An insight into the role played by henna-designer on festive occasions

Eid has come. Eid has gone. The month of IFTAR, cherished by the believers worldwide, is no more HEREAFTER… at least until the next year. Insha Allah.

The well-to-do believers put on new dresses fragrant with perfume. They attend prayers and meet their family members. The poor ones also find something to celebrate on this festive day assigned to them from the Heavens.

Gifts and Eidhi are exchanged by big and small. Well-fed and well-dressed, Eid greetings are flowing across telephones, mails and emails.

Every hand is colorful, Every heart is joyful…

The leader of the household (usually male) moves in and out of the home making all related purchases. The mother shows off her skill in preparing the dishes and serving them to the guests. The children are singing around in the neighborhood. The government officials are all over the media conveying greetings to counterparts and subjects. The Khatib is delivering the sermon at the mosque after the Eid prayers…

Everyone mentioned above is rewarded in one form or the other. At least they are given the credit for the roles they play. However on this blessed day, there is a silent character who is the focus of attention of almost the entire family and even the neighborhood in some cases. This person loses sleep, sometimes staying awake until late hours… the eyes get swollen so that other’s hearts in happiness are woven.

Every hand is colorful, Every heart is joyful…

This character is forgotten soon after the greenish paste leaves its traces of red on the palm. And the memories of the designer is washed off along with the paste on the palm. Mostly this character is a woman, although male artists also perform this ‘social service’. After all, the art of ‘beautiful attire’ is more aspiring for the female mind than masculine body.

When it comes to large closely-knit families, there is usually a common designer- at times it is a young member (‘coz maybe others are too busy in more serious work). She (since majority of designers are female) sits patiently for continuous hours, designing and re-designing hands after hands suiting the tastes of her ‘client’.

It may range from the picture of a flower or a toy, in the case of small kids. For older members, it maybe complex geometrical shapes whose symmetrical accuracy can be best measured in the eyes of the designer itself.

Seated sometimes on a bench, sometimes on the floor; sometimes the ‘palm-canvas’ is held near, sometime at a distance… she breaks her back staying STILL so that the henna off the hand doesn’t SPILL.

But what is interesting here is not the physical sacrifices, but the psychology involved in rendering such a ‘service’. The very art of putting henna brings more happiness than presenting a bouquet of flowers. Imagine an Eid without Henna (at least in this modern fashion-conscious age). By itself, it doesn’t stand out, against the costumes and dishes of Eid. Yet, henna is crucial, at least within the walls of the home.

Every hand is colorful, Every heart is joyful…

This henna art, however little it may seem, is a means of making other hearts happy. And I personally do not believe that such happiness arises from the geometrical shapes. Rather it originates from the beauty (or the perception of beauty) residing in the heart of the designer. The geometrical shapes, consisting of arcs and circles and more, are mere reflections of the beauty of the artist’s heart. And ultimately it is that beauty that brings joy for whom it is designed. All artists, like the henna artist, are storehouses of beauty perceived in their own right.

Taking the topic a step higher, it is AS IF her art is a ‘Sadaqah’ (Charity) for it brings ‘smile’ on whom it is designed as well as those who see it. This ‘AS IF’ argument comes to my mind when I recall the teachings of that Adorable Teacher of Culture’ that even a smile is a sadaqah, not just giving money or foodstuff. Viewed from this perspective, in the economics of ‘DotHeat’ world, a henna artist is a major contributor to the GDP.

And every henna artist should be grateful to the Lord that He has blessed them with the capacity to make others happy via the henna art. What else can an artist ask for?

A poet makes the ‘poor hearts’ cry,
A musician makes the lovers sigh,
And this artist makes young hearts fly

The designer may feel tired and exhausted at the end of the day, but as an artist confessed,

“You feel so content for making their innocent hearts happy. Just to see their chweeeeeeet smiles on their cute little faces”.

Henna and DEATH!

But so much said about the henna artist… what about the henna plant itself? Do they convey the same message?

The henna definitely is a symbol of joy and festival. It is the what brightens the smile on the face of the bride. But what is the case with henna plant?

It reminds me one of the most dreadful realities of life: DEATH! The henna plant (known as Mehendi in some parts) grows in the vicinity of GRAVEYARDS, the least visited destination in our modern lifestyle. The plant grows well there, as if it is sucking the blood from the corpse lying below it.

What an irony… that the leaves of such plant is what brings joy on our festivals!

Let me guess.

Is this the hidden Wisdom of the Most Wise Creator?

Maybe. ‘Only Allah Knows’, as my friend says.

Every hand is colorful, Every heart is joyful…

But who will put henna for the designer?

Dec 25, 2001