Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can you teach an old (or not so old just yet) dog new tricks!

Today was my chance to learn the indian skills of rangoli, mhendi, sari draping, roti rolling and to cap it off a spot of Bollywood,
We started with rangoli, essentially the ancient folk art of sprinkling marble dust in intricate patterns and symbols on the outside threshold of indian homes. The green pot represents Pongal, the harvest, an overflowing pot is symbolic of a good harvest and the white lamps, well even I got that one -Diwali!
Apparently, the "good" southern indian housewife, gets up in the morning, washes all her floors, wets the area outside the house (so the marble dust does not fly away) and does her rangoli (like the flower above or an even more intricate pattern) to frighten away any bad spirits that arrived in the night, and all before showering or even a cup of tea.
The "bad" south indian housewife - our teacher was very scathing about this - produces something not quite as beautiful:
I had to have a go - looks pretty straight forward - sprinkling sand on the ground - no way!! Something about pinching the marble dust between your thumb and next finger, rubbing your thumb and a steady line of vibrant color will be produced - dream on!!
One "exceptionally bad, unmarried" south indian lady!  - but it was a lot of fun.
Next came mhendi, the painting of intricate lace patterns on your hands with henna. A bit like frosting a cake!
Then sari draping - how a strip of silk, with a few twists and turns, in few minutes can become the most elegant mesmerizing outfit! Our ladies looked wonderful until they moved! Apparently, for us foreigners, you can buy the pre-stitched/assembled, ready to wear version which will safely negotiate an evening out without unintentional reveal!

Last but not least, the Bollywood lesson, what fun and what a work out. Luckily I was taking the pictures, so no glimpses of me in action - but we all managed a few minutes of (almost) co-ordinated dance, complete with scarves, hip wiggling, sultry glances and cheeky moves:


  1. Hi guys! Firstly it is a good job that Stuart suggested that I add Mumbai to my world clock settings as having got back from work I was about to skype you - phew you would have all loved me at 2.14am tomorrow for us here in USA!!!! Having been a little under the weather in Brit terms or having had the flu in American terms I have only just managed to catch up with all your posts since New Year.

    Before I forget which I obviously had already!, Many Happy Returns for Will's 6th Birthday and it looks like you all had a whale of a time at the amusement park for his birthday treat. Also glad you are keeping up the Marshall family tradition of shopping even without a driver and am absolutely fascinated by rangoli, mhedi etc although I am a bit thick cause I have no idea what the significance of the white lamps is (will google it in a mo) and you don't elaborate on roti rolling although it sounds like it must be fun.

    Hope to speak to you on skype later tonight our time or otherwise at the, Cx

  2. Great blog. Pity there are no pics of you 'doing' Bollywood: -)

  3. Loved the pic of you, I'd like to see a few more of those.
    Sounds and Looks like your having a good time adjusting to your expat lifestyle.

  4. Caro - Diwali is festival of lights - it's a big festival in October, Roti rolling is just rolling out bread. tastes good! - didn't get any good pics so left that one!!
    Skype soon!

  5. Helen, your life in India continue to fascinate me. Thank you for letting me peek in. Love your blog!

  6. Hi Helen! Just love your blog site. I'm so glad I caught your best side at rangoli, and I was strategically blocked in the Bollywood photo by instructor. Thanks much.... Your NEW FRIEND in Bangalore.