Like all major shopping destinations in the city, Commercial Street and the adjoining Ibrahim Sahib Street are bustling with activity in the evenings ever since the advent of Ramzan. As the sun sets, families are seen savouring mouth-watering food and indulging in some hectic bargaining for colourful clothes and accessories.

With Id round the corner, yet another addition has been made to this festive experience: mehndi stalls.

Brightly covered mehndi cones decoratively spread out on trays now adorn facades of ‘fancy’ shops selling festival accessories as well as those of retail stores sited in the city’s prime shopping destinations. Clearly, mehndi adds an extra dash of colour to the Ramzan festivities.

Girls as young as four-year old Adija are seen sitting uncomplainingly on low stools, with their hands held out, slender muscles tense, lest the slightest movement should throw awry the intricate mehndi design being drawn on her hand. Her sister awaits her turn patiently, while her mother, Ayesha Firdaus, calmly goes about the purchases.

“It is a tradition to get mehndi done on the hands of the girls and the women in the family two to three days before Id,” Ms. Firdaus explains.

The mehndi stall owner is emphatic that the henna imprint will stay on the hands for at least eight days, a proclamation Ms. Firdaus takes with a pinch of salt. “Earlier, when pure natural henna was used, the imprint used to stick for a certain period. Nowadays, the henna seems to have other ingredients added to it. The dark colour stays for three days maximum,” she says.

Satish Yadav, a native of New Delhi, has been setting up his stall in the city every year for three years now for all major festivals, including Ramzan. “You will see a huge crowd of women lining up, waiting to get mehndi drawn on their hands. Owing to the massive demand, we now have to get two people to draw designs in order to expedite the process,” he says.

Showing off albums of popular mehndi designs, he avers that the ‘Indian design’ is most popular, though the lesser- used ‘Arabic design’ is priced lower.

Within reach

“Prices depend on design. We charge Rs. 50 for children. The Arabic design costs Rs. 100, while the Indian design, which starts at Rs. 150, can go up to Rs. 1,000 if the design extends up to the arms.” There are different colours too, such as red and black, but it is burgundy that most people prefer, he informs.

“Barring a few Rajasthani women who come specially for this occasion, most of those drawing with the henna sourced from Rajasthan, Mumbai and other places, happen to be males,” Mr. Yadav observes.

“Apart from some women who buy the cones (pegged at a cheap Rs. 10) from us and take it home to draw for someone in the family, we also get requests to go home to draw the designs for all the women in the family,” he adds.

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