I absolutely loved The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and wrote about it for Ms. Magazine and Thrive Global. It is possible that I enjoyed her new book, THE SECRET KEEPER OF JAIPUR, which will be available TOMORROW even more!
In the second book, which is set in 1969, Malik is now twenty, Lakshmi is running the Healing Garden of Shimla and in this excerpt she meets Nimmi:
I love this season, the sharp air in my nostrils, the crunch of snow crystals beneath my boots and the anticipation of a new season ahead. Having lived the majority of my life in the dry heat of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, I never thought I’d come to love the cooler weather of the Himalayan foothills.
As I round the last hill on my morning walk, I spot the roof and gables of my Victorian bungalow topped with the last of the snow, like an elaborate pastry decorated with cream. Off to one side of the house is a Himalayan cedar, its branches weighted with white powder. The scene always fills me with joy, and I wonder—as I often do—how I could capture its delicate beauty with a henna design.
Then I spot Nimmi waiting on my doorstep.
On the path, I hesitate.
In full tribal regalia, her slim figure is striking. Her skin is the color of wet bark, so dark that her eyes—small, deep set— shine like those of an energetic black-eyed bulbul. These and her hawkish nose make her seem severe. I chide myself for judging her. Haven’t I taught myself to appear pleasant even when the situation doesn’t call for it? It’s a skill I mastered during a decade of tending to the whims of the ladies of Jaipur as I painted their hands with henna. Perhaps the women of Nimmi’s tribe are raised not to temper their true emotions?