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“I still wear sindoor,” says Dipanjana Gupta, “But now because I know it makes me look beautiful, and no longer out of fear for my husband’s wellbeing!”
I was just married then. After a long leisurely leave and then a superb honey moon, I joined my work. In my new home, I didn’t really have to work much, thanks to the joint family where work is divided.
Every morning I would always leave for work in a haste. Make up, for me was usually a quick line of kajal and a light touch of lipstick. After getting married, there was an ‘essential’ addition, and that was a line of sindoor on my ‘maang’, and a bindi on the forehead, which I felt was an ‘absolute must’.
On one such hurried morning, I left for my school where I worked, when suddenly on the way, I realized that I had forgotten to fill my maang with sindoor.
And that got me all flustered!
The reason being, while growing up, I had often heard the women around me stating that sindoor in the maang is vital for the long life of the husband. And I had also seen my newly wed sisters and aunts, following certain ways and rituals while putting the sindoor, which made me wonder what was so significant about it. To sum up, what I had internalised since a tender age was that sindoor for a married woman was not only auspicious, but was also a symbolic requisite for the well-being and long life of her husband.
In a flash, all these ran through my mind, and I almost froze at that moment, thinking, and strongly believing, that some kind of disaster would definitely strike my husband for this one fiasco I had made in my routine dressing up. Agitated and anxious, I paused for a while, unable to decide what should I do! I loved my husband dearly, and I couldn’t allow anything adverse to happen to him!
To make up for the botched situation, I quickly returned home, almost running all the way, and rushing to my dresser, smeared the silver stick with a smatter of sindoor and filled my maang. My mother in law and husband looked flabbergasted, not understanding what made me come home running and do all that.
I almost ran back to my school, and settled down sulkily with a late mark on the attendance register. Henceforth, I tried to be mindful of this, but inspite of being meticulous, I did forget this ritual quite often. But each time I couldn’t afford to come home, therefore, tense and nervous, I would spend the day just praying.
Gradually, I kind of got used to this ‘catastrophe’. Not that I stopped loving my husband, but eventually became more and more rational. I began to look for the logic behind this. I asked the women among family and friends, but none could give me a logical answer. And I failed to find any connection myself, between the sindoor and the long life of my husband.
With time what I understood is that this ritual (or tradition, if you want to call it that), like many others, is nothing but another thing added to the deep-rooted patriarchal system of which we are a part. A man fills the bride’s maang with sindoor and makes her his own possession.
To give it the benefit of a (questionable) doubt, when this ritual began, it must have had a reason, but definitely it does not serve the purpose of a tonic for the long life of every married man. To coerce women to wear the sindoor, the mangalsutra, the bangles or the ‘shaankha-pola‘, different myths, superstitions, and scary beliefs have been attached to them. What irks me most is that all these compulsions are exclusively for women only. Men, on the other hand don’t have any compulsory attire or appurtenance that marks him as married.
Undoubtedly sindoor accentuates the beauty of a newly wed bride or a woman. This, again, is a personal opinion. Well, it’s also a part of our culture and custom. But whether or not one should be wearing sindoor (or any other compulsory marital accessories) is a personal choice. It should not carry any funny superstitions that have no rational syllogism.
I still wear sindoor, and that’s because I feel it makes me look beautiful. I still do forget to wear it sometimes, but now I do not come home running in fear. And yes, I do love my husband dearly, more than ever before, and am glad that well being and long life, which is fortunately not dependent on my wearing the sindoor.
Image source: By Bodhisattva Dasgupta – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
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A teacher by profession Dipanjana enjoys life in its every shade. She lives in Shillong
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