The utter generosity of the poor humbles us. They give rice to every mendicant even when their rice is getting over. That is what needs to be understood - their greatnes and their richness. That is what they are defined by. That they are impoverished is what defines us.
We are the cause of that poverty - and the onus is on us to share deeply and completely. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The saddest picture before me is Varalu in her bridal finery. Flowers in her hair, a dozen bangles in each hand, in a beautiful pink saree. Looking way younger than her thirty years.
She has been in finery since her husbands death, ten days ago. All of which will be rudely wiped away on the devasam function this Sunday, after which she will never be allowed glass bangles, or kumkum, or flowers in her hair.
Before her, I told her mother, Chinapaapakka that she needed to refuse to permit this. That in towns all this has now been bypassed. That to put her through this at her age was a crime. he mother was tearful, but she was firm that in a village it is not permissible. But she discussed with other women quoting me, and though they agreed with the logic, they said it would never be acceptable.
India has a long long way to go. In life Varalu' husband was of little use as he drunk away his life. But in death also he leaves her will many many permanent labels and marks.
In the personal and political the women's struggles are long drawn. Common collective struggles.
Aparna: I am truly sorry for the way the village mindsets are. And I am glad that my own Dad was firm that my Mom should not change her appearance in any manner whatsoever after his time. The purohit was startled when I said that there would be no giving of a Saree over the shoulder but then accepted it. We are the society and we can make it better.
This is terrible. It is sad that this scenario has been repeating itself over at least a century now. The notion that a woman has no life beyond her marriage. Your efforts should succeed. They must succeed.
Raghu, here it will not. Because when societal practices are challenged, a price will have to be paid. If Varalu refuses, she knows I will stand with her to the end. But the real cost will be borne by her. If something goes wrong in the village or in her life, it may get linked to this. She will not take the call, or her parents. And I understand. It's hard given the complexities in her life.
Aparna, it is woven in to the same fabric of society where they share their food with whoever walks in. Every ritual has a significance and in a way it is bidding goodbye to the spouse. The ten day mourning period in itself is to go down memory lane and overcome any regrets and start experiencing the good times with the departed so we remember them in good light.
Contrary to what you think, these rituals are still prevalent in the cities also, only done in the privacy of just the mandatory people's presence.
Life will change, it's only a ritual. If it will maintain the harmony of the family with the villagers , then so be it. It will make the villagers look at her with some kindness also. Varalu is a strong person and who knows what the future has in store........
I ritual that demeans another is not "just a ritual". Plus being aware of what to expect does not make it any easier. Her strength is needed to cope with the challenge of being a single parent, not diverted into coping with a life of no color
We have to stop this type of "outdated, inhuman, barbaric & brutal" customs. When my younger brother passed away just 50 years of age, and his wife was only 40, I as the eldest male in the family put my foot down and said "no such nonsense!". Earlier when my father passed away aged 62 years and my mother was 50 - and this was in our village - I did the same. There they wanted my mother's hair to be cut and head shaved as well as change to white sarees. Is Varalu (her full name could be Varalakshmi) somewhat educated? Can find her a job in Chennai and suggest she should leave the village.
Aparna, whether in villages or on cities, these practices in the name of parampara is encouraged everywhere. Assumptions that the middle class in India has escaped this is a load of BS. There are very few who have the courage to take on society and those who gossip or create trouble if a radical position is taken. I know of people who were and probably still are shocked when a married woman decides not to wear any mark of matrimony and those who are equally shocked for an unmarried woman to be sporting a toe ring or wearing black beads. Our society has very different norms for women and men, some subtle and some in your face. To break free of it is not easy & the costs associated with it personally is just way beyond what a woman can battle alone!