Tag Archives: Dubai

9/11 in Memoriam

At Ground Zero, March 2006 (ignore the homeless/hoodie hair).

Everyone has memories of that day. Doesn’t matter where you were, you remember watching. In horror. In astonishment. In incredulity. And maybe, in detachment.

I lived in Dubai then. I was in grade 10. It was a major year for me. I was going to give my grade ten CBSE board exams. Anyone who has ever studied within the Indian education system, will know how scary they can be. Of course, the exams themselves are easy. But the idea of having your name and grades being publicly published for the world to see is terrifying for a 15/16 year old.

So, there I was. That evening. Studying about Hitler and Mussolini. The phone rang.

“T**** [my embarrassing nickname]! Farida is on the line,” mom called out.

Glad to get a break, I went.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked, bored.

“Switch on the tv! Some buildings are falling down!”


“Some buildings! Hit by a plane!”


I hung up, and went back to Hitler and Mussolini. Who the hell cared if some idiot pilot had run into some skyscrapers?

My dad came home an hour later.

“Switch on the tv! The Twin Towers have been hit!”

There was a rush to locate the remote.

“Yeah, Farida called and said some buildings were hit,” I said, lamely.

My dad thought I was crazy.

Years later, in 2006, I was in New York. I remember going to the site. And, feeling a strange sense of emptiness.

I realise I am atleast 19 days late on this post. But better late than never, I always say.

Photograph: Copyright Sanchari Sur


Filed under anecdote

Mehndi Madness: Indian Wedding outside India (Part 1 of 2)

Bride's Mehndi (Hands)

What is it with Indian women and mehndi? Is it the smell (not too bad when its wet, but let it dry, and it really stinks!)? Is it the gooey brown gunk-like texture? The designs that swirl from the plastic mehndi cone, and mesmerize those who are watching on? Or, is it just a stereotypical wedding madness that contributes to the mehndi madness? 

"I want some on my feet too!"

Traditionally, Bengali weddings do not have a henna/mehndi ceremony. However, going with the current trend in the West, where over-ritualization has somehow become an intricate part of simulating an Indian wedding outside of India, not having a mehndi ceremony is almost as sacrilegious as a Hindu slaughtering a cow. 


My own encounter with mehndi started in middle school back in Dubai, where I was surrounded by muslim girls, many of whom were (or at least, considered themselves to be) mehndi experts. I have had them work their magic on my hands, as well as, those of the other girls in my class. Watching those 12-13 year old girls deftly handle a mehndi cone to produce designs out of pure imagination was an act of sheer wonder. 

Henna Artist hard at work

Years later, I am here again, at a family friend’s wedding—at the mehndi ceremony. The henna design artist is a young girl who is a fourth year student at University of Toronto. I hear many sceptical exclaims (in hushed tones) around me: “She is the henna artist? So young?” The disbelief is ripe in their voices.

The aunties are silenced, however, once their eyes rest on the henna designs on the bride’s hands and feet.

Bride's Mehndi (Feet)

Soon there is a line of aunties and kids alike waiting to get their hands, feet, arms and (in one lone case) back painted.  The excitement is palpable. 


“How long will this last?” 

“How should I remove it once it dries? Should I wash?” 

“How can I make the colours come out darker?” 

There is a deluge of unstoppable questions, while some in their carelessness, end up smudging their designs while they are still wet. 

“Oh no, can you fix this again?” 

At first, I try to stay away.  Pretend to be unruffled. Yet, something magnetic pulls me towards the phenomenon. 

“Fine,” I admit it slowly. “Paint one hand only.”

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur


Filed under anecdote, observation