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This Way to ‘I do’- Whimsical Wedding

This Way to ‘I do’- Sangeet Sensations

This Way to ‘I do’- Capturing Moments

It has been about three months since This Way to ‘I do’ so I have decided to share some of the magnificent photographs from the weekend we will never forget! Kashmir and the rest of my family spent sleepless nights to make #vivwedskash an absolute success and everything a bride could ever dream of.

As mentioned in my posts during the series, the wedding week turned out to be such a blur for the immediate family because we were extremely busy. But luckily, we had a fantastic photographer who managed to capture all the right moments.

Stay tuned for galleries of each day!

Hand Me the Henna: Phase 3

Hand Me the Henna

We are at the end of the road with Hand Me the Henna, we hope this journey has been as a beautiful one for you- as it has for us.
If you missed the first two phases click here: Phase 1 Phase 2  

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Location: Bagwandeen Household

Mission: Mehndi Day (phase 3)
Time: 1:45pm

The Body- What is happening?

If this were a race, we are almost at the finish line and we are winning. We have taken the heat head on, and the first day which marks the beginning of the wedding week is about to come to an end. As the mehndi artist continues to apply ravishing designs on my sister’s body, she proceeds from the arms, to the feet, with extreme care and undiminished concentration. After the latest outburst that emerged from ‘the wedding jitters’, Kashmir is much calmer now while she is fed lunch by my little niece. Being a child, she is distracted by the magnificent art. So, with each helping of food that she feeds to my sister, she marvels with delight at my sister’s arms and feet.

I sit with them both as we discuss the forthcoming festivities; the exhilaration in our voices is noticeable. With each bite that Kashmir is fed, I stare at the spoon with the hope that in the midst of our merriment, the food will not fly off of it. I know my sister’s first instinct would be to clutch the spoon, or instantaneously stand up, but we can’t afford a mishap right now – we have come so far in seeing this mendhi ordeal through, and we are nearly at the end.

The artist is reaching my sister’s calves and Kashmir is starting to get slightly twitchy. I think to myself, “there’s just a few minutes more and we are done. I will no longer need to be a right hand lady, and my niece can finally take a mid-day nap.” Only in this moment did it occur to my sister that we are nowhere near the completion of this majestic process (which, in the blistering heat, isn’t feeling very grand.) There is still another five hours to go. The job of the mehndi artist is now completed, and now it is up to us (as the family) to take care of my sister’s exquisite hands and feet so that all of the work that was put into it would not be in vain.

Kashmir now moves herself out of the sun and into the dining room so that the rest of us can commence the preparations for the evening’s celebrations. It is not easy for a perfectionist like my sister to sit on the sidelines and watch everything being done  before her eyes ; to be entirely unable to contribute to what we’re doing. But she took everything in her stride and ceased this as an opportunity to take a break from the busy household.

Every few minutes, one of us breaks away from our preparation duties to moisten the inevitably drying henna on my sister. I am the first to start this process.

I am under a lot of pressure as I take a ball of cotton wool and dip it into the concoction that the artist left for us to use. This all begins to alarm my sister as she knows I can be a little careless at times. Thankfully, she was observing the artist when she performed this routine, and so she guided me through it with ease and elation to be helping in some way.

Everyone has had their turn to assist the bride-to-be as the day descends. Night begins to fall, and as the stars burn the dark sky, the copper coat becomes more rooted onto my sister’s body.  Old traditions believe that the darker the stain of your mehndi, the more love your mother-in-law will have for you. So, fingers are crossed for Kashmir.

Guests start to fill the house and the sound of music ignites the celebrations. In every corner of the house, there are groups of laughing girls tapping their feet to the music as they get their turn to have their palms adorned in mendhi. Kashmir greets all her guests and this is accompanied by warm hugs before everyone admires her beautiful hands. There is a light in her eyes that I’ve never seen before- this is the light of a bride-to-be. She is glowing.

It is now time for us to remove the mehndi and admire the dazzling tint that will be left behind. My eldest sister and I help Kashmir rub the mehndi off her body as she twitches and fusses as a result of being exhausted.

The morning after today will reveal the actual hue of the bridal mehndi. So, as she dances the night away with family and friends, the colour will seep through her skin, and leave the true mark of the extraordinary bride that she is.

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Time: 2:05pm

The Mind- The Backdrop of Henna as an Art

Henna artists, Dipti and Sayuiri Nathoo, are a dynamic mother and daughter duo situated in Durban. They explained that they have come across a multitude of brides who have requested that their henna designs be symbolic to elements of themselves, their families and even their first meeting with the groom. Despite the fact that patterns with such great sentimental value may be challenging to execute, henna artists respect their responsibility to master the trade, and are devoted to fulfilling the wishes of their clients to the best of their abilities.

In addition to hands, the bride-to-be gets her feet adorned with henna too. This is the completion of the henna process, once the feet are ready-in the Hindu tradition; the bride-to-be is then ready to conquer day two of the beautifying process. This is usually a prayer followed by the application of hurdee or haldi, this is a yellow paste made from turmeric and sandalwood. Both these rituals enhance the procedure of self-expression that the bride undertakes before her big day.

Although these sacraments are seen as a technique in which she can express herself and her inner beauty, it is entrenched in the roots of traditional India. At the time, the community didn’t have jewelry or foundation to add to their special day, so they created natural ways to replace these characteristics of bridal preparation that we commonly take for granted.

The history and the meaning behind the application of henna, including the traditional mehndi ceremonies, have rich significance in guiding us with understanding how these practices came into existence. As the traditions continue, the effect strengthens and this is reflected in the self-expression of those who indulge in it.

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Time: 2:30pm

The Spirit- How does it make me feel?

How do you come to conclude something that is so sacrosanct to beauty and expression? Something that has been in action for thousands of years and has had a substantial impact on the rituals traditional Indian brides immerse themselves into. The answer is, you cannot. I have always felt strongly about culture and tradition, and this being one that has such beauty attached to it- there will never be an adequate amount of words to explain the splendor behind an act that is sustained by tradition.

There are countless customs over numerous cultures that mirror the act of self-expression, some new and some old. It can be enlightening to expose your mind and discover the extensive spectrum of ‘techniques’ that have a list of purposes including self-expression.

I have found that, in many settings, beautifying can be seen as an egotistical act but, within these settings, there is still the implication of expressing yourself.

The mehndi ceremony will always be one I keep close to me, and the experience can be imprinted on your mind forever. As henna grows progressively popular in western societies, it becomes more recognisable as to why and how it can be used. Sometimes westernization of longstanding practices can contribute to the meaning being lost in translation and the practice could even be trivialized but I hope this has delivered a better understanding.

So next time you come across a henna artist, don’t forget to ask her to hand you the henna!

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Written by- Khinali Bagwandeen

Photographs by- Khinali Bagwandeen

Hand Me the Henna: Phase 2

Hand Me the Henna

Hand Me the Henna continues to explore the process of the henna application which a Hindu bride undergoes. If you missed phase 1, click here

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Location: Bagwandeen Household

Mission: Mehndi Day (phase 2) 

Time: 11:00am

The Body- What is happening?

As minimal movement becomes more persistent, my sister is beginning to get somewhat restless. The oppressive heat covers us like a heavy blanket and as I turn away to get myself something to quench my thirst, I hear the bride-to-be beckon me by name. I turn around to respond to her call and think to myself, It’s too hot for this, what could she want now?” Expecting a request like brushing her hair back, or maybe even feeding her a sip of water, I find myself facing a more familiar appeal.
My sister communicates to me without words, and instead uses the glare of her eyes to signal me to her side – This was similar in the way in which she would initiate an encounter in which we would meet to gossip (as sisters do.) I walk towards her and position myself so that my ear is close enough to hear her whisper, “Khinali, I need to call Vivek (the fiancé) because he has forgotten to bring the tables for tonight!” I giggle at the distress in her voice.

The bride-to-be is in the middle of what is supposed to be a charmed and captivating activity, but her concern is focused on something as trivial as tables. Maybe this was her defense mechanism in coping with ‘wedding jitters’. I tell her to relax, and that it is not an issue because he will bring them (I mean, he’s a pretty responsible guy) but she insists that she needs to make a call to him. I try hard to contain my laughter as she points at her phone and tells me to dial his number. I dial Vivek and place the phone to her ear awkwardly because getting too close would mean risking a stain on my outfit. As he answers, my sister starts harping on about everythingbut the tables.

I think to myself, “definitely wedding jitters.” and try to imagine what must be going through his head as she speaks in low, aggressive whispers into the receiver. Naturally, I position myself close to my hand holding the phone, to try to listen to his response while, at the same time, gently reminding my sister (who instinctively wants to grab her phone and crush the life out of it while carrying out her verbal assault) that her hands are still covered in mehndi. She cautiously places her hands at her sides, so as not to wreck the delicate designs or her outfit.

She (now reminding Vivek about the table) is inspecting the marvel; that is the masterpiece that was created on her skin. I wonder what she is thinking as she simultaneously waves her beautifully dressed hand in my face; as if to tell me to ‘shoo’. She does this in the same manner in which you would, with a fly, that’s hovering in your personal space – I think she wants me to cut the call.

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Time: 12:00pm

The Mind- The Backdrop of Henna as an Art

A traditional Eastern wedding ceremony often consists of a series of (preparation) events leading up to the official (wedding day) affair; where one of the customary events is a “mehndi ceremony”. During this ceremony, the bride-to-be is adorned with decorative henna patterns which are applied by a practicing mehndi artist.

The application period is usually 3-4 hours depending on the intensity of the design. Although in earlier times when artist were not so acquainted with art of henna designs, they used toothpicks to apply the henna, hence it could take up twenty hours to complete bridal designs.

The expression is transferred through the elaborate designs the bride-to-be chooses to have applied on herself. The henna artist is equivalent to a conventional artist that expresses her/himself through their paintbrush, musical instrument or tattoo gun. It takes extreme concentration and a steady hand to have the capacity to draw intricate designs.

Once the application on the limbs and extremities (hands and feet) have been completed, the bride is not allowed to use her hands and minimal movement is essential. This is due to the fact that the henna remains wet for a period of time so there’s is a risk of “smudging”. It is crucial that it is left untouched to dry and once it does, the artist will continue to add moisture so that it better adheres to the skin.

Some elders who are well versed in the tradition speculate that the bride should not partake in any strenuous activities during her wedding week, and this could possibly be why.

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Time: 12:35pm

The Spirit- How does it make me feel?

The self-expression channeled and projected through the henna ceremony that many traditional Hindu brides part-take in is often a procedure that is unexplained to the brides but is performed based on accepted traditions, much like the application of other more common beautifying phases such as make-up.

I feel that there are instances where one’s self expression peaks during an unconscious state of awareness. During the ceremonious in my home, I personally was swathed in the many conversations, laughter and playful moments we shared together as a family that I didn’t realise the intricacy of the situation, and I abandoned the magnificence of it.

It is much like this, in which certain forms of self-expression go unnoticed, but they are still in existence, whether they stand alone or in the multitude of our conscious mind. After processing the hours that passed by during the mehndi application, I reflect back and think about the moments in which my sister’s face lit up after beholding the beautiful patterns on her body- it is this enchanted feeling of what looks like euphoria to me, that I wholeheartedly believe is the absolute and paramount reward of self-expression; this gradually existing as the feeling that is a deduction of an inconspicuous sensation that shields us.

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Written by- Khinali Bagwandeen

Photographs by- Khinali Bagwandeen

The Spark of My Beginning

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be sharing my personal narrative which was written for The Expressos. My fellow cups of talent have also posted theirs on our page, so after you’ve read this- take a look!

The Spark of My Beginning

I did not open the blinds to let in the light; I opened the blinds to let out the dark.

The darkness pervaded and bounced off the four walls of my nanoscopic room again and again. I watched it. I consumed it. I devoured the dark in all its forms, and I swear to you – like I swore to Him – if you cut me, I’d bleed darkness.

I am lying uncomfortably on my bed – my safe space – staring at the excruciatingly bright ceiling light. “Am I at war with myself? Or is my soul at war with my body?” I repeat the question in my head.

I close my eyes to find composition and I suffer the after effects of having them opened in the first place. All I see now is white, but not the pleasant kind. Not the kind that sets you free or differentiates between danger and tranquillity. Definitely not the type that brings the music.

This white was different: it wouldn’t allow me to open my eyes.

I hear the fan next to me, blowing my hair across my face. Bullets of sweat creep towards my brows as they caress every curve that lines my stressed forehead. I need to open my eyes now, but this white light shepherds me to the abyss of my mind. Little did I know that this is where I’d lose myself, only to find myself again. Was this the beginning of my spiritual journey? I wasn’t so sure yet.

I finally opened my eyes, and it was as agonising as opening your eyes mid-dream to a world of realities. But this time, the agony was otherworldly; it didn’t unsettle my psyche – it ravaged it. My question was answered by the rogue hairs hugging my face. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew the path to my destination will become clearer.

This was the beginning of my journey, my very own Genesis, only this wasn’t the Garden of Eden – there was no God, and Satan was merely just prowling alongside the outskirts of what had now become my solace.

I was eternally burning to initiate the search for something greater than me, you and the depth of the oceans and magnitude of the solar system. I was born into a home where some choices were considered simple, but I found myself tugging at this sentiment and looking for answers. Going against the norm was almost as challenging as it would be dancing fearlessly in the middle of a hurricane.

I was influenced by the nature of a Hindu home, to worship a god with many faces. But even as an innocent child, I necessitated justifications and authentication before I wholeheartedly devoted myself to the act of doing.

Religion should be effortless if your soul is in it with you – to me, that is how you meet spirituality. It is almost like a friendship where you just ‘be’ and the rewards enter your life through an open door. I yearned for this feeling, this feeling of contentment, of security and tranquillity. I just needed a mental shift to push me in the right direction, a direction that called for all my soldiers to be ready and expect the worst sort of war. A war with myself, a war with the world, and – most significantly – a war of the soul.

The acceptance of an uncertainty that is seen as a conviction to everyone you have attached yourself to is a struggle which I never imagined being able to overcome. I kept waiting on a long process of acceptance, a step-by-step method with which I would then face my inner demons and explore the world of spirituality. I feared being characterized someone who gave up and abandoned a sacred entity of life.

But I was wrong. By waiting, I was abandoning myself and my sanity. The process wasn’t acceptance. Acceptance was something that purely came over me and obliterated all my doubts about having doubts.

It was like reading a book for the first time: wanting to understand it, but physically not having the capacity to wrap your mind around it. All you did was absorb a page full of alphabets and fictional characters. But unknowingly – finally – one day, you give the book another chance and this time everything is different. You engage with feeling, the emotion, the depth and maybe even fall in love with the characters after meeting them for the second time. This is what it felt like, all I wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs, “FINALLY. FINALLY, KHINALI.”

I do not reject the world I was born into. I do not reject beliefs or God. I am in exploration. John Muir once said “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” That is my journey in a quote, a journey in which I take one day at a time, and – when I reach my destination – I will be ready for the next one.

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Spiritual Null and Void

Spirituality has become the new Gluten-free. Everyone is looking for it and those who have found it can’t stop babbling on about it. To many a man, spirituality and religion are inter-mutual.

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This puts a spanner in the works for a number of newly discovered spiritualists. Google has decided that the epitome of spirituality is rooted in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In the literal sense, spirituality is defined by the connection one has with something bigger than themselves. Bigger than themselves? That leaves this simplified concept with an excessively broader meaning.

This post isn’t a rant, neither is it a guide to spirituality, I will not tell YOU what to believe, this is merely my interpretation of spirituality, my opinion on it becoming a new ‘fun phase’ that the masses need to get in on.

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Religion has always been a touchy topic to me, but I never shy away from a heated argument about why I chose such an unfamiliar stance. I have said in a few of my previous posts that humans hate what they do not understand, and that’s okay, we all fear the unknown. But nothing exasperates me more than those gremlins who decide they need to shove their ideologies down your throat. What is it to you if I don’t follow the religion I was born into? If your grass is green, you shouldn’t bothered about my garden (But this is not a rant so I will stop here, I cannot help myself, sorry)

Meditation, Buddha, Shiva, Hare Krishna, incents, Nirvana, finding your center, aligned chakras…the list goes on. Social media has been filling up with these aspects of so called spirituality. But why has it only surfaced now? These have been in orbit for thousands of years. The Beatles have sung songs about it, Hinduism is one of the oldest religions known to man, spirituality and inner peace boomed in the 50’s and 60’s and then suddenly, it was forgotten. Everyone wrapped themselves in the blanket of technology and hid behind the walls of the internet. There was only a handful of the human populace who still searched and believed in a higher power.

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A higher power in my opinion, is different from the common conceptualization of God. A higher power doesn’t necessarily have to be a God. This is my take on religion and spiritualty. I don’t see God in any shape or size, I see my God as a higher power that guides the universe and restores order every once in a while.

I was brought up in an indicative Hindu home, I would fast every Tuesday and Thursday, I always had a red string on my wrist, I was dedicated to my prayer and daily rituals. But as a child, you generally just follow the traditions you are aware of. Before we have explored ourselves and the world, we do not know anything that hasn’t been served to us on a platter by our parents. So once I had been exposed to different experiences, I opened up my mind to multiple spiritual and religious outcomes.

 

It’s okay to change your mind once you’ve explored your options, we are not born into a religion, we are socialized into a religion. Almost how we are not born into a gender, we become gendered beings through socialization, but that’s a conversation for another day. So if you choose to explore Islam, Christianity, Scientology, Judaism and even create your own religion, no one knows who you pray to every night. What you choose to show the world doesn’t have to be what’s in your heart.

Spirituality is open for interpretation. A person can ignite your spirituality, it doesn’t have to be something you can’t touch, feel or see.

namaste

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