PAYAL CHHABRIA visits hardworking mehandi artists from up North who have now made Chennai their home.
Panagal Park in T.Nagar, the shopping hub of Chennai, is known for being packed with hundreds of shopaholics, round-the-clock. The festival and wedding season is when the hustle and bustle is at its peak in this area. And so is the business, not just for the shops, but also for the skilled mehandi artists, who set up shop on the pavements.B.S. Shivam, owner of Delhi Mehandi Designers, claims that, “a minimum of 10 women visit us daily”. Shivam, who was previously working in Delhi Mehandi Designers in Delhi, moved to Chennai four years ago to set up a business here when he realised the dearth of artists here. It was also the time, when he felt the need “to do more with his life”.
Ganesh Chauhan, from Ganesh Mehandi Arts, also from Delhi, however, has a different tale to narrate. “When we were on a vacation to Chennai, we realised that the city had potential for a successful business in mehandi designing. Without a second thought, we packed our bags and here we are today.” Naresh and Pramod, from Naresh & Pramod Mehandi Arts, also followed with the hope of establishing a business here. They look forward to the festival season, especially Deepavali, when they accomplish their highest targets; the plus here is that this season also gives them the best opportunities to experiment with their creativity.
Hailing from various parts of North India, this group offers an assortment of styles to pick from — Rajasthani, Bombay cut, Gold Silver Rajasthani, Jaipuri, Black Mehandi and Arabian designs, at fairly reasonable prices. They charge about Rs. 50 for the palms, Rs. 100 for half a hand and Rs. 200 for full hands. Their bridal mehandi services range from Rs. 1500 onwards. Delhi Mehandi Designers also have an option of booking them online. “If you are looking for the best designs at reasonable prices, you must come to Delhi Mehandi Designers,” says Shivam with exuberant confidence. Giving him difficult competition is Ganesh, who says, “We do gold and silver mehandi that is only done in Delhi. We first paint the hands with mehandi and then colour it.” Although their regular clientele includes North Indians, especially Marwadis, they claim that “the mehandi trend is setting into the South Indian culture as well”.
South Indians are also becoming fond of painting their hands with mehandi; they visit the mehandi-wallas most during Navarathri. Sheela Mary, a resident of T.Nagar, who got her hands designed for a function, says, “They design very beautifully.Also, it is much more economical than any other place.” Pramod Kumar, a mehandi designer, says, “Nowadays, the mehandi ceremony has become an exclusive function during weddings in the south as well. So, the wedding season is usually the best season for us.” Bimalesh Kumar, a designer from Ganesh Mehandi Arts claims to have handled the mehandi ceremony at 100 weddings in the last four years. “We were the mehandi designers at actor Rambha’s engagement as well,” he says beaming with pride.
Sachini and Shalini, eighteen-year-olds from Sri Lanka, say, “The designs are gorgeous and pricing is reasonable. We don’t get to decorate our palms back home. So we really like it.” The mehandi fever has caught on to almost all age groups, ranging from eight to eighty. Any occasion, function, festival or wedding, women are heading to these artists, to enhance the event by marking their hands with this symbol of tradition.
Payal is a MA Communication student at M.O.P. Vaishnav College For Women.
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