Showing off semi-permanent culture

Oct. 11, 2000
Rome 204
9 p.m.

I have never been into the tattoo thing. A lot of people I know have them, but I just do not see the attraction. The idea that the design or mark I put on my body would be permanent is my biggest reservation about tattoos. I doubt that 40 years from now I would still want anything I put on my body today. But after going to the South Asian Society’s fourth annual mehndi night I think I can appreciate tattoos a little more.

Mehndi, also called henna, is a maroon body decoration that looks like a tattoo but is temporary. It is fast, easy and painless. Mehndi decoration lasts for about 12 days, and then slowly fades away. Mehndi is supposed to be a representation of the soul and, while there are patterns that can be followed and imitated, most people who draw mehndi let the pattern evolve on its own to create unique designs.

Senior Prince Rozario planned on putting a tattoo of his name in Bengali – the official language of Bangladesh – on his arm. He said he has sported mehndi designs before, mostly on his arms and once on his head.

It’s like getting a tattoo but it comes off after a couple of days, Rozario said.

Sushupti Yalamanchili, senior and vice president of SAS, said mehndi is an important part of South Asian culture. People most commonly apply mehndi on hands and feet and it is used not only for daily decorations but also on holidays and special events. For weddings the decorations are stretched from head to toe on the bride and usually on the bridal party members, too, said senior SAS member Abid Mirza.

Mehndi is made from a process that starts with plant leaves that are ground into a powder and boiled in hot water. The mixture is then put into a tube and squeezed out on different parts of the body. The mehndi mixture immediately begins to dry on the skin. The mixture creates darker designs when it is left on the body to dry longer and not brushed off. People showcasing mehndi designs pat the decoration with lemon juice and sugar to preserve it longer. Mehndi designs are normally left on the skin for at least four hours, but people who want darker skin ornaments usually leave theirs for 24 hours.

Freshman Hala Rharrit said she has sported mehndi designs half a dozen times before, mostly on her hands. Rharrit, from Morocco, said mehndi is common back home and she was excited to get it done here.

Henna is very beautiful and feminine, Rharrit said. And I’m also getting homesick.

I did not give in to my vow not to get a tattoo tonight but it was very tempting. With parents coming in to visit this weekend, I think they would pass out if they saw me with any tattoos on my body – even if they were only temporary.

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