“Henna has always been part of my culture. My mom used to do it on me when I was younger, so when we moved here my friends were like, “Oh, you got Henna done, that’s so cool” and they would ask to come over and have my mom do Henna on them. Then one day she was just too busy so I decided to do it and that’s how I got started. I started doing Henna in fifth grade and that’s when I started practicing.
My dad’s uncle is the one who brought us out here to the United States, to Topeka. He came first and he brought the rest of his family and I started school in the third grade. The transition from leaving what I’ve always known and coming here and starting fresh—having no friends at all and the language barrier—was hard. I did speak a little English but it’s taken me a long time to come to a place where I have no accent and be able to talk fluently. The progression of those things was hard. I just did me for a while and built myself up.
When I first came here, kids made fun of my accent and also because my food was different than theirs. School was hard. What really helped me were my teachers. I wasn’t an A+ student, but I was a great student. I didn’t make a lot of friends at first. When I learned that my culture was setting me apart, what I did was try to find a medium place for myself. I took some things out of my Indian culture and took some things out of the American culture and mixed them together and kind made it all fit. To me, I’ve never been an American and I’ve never been an Indian. When I’m here I still feel displaced and when I visit India I don’t fit in either.
My real name is Vidhi, but I wanted to do something different for my business, so I started going by “V” just a couple of years ago. I guess that part of me when I was younger has not left me and I was still aiming to do something different and new. I always give myself a new identity, but the one thing I’ve always kept with me is Henna.”