Weekend 'Mehndi' teaches students about Pakistani culture

Students and community members danced, ate and learned more about Pakistani weddings and culture Saturday evening in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center for the Mock Mehndi 2017, an event organized by the Pakistani Student 

The organization had the event to educate attendees on Pakistani culture in a fun way, PSA Vice President sophomore Zeshan Ahmed said.

“A wedding in Pakistani culture is something people always look forward to,” he said. “It’s fun that we did this. In Pakistani culture, Mehndi is a big deal.”

Mehndi is one part of a Pakistani wedding. It features food, dancing and stories with the bride and groom.

Bollywood music played as people filled the hall at the start of the event catered by Taste of India. A line quickly formed at the aluminum trays of curry and naan. Once people sat down with their food, the noise of the room increased as they began to laugh and talk.

There was an equal split between people wearing the traditional lenghas, ghagras and salwar kameez and others wearing standard button-up shirts or dresses.

The traditional clothing, specifically for the women, was colorful with many layers that flowed when they moved.

“There’s more than just Pakistanis here,” Ahmed said. “There’s lots of races, which is really cool.”

PSA president and senior Sanya Ali gave an introduction and welcomed the guests. Ali is also the arts editor at the Indiana Daily Student.

In order for the Mehndi to be accurate, it was necessary to provide a bride and groom. Acting these parts would be sophomore Luma Khabbaz as the bride and senior Munib Ansari as the groom.

They sat at the front of the room on two cushioned chairs for their Rasam, the part of the celebration where friends and family approach and feed them sweets and give money, symbolizing prosperity.

Khabbaz said she felt weird at first when she was asked to be the bride 
because she’s not Pakistani or Indian.

“I’m Arab, and I thought maybe I was culturally appropriating,” she said. “But for me, I’m also a person of color, so I understand the difference between cultural appropriating and appreciating a culture. I decided to take it as more of a learning 

They were led to their chairs by many others who were carrying a large square of thin fabric over their heads — red for Khabbaz and yellow for Ansari. The groom gave the men around him hugs and a pat on the back when they delivered him to his chair.

“Where did you guys meet?” Ali said.

Khabbaz and Ansari looked confused.

“We met in a dream, I think,” Khabbaz said.

The crowd laughed.

“Actually, we are the only ones who know how they met,” Ali said. “And now our lovely board members are going to act it out.”

That’s when two men walked out onto the dance mat. The story began.

“Once upon a time, there were two bros,” Ali said.

The two actors, one portraying Munib and one his friend, pretended to be in the gym lifting weights when the actress portraying Khabbaz entered. They were pointing at her and flexing their muscles while Ali narrated the story of how the couple supposedly fell in love.

Songs accompanied the story at certain intervals. When the 
actress ignored her suitor in the gym, “Single Ladies” began to play.

The audience laughed at the story, which concluded with the actor for Munib rescuing the actress for Khabbaz from an IU bus that was about to hit her.

“That story was 100 percent probably a little bit accurate,” Ali said.

The bride and groom left their seats to make room for the dancers. The first was a group of women, whose flowing, vibrant clothes exaggerated their movements.

They spun, waved their arms and laughed most of the time. The audience was cheering and clapping their hands to the beat. The dance groups periodically changed.

Once the men took the stage, the mood changed. They dragged the groom from his chair to join them.

Instead of smooth flowing dances, their movements were more rigid, intense and over-the-top. They kicked, clapped and slid on the dance floor.

One stuck his arm directly in front of him. Another used it as a brace for a back flip. The crowd clapped and cheered even louder. The men’s dance ended with them all falling backward on the floor.

The final dance included the full PSA board.

The dancing began as formal as the others did, but as the songs went on, they pulled up the bride and groom and all danced individually while laughing.

At the conclusion of their dances, the audience 
continued their applause and Ali announced that there would be cake and free dancing open to anyone to conclude the night.

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