Endless rows of chairs take over the service lane near Teen Talwar to accommodate henna artists and their clients on chand raat. A happy client (right) shows her decorated hand to her friends, on the eve of Eidul Fitr. — Shakil Adil / White Star
Endless rows of chairs take over the service lane near Teen Talwar to accommodate henna artists and their clients on chand raat. A happy client (right) shows her decorated hand to her friends, on the eve of Eidul Fitr. — Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: When every last minute detail for Eid has been taken care of by the ladies of the house, there is only one thing left to do … henna application. After that you can’t do much else as you have to wait for the henna to dry out before getting your hands into anything else.

And all these ladies could be found at Teen Talwar in Clifton looking for the best henna artists for the job. There are rows after rows of chairs placed on the service road there to accommodate the henna artists and their clients.

On Tuesday evening, there were all kinds of henna artists there. Experts, who charged more, in the vicinity of Rs500 to Rs800 per side and slightly less in expertise, who charged Rs200 to Rs300 per side. Most of these were applying henna designs to little girls’ palms as older clients were going for the experts for intricate designs. Many had also saved the designs of their choice in their phones to show to the henna artists to replicate.

Kanwal and her daughter were quite okay with the charges as they told Dawn that there is only this one night, chand raat, when they can go out to get their hands decorated with the fragrant henna. “Mehndi is at the heart of Eid. It is a tradition and has much to do with happiness and celebration. It also adds to the show of a new Eid dress and matching bangles,” said Kanwal, who also provided that they come to Teen Talwar every year for henna application.

Varda, the henna artist applying the mehndi, said that she is a student of Matric arts and doesn’t mind coming here every year to earn some extra pocket money. “I hope to make a nice amount for myself by the time we wrap up from here,” she said.

Radhika was another young henna artist. A student of Matric Science, she was charging Rs250 per side. There was also Uswa, who was doing her BA honours from the University of Karachi. She was charging Rs500 per side. Huma, the lady seated before her to get her hands decorated, said she had also come here last year for mehndiand Uswa had decorated her hands. “I was overjoyed to find her here again,” she said.

Fareeha was also studying at KU and said that she has been applying henna on chand raat since she was in class seven. “I used to also offer my services at beauty parlours but they cut into our earnings. If I am charging Rs300 here, there I would only be allowed to take home Rs100 while the parlour would have kept Rs200. So it is far better to come here and work for myself,” said the girl.

None of the henna artists were alone. All had their mother or older sister with them. Some said that their brother or father would come to pick them up when they are done at around 2am or later. Asked if they wouldn’t be afraid of going home with so much of the cash they have made so late, they smiled and shook their heads. “Actually, there is so much ronaq [liveliness] with people everywhere and bright lights on chand raat with also the police vigilant, there are no holdups expected,” said one mother of a henna artist who had come there from Ranchore Line.

Most clients were also not alone. They had come in groups, patiently awaiting their turn with an artist. Manaal was there for the first time as her friends Ayesha, Ayat and Hala had coaxed her into coming with them there. “My mother calls a henna artist at home for all this work. But today I came here to experience this ronaq,” smiled.

More groups had more friends, cousins from joint families, married sisters with their daughters, mothers and mother-in-laws with their daughters and daughter-in-laws all getting their hands decorated till late on chand raat. It was a win-win situation for both them and the henna artists.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2024

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