Monday, March 14, 2016

#311 : Culture, Taboos and Hypocrisy By Sumeetha Manikandan: Guest Post

​Though widowed women of today are more independent, there are many taboos attached to them even in these times.

According to Hindu superstition it is inauspicious to see a widowed woman while stepping out of the house. Do people practice this today? Sadly they do. I have seen my own mother cringe in shame when her neighbours who have known us for decades turn their face away and run into their homes because they sighted a widow.

There are some taboos that are ingrained in our culture and drummed into our heads so much so that a rational man or woman too would believe and act in a manner that is absolutely absurd. For example, a cousin of mine, who was divorced refused to touch her own mother’s sari during her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Her reason was that she didn’t want her own bad luck to visit her parents!

I have seen women whose marriages are far from perfect being married to drunkards, drug addicts, womanizers and adulterers. Yet when a marriage is being solemnized, no one prevents these women from coming forward to hold the bride’s hand or participate in the various ceremonies. I would often wonder if bad luck would flow from these women onto the bride. After all, they were stuck in a bad marriage. But no, they are auspicious because they are married.

A friend of mine who was divorced attended a friend’s marriage and her presence made people uncomfortable. Many comments flew around, which she took it in her stride. After a year, she got remarried and when she attended the baby shower of the same friend, she was warmly welcomed and was asked to participate in all the ceremonies. Why? That’s because she is married and now is auspicious.

These are many themes of culture and taboos that I used in my story. Lalitha, the protagonist of ‘These Lines of Mehendi’ is a talented beautician and a Mehendi artist. She is much in demand during the marriage season but things change when her estranged husband commits suicide. Separated from him for more than ten years, Lalitha had not seen him or heard from him in the past decade. His death comes as a shock to her but she didn’t think that it would change her life in any way. Why should it? She was an independent woman after all… but it does. Her clients now see her as a widow and she is taken to task for being near the bride and for touching her bridal clothes!

Do women have no value of their own? Do our identity depend only on our husband? Is there no end to this hypocrisy?

These are the many questions that I have posed in my story ‘These Lines of Mehendi’. I would love to hear your views and opinion too, so kindly share them as comments below.

Thank You.

Check out more about Sumeetha's book here

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