For Pati and Parmeshwar

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If there is one festival that I cannot help but question every year, and that too at a very fundamental level, it has to be Karva Chauth. Most festivals evoke a mixed reaction from me- I generally like the festive spirit and religious sanctity they carry but the mayhem and mad rush frustrates me. When it comes to Karva Chauth however, it is a different ball game altogether. The basic idea of “Pati Parmeshwar” (Husband as a form of god) I find difficult to swallow. Belonging to a generation that came after the militant Bra Burners, I don’t wear the badge of feminism on my sleeve so to speak. On the contrary, I often think that “feminism” per se has lost its steam, outlived its utility and should make way for a more egalitarian concept of humanism. But come Karva Chauth and the latent feminist in me rears her ugly head.

Ever since Bollywood popularised Karva Chauth with movies like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaynege and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, the festival needs no introduction. However for the uninitiated few, here it goes. Karva Chauth is an annual festival celebrated primarily in North India wherein married women fast, mostly without water, for the long life and prosperity of their husbands. From very humble beginnings when women celebrated it amongst family and friends, to a full-scale page 3 gala, Karva Chauth has never been more popular. Six years ago, it was Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s first Karva Chauth that drove the media and nation crazy; this year Kareena Kapoor Khan has joined the bandwagon. And so it continues. Every little park or community centre has its own rendition of “glamorising and modernising Karva Chauth”- from the best mehndi design competitions to best decorated thali competition to “Mrs Karva Chauth” herself!

Coming back to the basic premise of the festival, looking upon and worshipping the husband as a form of god, is in fact, intrinsic to the Hindu view of things. Legends that extol the wife’s devotion to her husband abound- from that of Savitri and a woman named Karva, both of whom reclaimed their dead husbands from Yama (god of death) by the sheer force of their devotion ; to the likes of Gandhari, who, married to a blind man, spent her entire life blindfolded as well though I cannot help but wonder what was she thinking blindfolding herself! Doesn’t her “devotion” give an entirely new meaning to the phrase “Blind leading the blind”?

How well such stories would sit with the modern emancipated woman is anyone’s guess. Yet, strangely, the popularity of the fast continues to grow with leaps and bounds. Whether it is just clever marketing that women fall prey to or are Indian women still deeply traditional and devoted, beguiles me.

While I can’t speak for anyone else, annually I have a round of serious introspection to examine my reasons for keeping the fast. Yeah, despite my feminist rant, I do observe the fast, have been doing so for 10 years now. Why do I do it when I’m not in agreement with the basic premise? Honestly, I don’t know. To begin with, it was the sheer excitement of a newlywed- not for “pati parmeshwar” per se but all the festivities that come with the festival- the mehndi, the shopping, the gifts, the dressing up. Believe me, it is a lot of fun for a newbie. As the years have gone by, the fun, novelty has waned, and the same set of activities are yet another set of chores to be accomplished. The festive spirit does catch up no doubt but nowhere near the excitement of the first timer. All that done, I sit down with my cup of coffee for my annual round of introspection to decide whether to keep the fast or not. Often this happens on the eve of Karva Chauth as I start the final countdown for the next day. Does my decision to fast stem from even a faint belief in the “pati parmeshwar” tradition? Not quite. On the contrary, I am more inclined to think of myself as the cool goddess in the marriage! The way I reason it out goes something like this- if the fast was for the welfare of any other family member, be it parents or sibling, would I be as conflicted about it still? In fact, four days down the line comes the Ahoi fast for the welfare of the children. I have never found myself wondering whether to observe that fast or not and neither have I ever heard any feminist rant from anyone about it.

Ignore the “Pati Parmeshwar” tradition and one realises that the problem lies in battered egos, in humbling oneself enough to be the bigger person and fast and pray for a family member’s welfare, a member who happens to be your husband. Do I think that my life depends on him or that I’m subservient to him? No. Yet, can I deny that despite all trials and tribulations of married life, there is an intrinsic affection and caring? The answer again is in the negative.

Marriage, no doubt, is the most challenging and complex of all human relationship. The most trying of all, it can either make you or break you. It’s not about one’s “success” as a “good” husband or wife, terms that carry a variety of connotations that I’m talking about but your own capacity to evolve and grow as a human being while allowing the other person to do so at his or her own pace. Or even accepting that the other is not capable of such growth.

It is in such spirit of acceptance, caring and growth that I keep the fast. Do I believe that fasting for hubby dear makes me any less of a human being, any less of a feminist or changes me into a door mat? Not anymore. At one point I had all these thoughts running through my mind. Today it’s a prayer for the welfare of close family member that’s the deciding factor. Do I expect him to reciprocate by way of fasting as well or by getting me lavish gifts? Not quite. There isn’t any quid pro quo going on here. Something straight from his heart is always welcome. If not, that is his journey. My fast, I know today comes from the heart, just like that for my son after four days does. Rest is all marketing. It’s the heart that matters.

So here’s wishing all the gorgeous ladies a very happy Karva Chauth- happy fasting and happier feasting!

 

 

Crazy Friends, LUSH loot and LUSH Caca Rouge

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There are good friends. Then there are crazy friends. But if you are lucky like me, you just don’t have good or crazy friends but fabulous friends who are nevertheless raving mad. So it’s kind of a package deal- ask for a good one, you get a crazy one hidden somewhere within and I’ve been blessed to have some such masterpieces in my life. Since this kind, crazy soul was going to be visiting me, I asked her to pick up some stuff from LUSH, there being no LUSH in Chandigarh and LUSH India was pretty much out of stock. I sent her my list, nothing too exhaustive. But when she landed here, what I think she had carried with her was pretty much the entire LUSH store. Where I had asked for a single piece of an item, I got two or three, depending on her mood; where I had committed the mistake of asking for two, I got four and where I had asked for the smalles packaging possible, I got the biggest one instead. And a host of products that I had not even asked for. This qualifies not as a LUSH Haul but clear loot. I’m sure the LUSH SAs are yet to recover from her whirlwind of a shopping spree. Looking at the picture, I think you will agree with me. This is the same crazy chick, who in her infinite wisdom had committed the mistake of introducing me to LUSH about 8-9 years ago. Ever since, both my love for LUSH and her craziness continue to grow unabated.

Talking of craziness, after spending a year colouring my hair with LUSH Caca Noir for a black colour, I decide that I wanted a red tinge to my jet black hair. With henna you can’t get a red colour on hair as black as mine. The best one can get is a red/reddish tinge. Hence I decided to try LUSH Caca Rouge. I had asked this lady for two blocks; she carried four..sigh!!

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For aspiring redheads who want to stop traffic with unparalleled shine and color. That’s not too much to ask from a solid block of henna is it? Not if you make it like we do. Caca Rouge is the reddest of our henna dyes and it’s sure to get you noticed. We use the finest Persian henna; the leaves are dried and ground into a powder and mixed with conditioning cocoa butter, which forms the basis of our Cacas. Organic lemon juice helps to bring out the redness and gives hair shine and lustre. You’re left with stunningshiny and healthy-looking hair .DSC07976 C

How to Use

1. Break henna up into large pieces and put in a heatproof bowl.

2. Add hot water and let steep. Mix to a batter-like consistency.

3. Put on gloves and apply from back to front, coating hair thoroughly.

4. Cover in cling wrap for a more vibrant red. Leave on for two to four hours.

 5. Rinse, shampoo, and condition hair.

Tips: Always do a strand test first. Use face cream (or Ultra Bland) around your hairline and ears to protect skin. Wrap hair in cling film for a redder color.

LUSH’s instructions are easy to follow. In any case, mixing and applying henna isn’t exactly rocket science specially for those of us in India who have dabbled with it at some point or the other. Messy yes, impossible, no. I cut and mixed it just as I did LUSH Caca Noir (http://madwomanintheatticblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/colour-me-black-red-brown-the-lush-caca-way/) only that I added some cheap red wine that is supposed to enhance the red colour. For my hair length, I use three chunks from a single block. I left it on for a good 6 to 8 hours all the three times that I have so far applied it. Thereafter I washed and conditioned as usual. So do I have gorgeous red tint? Sadly no. Even after 3 applications within 10 days, my stubborn black hair refused to take on the sexy red tint that I was lusting after. My hair has come out soft, shiny and absolutely conditioned no doubt but the red tint? Not happening. The picture below is the best I could get in name of a red tint. But the few greys that I do have got a red colour, not the awful orange of traditional henna but a nice reddish colour. I still have two and a half more blocks to go ( thanks to my crazy cat’s loot) and I will use it over the next few months. Maybe I do get some hint of a red tinge!

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TVAM Pure Natural Henna and Natural Indigo Review

                          My quest for gorgeous Rapunzel hair continues unabated. During my spare time, I surf the net hoping to find the penultimate solution. While that may still be a distant dream, I did hit a jackpot of sorts, at least where natural hair colour was concerned. I had used LUSH Caca Noir on my hair with fabulous results. The  INOA global red hair colour with red highlights I had got done few months back had left my hair pretty much fried. It looked great initially,especially when blow-dried, but as time went by and the colour started fading, I looked nothing short of one of Macbeth’s witches. LUSH Caca Noir restored its life and vitality and the black colour largely but not the colour as much as I would have liked. I’ll talk about LUSH Caca Noir later but right now it’s about another brand I came across, TVAM, that offered 100% natural henna and indigo.

              I had often read that to get a black colour from henna, one has to either mix indigo in it or apply indigo afterwards. Henna alone will not give a black colour but only a reddish-orangish one. LUSH Caca Noir has indigo in it and that is what helped cover my horrid left over reds and restore the natural black colour. I had been looking for indigo alone in the Indian market but to no avail. The so-called “Black Henna” available in the markets is nothing but harmful chemicals like PPD. Rather strangely, many US and UK sites did offer pure indigo. But ordering henna and indigo from the USA? Really! I was going to be the laughing stock of the family.

         So imagine my joy when I accidentally came across a relatively unknown brand  ( at least to me)on Urbantouch.com ( which incidentally is one of the best online shopping sites in India) called TVAM that offered a large variety of hennas- Natural Henna, Treatment henna, Black henna, brown henna as well as Indigo and all  of them 100% natural. LUSH had made me wise that a variety of hair colour could be achieved naturally through henna. For my black hair what I ordered was TVAM Natural Henna and TVAM Indigo. Honestly, I was quite sceptical as I did not want to end up with green hair and did harangue them a lot with a host of queries. I must give it to the owner, Crisy Vasan, who promptly answered all my crazy ass queries. Thankfully, I had no disasters but before putting anything on your head, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do a strand test. No point blaming the universe or the manufacturer later.  

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First things first, the packaging especially of Natural Henna is very chic. In a little gunnysack with an equally traditional looking string at the neck, it immediately conveys the feeling of all things traditionally Indian. Inside is a nicely sealed foil bag. The Indigo packing is just this foil bag. On the first day, you apply henna followed by Indigo the next day. The henna application helps  Indigo give a better colour and last longer.  

SAMSUNG    The ingredients of the “Natural Henna” are all natural –Lawsonia Inermis Linn Leaves (powdered Henna) and it is  SLS, SLES, Pthalates and Parabens free. The instructions for mixing of Natural Henna are simple even for anyone who has not used henna before. “Mix the Henna Powder in lukewarm water and keep it aside overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours. You may use an iron container to make paste for a darker tint on your hair. For enhanced nutrition and shine, mix curd or egg with henna”. Since I was looking for darker tint, I used an iron bowl. Yes… These ancient looking things are available in the market though not at your upmarket departmental stores. You will have to make a trip or two to the narrow lanes of old part of the town to procure one of these. Who said looking gorgeous wasn’t hard work? With my fine hair that comes till mid waist, I ended up using the entire packet of 100 grams. I also added curd, egg and a teaspoon of mustard oil. Application again can be hard work but I prefer to get it done from my favourite salon whose owner, thankfully, has not started looking down upon henna applications. Leave it on for 3 – 4 hours and shampoo it off with any natural shampoo. The instructions tell you to use any TVAM shampoo but since  I didn’t have any, I used Body Shop’s Rainforest Shine Shampoo and Conditioner and that worked just fine. Hair was not particularly soft or shiny but was just about okay. In any case, this was just the first step of the whole process.

                  The big test came the next day with Indigo. The ingredients are Indigofera Tinctoria (Indigo) and the instructions are simple – “Mix the Indigo Henna in water and apply immediately on the hair and wait for 2-3 hours”. Okay so it smells kind of funny…like freshly mowed grass that I used to play in during childhood. However, it is not a particularly pleasing smell but does settle down in a while. Application is like henna’s only that indigo will drip like crazy and stain everything it touches. You will need all old towels to soak it up. However, it does dry up pretty quick and once that happens it cakes up. I did not cover it with cling film as apparently letting indigo air-dry gives a darker colour to the hair.

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After an hour or so, I got a scare of my life as the indigo on my hair started turning a purplish-blue. I definitely did not want purple hair! However, all is well that ends well and thankfully my hair did not turn blue or purple. Washing it is a bit of a chore as the dried up indigo takes more time to come off and the black-blue stream of water is not very kind to your bathroom tiles.

        Anyways as I let my hair dry naturally, all the effort was worth the results… fabulous black hair as if I never did have the red hair colour. No doubt, LUSH Caca Noir had covered the reds considerably but this Henna-Indigo duo sealed the deal so to speak! I repeated the process after about a gap of 2months when the reddish tint had started showing up again. In between, I did one application of LUSH Caca Noir, which remains unbeaten for its conditioning property, and because it has indigo in it, it does work in maintaining the black colour.

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 This picture was taken indoors under artificial light about 48 hours after the indigo application. The lovely black colour is very evident. 

For a quick recap, the pros and cons.

 Pros-

-Gives jet black colour unlike traditional henna that gives an orangish-red tinge.

Is 100% natural and thus perfectly safe.

-Hair may not come out particularly soft or glossy but definitely feels healthy and stays that way and not burnt out.

-Grey coverage is excellent. I do not have too many, but whatever little bit I do have were all black.

– Available in  Brown also along with a pre mix of henna and indigo that TVAM markets under the name of “Black Henna”

-Easily available on line on TVAM site and many other online stores.

 Cons-

– At Rs 401/- for 100 gram of Pure Natural Henna and Rs 455/- for 100 grams of Natural Indigo, it is expensive especially when one compares it with local henna available in the market

-With 2 consecutive days needed for application it is a time consuming process.

               I toyed with the idea of just rinsing off the indigo on the second day, oiling the dry hair and then shampooing the next day but just did not have the stamina. Three consecutive days dedicated to hair care is way more than I can afford ! But that I repeated the process, when North India is freezing its butt off, does speak for the efficacy of the products. As the remnants of the chemical colour wear off and I trim off the edges, probably I will not need to repeat the indigo as often. Alternating TVAM Natural Henna-Indigo duo with LUSH Caca Noir seems to be working best for me and seeing the result on my hair is totally worth the effort and the money.

Price- 

Rs 401/- for 100 gram of Pure Natural Henna

Rs 455/- for 100 grams of Natural Indigo Henna

Also available in Natural Brown Henna and Natural Dark Brown Henna and Black Henna