“Come,” says the Pakistani aunty patting the empty chair in front of her holding the fat cone that releases swirly flourishes swiftly. It is tempting, but I shake my head politely, “Not this time.”
“Kyou?” meaning “Why?”
“I just don’t want to go to work with mendhi on my hands,” is my response. I know I’ll have a lot of questions to answer from my second graders. Curious stares. Ooh-ing and Aah-ing. Distracted by my painted hands rather than the board I’m pointing at. So I refrain.
Fast forward four years later to my mostly-stay-at-home-life. Z spots the gold cone in the fridge and demands for mendhi. On the cool wooden floor we sit while the cone makes rudimentary swirls on our hands. After she is satisfied with the swirls, she sits on the couch and watches Dora The Explorer while her mendhi dries. A few minutes later, she asks, “Where is Dora’s mendhi?”
I don’t remember what I answer, but I remember what I don’t answer with a pang.
Dora will probably never wear mendhi. Right now, you think everyone is like you. They aren’t. You are the minority here in the US. You are one of the rare ones that will wear mehndi. And whether you choose to wear mehndi or not, or whatever items that will be specifically for just you, your culture, your religion, I hope that you are proud to wear it, that you relish it, whether Dora or anyone wears it or not.
Also, have you heard about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign? It is something I recently read about, and feel strongly about. I love children’s literature and would love for the children book world to be 10x more diverse than it already is. You can read more about it on my friend Aisha’s blog here or here. Then participate ! Who knows? Maybe Dora might wear mehndi some day! And if I do go back to teaching, that I wear it proudly at school if I so wish!
Pics below from last week.