skin! Fortunately, I had some very resourceful friends with me, as well as a kitchen with several utensils at my disposal. I soon had a small army of girls scraping away at the mehndi on my arms and legs with the sides of forks and the backs of knives. (All the while we were cracking jokes about the importance of having bridesmaids.) It was somewhat uncomfortable to have my skin scraped, but it was even more awkward when more guests arrived only to find the bride standing outside, not in the least bit ready for the party, with friends scraping away at her!
After ten minutes of diligent work, though, most of the mehndi was removed, and my friends and I scurried upstairs to get ready. And after that little hiccup at the beginning of the party, everything went wonderfully. Our dance performance was well-received (Amrit’s family even made us perform an encore!), and it kicked off a fantastic night of music and dancing with our guests.