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Isn’t Celebrating The 80th Birthday Only Of Men, A Show Of Patriarchy?

Posted: September 6, 2019

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The ‘Sadabishekam’ is a celebration that happens when a person completes 80 years on earth. Why is it that women don’t get to celebrate this?

The concept of celebrating the 80th birthday, often called Sadabishekam (in Tamil) is done for the man. Only. Not for women. (On a related note, why don’t widows get to celebrate their 80th birthdays? Whereas widowers get to dress up happily and strut around.)

What is the Sadabishekam?

In the western world, when a man turns 80, he starts overdosing on Viagra and dreaming of playboy bunnies. In South India, especially, in my community (Tamil Iyers), the man and his wife get to marry each other again. But only after appeasing several deities and participating in several homams (rituals).

Bare-bodied priests up the hotness quotient but no playboy bunnies are ordered for the man who marked the milestone of having seen 1000 moons.

What is the significance of having seen 1000 moons, you may ask? I guess it was about longevity and hence the celebration that the ‘man’, the ‘bread-winner’, has crossed a milestone.

The idea is to move towards spirituality as a couple. There is absolutely nothing spiritual about the whole affair. It is simply a show of the might of patriarchy.

In my limited knowledge of the exact reason why Sadabishekam came about (let me safely state that) the expectations from the couple was that they were ready for their heavenly trip, whenever it happened.

If the guy crossed 90, it was another milestone. Another celebration. Nothing for the poor woman who probably stood next to her ‘man’, acceding to all his wishes. Having traversed on her own celebration-worthy journey.

So, here’s the point of this article – what happens when the woman arrives at her 80th milestone? Does she get a grand celebration? Does she get the Sadabishekam? After all, she has also seemingly achieved seeing the 1000 moons.

Why can’t women celebrate Sadabishekam?

There, my friends, is a small twist. Women (sadly, owing to the all-consuming, all permeating, suffocating patriarchal blanket) do not get to celebrate anything unless she is accompanied by her man.

The man’s achievements are her own. Rather, they are thrust on her, whether she likes them or not. Her milestones have no value. She may as well live till 90 or 100, nobody is going to turn up with a bottle of Champagne and toast. She doesn’t have the balls, you see. (Pun intended.)

The milestone celebration is, as I see it, an opportunity to celebrate the togetherness of the couple, or in the absence of a spouse, the love and life experiences the person has gathered. When we do it only for men, does it not mean that the women haven’t gathered any experiences or haven’t forged any bonds with anyone? How sad is that? How exclusive is the whole idea?

If a widowed mother or aunt is desirous of celebrating her 80th birthday, would her kids or her loved ones (or in the most unfortunate situation where she is staying in an old age home,) would the caregivers make it a moment to stop and think of her long journey? I wonder.

Similarly, how logical is it for a widower to celebrate his 80th birthday even though his wife has passed away? He should also be banned from rituals and other functions. No? Why celebrate his milestone alone then? Isn’t he like a widow, a sight to shun and abhor? If you can’t do a milestone celebration for a widow, don’t do it for a widower either.

Why, I ask today, don’t we have 80th birthday celebrations for both men and women? Damn.

What I plan to do about Sadabishekam

So, I have decided after attending several such patriarchal show-piece celebrations that when my Mum and Dad reach 80, I am going to have a gala celebration for both. Equal glee and equal joy. And no bare-bodied priests for the hotness quotient. I might even get some bunnies. Eh?

We, the next generation must ask questions and try to change these rituals, which have absolutely no meaning in our current lives. Or tweak them to suit our times.

Image Credits: YouTube 

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