INDIA. Mumbai: Come Diwali and a host of Mehandi (henna) artists spring up in different parts of Mumbai to make easy money offering their services to women who get their hands painted on the occasion of the festival of lights.
Mehandi is a form of body art and temporary skin decoration originating in ancient India. Decorative designs are drawn on a person’s body, using a paste created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. The intricate and elegant designs remain on the skin for several days and often weeks. The tradition of applying mehandi is an integral part of many South Asian weddings.
Mehandi artists come from the suburbs to do their craft on the streets of Mumbai
These henna artists come from far off places in the city, mainly suburbs, including Mira Road, Bhayander, and Nalasopra since they get clients easily during the festival. Henna artists turn sidewalks into their design studios. On average they earn Rs 2000 or more per day. These artists normally operate from their homes and offer their services during marriage ceremonies. During Diwali they find operating from the streets to be more lucrative.
In an interview with Transcontinental Times, a Mehandi artist named Shaheen said that since they operate from street corners, they are not required to make special efforts to look out for the clients who automatically come to them. The usual bargaining for goods and services common to Indian markets is markedly absent. The artists create unique and unusual works of abstract art on each woman.
Shaheen runs her usual mehandi business with with three other artists: Nasreen, Munna, and Riyaz. Mahek Mehandi Arts is located in Dadar in Central Mumbai. She also conducts mehandi classes at home.
In a parlor or boutique, full hand mehandi (front and back) costs Rs 500 or more. However, these roadside artists charge far less, between Rs 150 to Rs 200/-.
Artists grateful that business has been relatively stable during COVID-19
Ruksana, another artist who specializes in Rajasthani shading and Arabian colour tattoo is also one of the mehandi artists operating the streets during Diwali, Karva Chauth (celebrated by Hindu women), and other festivals. “This year there is a little slump in mehandi work, but we are happy that we got at least some work in these days of the pandemic”, Ruksana said.
Aren, Linda, and Helis from Nagaland, who are serving in IT companies, were among those who got their hands painted from on the henna artists at Swami Samarth Nagar at Andheri in North West Mumbai. Speaking to Transcontinental Times, they shared that have been getting their hands painted from these roadside artists since they provide quality service at very economical rates, compared to beauty parlors charging astronomical rates.