About a dozen men sit in short distances on the pavement of Jayanagar 4th block. Their job? Applying mehendi.
These people don't even have shops but they do have business cards like BVK Mehandi Art, Sunny Mehendi Artist, Mehandi Art, Radhe Krishna (RK) Mehendi artist and all of them have been running the 'business' for the past 5 to 6 years.
Most of these mehendi artists have unique stories. Nagaraj, a mehendi artist said, "I was running a saree business, which later slowed down after which I started working as a car driver. Once while I was driving, I met with an accident and I had to stop driving. Meanwhile, I used to see my neighbour applying mehendi to some customers at her residence. That's when I thought about Mehendi business." The artist has around 6 people with him and has business in Tumkur.
Sahil came hunting for a job from Gorakpur to Bangalore. "I was looking for a job when my friend helped me come here and I have been working since the past six months. We don't have a boss. It is mostly on 50 percent sharing. The more number of hands I design, I get more money," he explained.
Monthly usage of mehendi is about 4 to 5 kgs a month and they have some favourite styles too. "They usually ask for Bombay style, which is quite popular. Then we have Rajasthani, Marwari and Arabian style. We also have some pictures from which customers can choose," says Sahil.
The fare charged for fingertips to elbow for both hands is Rs 400 - Rs 500 and for leg designs, it goes up to Rs 1000.
"For simple designs, it starts from Rs 20 on one hand. We charge Rs 100 for adults if they apply in both hands. It takes at least 10 to 15 minutes for us to apply a simple design," said Sahil.
Their main business is during wedding season. "We get advance bookings during wedding seasons. Either a week or a month before, they pay us advance and mention the number of people. They go for family packages which starts from Rs 5000 and goes up to Rs 25000. Sometimes, we get wedding orders on daily basis. If we are lucky, we get around 4 to 5 orders in one day. That's when we make business," says Nagaraj.
Recently certain SMSes created panic that whoever would apply mehendi or henna will develop a severe itching and allergy. "Our business went down after the rumours. People stopped coming to our stalls and they had a fear about mehendi. Slowly we started bringing back the customers by explaining to them that no chemicals were used," said Nagaraj.
Of late, college students are not allowed to wear mehendi and attend classes. "They have strictly warned young girls not to apply mehendi. It has taken a toll on our business to a certain extent. But we make good money during holidays and also when we go for exhibitions and events," Sahil said.