Sunday, May 21, 2006


Sahelian: Friendship in Hindi

Opportunities for friendships exist wherever we go. Just this morning, a sign for Mehndi (a henna temporary tattoo) caught our eye as we walked down a small but busy street in Agra. Our whole group (minus Dani, who had to catch up on a few z’s) had just enjoyed breakfast at a rooftop restaurant and had taken in the view of the Taj Mahal as the sun rose (we arrived at 6:30 a.m.). All the gals had discussed getting Mendhi, and when Linda and I saw a sign “home Mendhi,” we knocked on the door and were greeted by a very kind Siddiqi family. From an expansive collection of henna booklets, Reshma and Nabiya helped us pick out a few patterns for our hands and they began the task of pasting our hands in intricate floral patterns. I know how a cake must feel when it is getting iced. We bantered about in English and some Hindi, and the brothers were both very helpful to me as I tried to grasp their language. In the midst of having our hands painted, I learned a few new words in Hindi, the most important being Saheli (friend) another was sundaree (beautiful). We took milk tea, my favorite beverage in India, aside from lime soda and lassi. Actually, I can’t make up my mind. The entire family was so cordial and friendly and within an hour our hands were covered in a stiff paste the color of dark chocolate. The red stain began to set on our skin and we pledged to return in the evening for the final treatment.

We then returned to our hotel to pick up our tickets for the Taj Mahal and to touch base with our group. Our hands were stiff and we were afraid to move them too much and so everything we did was with one hand. Fortunately for me (as a Southpaw, along with Forrest), my strong hand was free. We walked through the streets again and saw Bob and Aleta who told us to go see Raam at the Gupta medical Shop. Because my arm was scraped by the wheel of a donkey cart earlier in the day, and I needed a bandage of some sort, we went to see Raam. We approached a small shop and saw a man sitting behind the counter. We asked him, “are you Raam?” he looked at us with surprise. He did not know how two foreign women knew his name, and, just earlier, two other Indians had approached him at random and said, “are you Raam?” For a moment, he told us, he thought he was getting famous, but he wasn’t sure how. He noticed our mehndi and mentioned that his sister teaches mendhi and invited us into their home to meet her. There we met Viruvru (forgive the spelling; Raam if you read this, please write with the correct spelling of your sister’s name), who was reading from an English-Hindi reader. We sat and talked and the fan was turned on; Raam’s mother appeared with hot chai and a cousin named Pami arrived. Pami is in tenth grade and enjoys studying biology, and so she and Lynda hit it off immediately. They talked about becoming doctors (Lynda is going to medical school in the fall) and Viruvru and I read from her school book. Our circle of friends widened when Bob arrived. Raam’s father called him out into the street, and moments later he appeared with Bob. More hot tea was delivered and we sat and talked about our lives. I told them how my husband was a goldsmith/professor and we learned that Viruvu (spelling!) not only had an MA in sociology, but that she also studied acupressure and excelled at sewing. She is also in the process of looking for a husband and we have no doubt that a woman of her talents and beauty will find a most suitable groom. In Raam’s shop is a super-fly computer (he is studying to be a software engineer) and I showed him our blog. His little sister gave each of us an image of Ganesh from her collection. We expressed our thanks and gratitude went back to our hotel for lunch.

It has already been a full and satisfying day, and Lynda and I have yet to pass through the gates of the Taj Mahal. Enjoy the photos… we are leaving for Khajuraho tomorrow by train and jeep and I can only hope that there will be Internet access.


Hi Erica - I'm so glad you're having a satisfying trip and meeting lots of new friendss. Thank you so much for the card. It's nice to be appreciated! I'd love to see pics of your Mehndi, or what is visible when you return home. In the past I have had Mehndi gatherings in my home with female friends. It is a wonderful way to honor the sacred feminine. Traveling mercies to you all!
May Lord Ganesh'ji remove any digital obstacles as you travel north. Godspeed.
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