“Mehndi is my whole life. I have given my life to mehndi. I cannot imagine doing anything else,” says Tasneem Kamruddin, as she reflects on her 30-year career as a mehndi artist based in London.
Born and raised in Mumbai, where she would teach aspiring mehndi artists the intricacies of the craft, Kamruddin has since gone on to adorn the palms of many a Bollywood celebrity – from Indian veteran actresses Asha Parekh (pictured above) and Poonam Dhillon to the bridal mehndi for Anushka Sharma during her wedding to Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli over two years ago.
As a prominent British Indian professional, she has also been exclusively booked by the World Travel Market at the Excel Centre in London for the India Tourism stall for the last 14 years.
‘iGlobal’ caught up with the gifted artist as part of a regular Profile Series to trace her journey from India to becoming one of the most sought-after mehndi professionals in the UK.
As a child, Kamruddin displayed a gift for drawing and began doing mehndi as a hobby at the age of 12 for her friends and family members. After the demise of her father, young Tasneem found herself becoming the sole breadwinner of the family.
“When my Father died during my school years, things at home became very tough. I used to think about what we would eat tomorrow. I was looking for ways to support my family and that’s when I turned my hobby into a profession,” she reflects.
After moving to the UK in 1995, she pursued her talent at first as a passion before once again turning it into a profession as she had in India.
“I used to be a very poor girl. My journey started very small and now I’ve reached great heights,” she notes with pride.
In her view, simply having a gift is not the only ingredient to success but the right attitude is equally important.
She says: “Your nature is very important and the way you communicate with others. You have to go out of your way in this profession – if you have a job, you need to fulfil it.
“There have been times in the past where a bride has rung me at the last minute and asked if I can do her mehndi because someone else cancelled on her and I have accommodated the request. If I have been booked for two hours and an extra 10-15 minutes is added, I never charge them for this. Not everything is always about money.”
She recalls her days in in India, when she would do the mehndi for the less fortunate for free: “When you have come from the same place, you understand their struggles.”
There is nothing that Kamruddin cannot accomplish or experiment with when it comes to mehndi – from intricate traditional Indian designs to contemporary motifs detailed with florals or paisley patterns.
“I do mandala and symmetrical designs with lots of swirls, paisley, leaves, and flowers. Sometimes on the bride’s request, I take inspiration from others’ work but the majority of the time, it is my own freestyle designs.”
Hailed as a master in the craft of mehndi, she has travelled all over the world to adorn the hands of celebrities from the world of Bollywood and beyond.
“I have travelled to Florence, where I did mehndi for Indian film actress Asha Parekh, Poonam Dhillon in Austria, Azra Khan (wife of Kadir Khan) mehndi for Eid in Mumbai and Anushka Sharma in Tuscany, Italy.”
On being contacted by Anushka’s wedding planner six weeks prior to the wedding, she reveals: “Me and three of my co-artists did the mehndi for Anushka and it wasn’t until I arrived at the venue did I know that I was going to do the mehndi for her. There was no theme, Anushka had briefed me that she did not want any heavy design.
“For her I went for intricate details with a simple look – her mehndi had small flowers, paisley, leaves and small strokes with dots.”
The tradition of mehndi is thought to have originated in the deserts of India, when the people discovered that covering their hands and feet with coloured paste from the henna plant helped them feel cooler. Since then the craft of mehndi has evolved into a much more creative art and is used to celebrate some of the most joyous events in life – from weddings to festivals such as Eid and Diwali. Mehndi booths, parties, events, and social media exposure are now an industry norm.
Sharing her thoughts on the evolution of the industry, Kamruddin notes: “Before it was very different; people would just gather and do mehndi at home. But now it is mainly big events, where five to six mehndi artists would go together and sometimes, we do mehndi for over 300-500 guests.
“Being on social media makes a lot of difference. I had about a thousand followers before but after doing Anushka’s mehndi, my followers increased within two days. I tend to get a lot of bookings through others recommending me and social media.”
On trending mehndi designs, the artist who believes in using only the finest and natural ingredients also produces and sells her mehndi cones for £2.50 each. “I’ve previously done UV colour for a corporate event, and have done work with glitter mehndi and white henna, which is body paint.”
She reveals the most popular designs on the market are mandala designs and monument mehndi – or the telling of a story, for example, if the bride was proposed to in Paris, she would ask for the Eifel Tower to be incorporated in her designs.
Last-minute bookings, travelling far and wide to events, wedding celebrations in different parts of the globe, the life of a popular mehndi artist requires dedication, patience and a lot of time.
Wife and mother to three, Kamruddin explains: “I always organise everything a day before. If I have to be up early in the morning because of my commitments, I will then cook during the early hours of 5-6 am. It is a tough job and I travel all around London – but I love doing mehndi.”
She admits that having a supportive husband has been a blessing. “I’m very lucky that my husband understands me. Sometimes I can end up working really late, until around 1 am or even 3 am. He may ring up to check on my well-being, but has never stood in the way of my profession.”
Kamruddin’s advice to aspiring mehndi artists is simple: “If you have the art inside of you, then no one can stop you from becoming a mehndi artist. There is a lot of competition, so one needs to come up with unique ideas and designs. Anybody can teach you basic things, but the passion for the art should live inside you.
“I suggest if you have the ambition, then practise!”
by Preeti Bali