The delicate, intricate mehendi designs have besotted a Chinese tourist to Ludhiana so much that the lady is learning the art and plans to introduce it at her salon in China.
Li Hong, who changed her name to Laila Noor Mohammad after her marriage to a Pakistani Punjabi more than a decade ago, visited the city on an invitation from a city resident she knows well. This is her first visit to the country.
Mehendi, Laila says, caught her attention immediately. She is now religiously learning the art from Malhar Road resident Ripi Chhatwal, who runs a salon in the city. "I am buying bagfuls of henna from here and plan to order more in future. My clients in China, both Indian and Chinese, will love this. There are several Indian students in the university near which I work," says the 44-year-old Laila, excitedly showing us the drawing books she has been practicing on for the past few weeks, using pencil and colour pens before graduating to henna.
More than happy with her student, Ripi says Laila has picked up the art fairly quickly and finds the intricate patterns interesting, especially the Arabic mehendi, black mehendi and the one decorated with swarovski and sparkle.
The Chinese, Laila says, find henna patterns intriguing. "When they see the beautiful patterns on the hands and feet of Indians, they ask curious questions. They see it as a herbal tattoo that has several advantages over body ink art: Henna is temporary and so the designs can be changed frequently. It has a nice fragrance too," says Laila.
Interestingly, Laila is more than familiar with Indian food and some customs due to her marriage. Along with a salon, she runs four Indian restaurants in China that serve Punjabi delicacies such as butter chicken and paneer curry. But she tasted missi roti for the first time during this visit. And, it has bowled her over.