Tuesday, February 15

In pursuit of balance


Sometime back (could be a long time ago.I am not great with time frames) Bru used to air a sweet little ad on TV. People who live outside India (maybe even South India)might not have seen it and I am not able to find the link on You tube. So,you'll have to adjust with my description.:-).The ad shows a young ,South Indian couple scrambling across town in anticipation of the visit of the husband's relatives, an old couple .The girl comes home with a pack of Bru.through the window because she doesn't want to be spotted wearing her jeans .Few minutes later, tada... her jeans have metamorphosed into a Sari and her unruly locks tamed into a pert plait decked with flowers.The old couple smile in appreciation when she hands them out tumblers of steaming "filter" coffee. Now,remember what ad I am talking about?.

Something very similar to this happens to me every time some relative announces that they'll be gracing the thresholds of our home . I scamper around my house trying to find objects of "importance" that indicate my martial status,namely the "Thaali "(Mangalsutra), "toe-rings "and if I am in a nice mood,the "Kumkum" box. Now,I wouldn't think of myself as excessively forward ,but to me wearing toe-rings or marking one's forehead are empty symbols that make no difference to my life.In the olden days, the "Thaali" was used to give out a signal that a girl was married and that guys needed to stay away from her. It was supposed to be a form of protection (Don't ask me how,because I can't understand the concept myself).I am just parroting what the movies have taught me ;-)

I think it's time we stopped taking "Thaali" sentiment dialogues that are an integral part of Tamil movies seriously and pay importance to other things. Not toeing the line or dressing and behaving a certain way doesn't really reflect somebody's culture. Infact, precluding it as the indicators of good culture is downright narrow-mindedness.Anyway,the fact of the matter is that the "wife" stereotype thrives on.

There was a time when I used to fume when people asked me about my missing toe-rings,but now I comfortably ignore any such prodding comments. When I was in school(a long time ago),I remember how one of our teachers,never wore her "Mangalsutra" (even though we knew she was married ).It shocked some of our Tamil sensibilities back then.But now that I am married and supposedly a responsible "adult", I wonder how a ten-year old can get infused with such judgmental thoughts.Is it something to do with societal conditioning? Or the fact that deep down,an uglier version of ourselves lurks waiting to be unleashed?.

Every time, I try to act like the nice,coy Tamil girl, a strong pang of guilt assaults me. Why am I putting on a show for someone who I'll probably see couple of times in my life?.My parents(and most of my relatives) have long since accepted my choice of preferring to not wear a Bhindi and not being a typical Tamil girl . I started cooking only after I got married and cooking decent,edible food only after I quit my full-time job. Probably,all this would have been a non-issue if I stayed in a different country with no relatives around to judge me from the way I dress or the choices I make. I still think a gold chain or the fact that you stock three different types of sweets at home or make the most scrumptious seven course traditional meal says nothing about the sensibilities of a person.

Still,I continue the charade.For the sake of what,I don't know.I have a lot of growing up to do,I guess.

17 comments:

violetcrush said...

I don't wear a mangalsutra or toe rings or sindoor either. My relatives usually don't mind. The only time my mother expects me to wear such things is on weddings or functions which is okay with me. Sometimes I love to wear all that. The only thing I do wear daily is my engagement ring and it's only because I love wearing rings.

Smita said...

I wear toe rings (some cool ones), bindi & Sindoor daily. Not because I have been told to do so but because I have no issues in wearing them. But ask me to wear glass bangles or kaan main kucch or mangalsutra then I cringe because I don't like to wear them.

I have always felt that these traditions shud be follwoed when u really want to follow them not because u r being asked to do. and either way u shud be comfortable & confident with ur views. Beyond that nothing else shud matter. Period!

LindyLouMac said...

It was very interesting to read this post, I think it is the same the world over we all try to please our elders in what ever way is required for our cultures.

Bikramjit said...

hmmm I agree with you , one shoud be what one is . now use going about showing off.. and I bet even if you go to all these trying to make the guests happy they probably still have something to say about how you dont do this or that etc etc SO WHY BOTHER
one shud be natural cause thats what you are ..

All the best is what i can say rest is upto you ..
but i do understand whay you ahve to do all this to please the elders .. maybe the elders should also start to understand us a bit :)

Bikram's

A said...

I did not think in today's age, one cares about what others think. In Delhi I know, no married or unmarried female cares about relatives when deciding what to wear. Sarees are disappearing. Most females wear jeans now....

But of course you know your situation better than me....

Very good read.

Suko said...

Although my experience and perspective as an American is different from yours, Bedazzled, I think it is out of respect for the older generation--even if certain ideas are outdated and restrictive. (In 20 years, someone may feel that way about our antiquated ideas!)

Bedazzled said...

Violet..umm..lucky you ! Its a different thing if you like wearing them. Then there is no question of fighting against things

Smita..well,all i can say is that you are truly self-actualised ;-)

Lindy.. Glad that you could understand the post that is so heavily loaded with culture-specific issues .I even considering not posting it because of the diaspora that reads my posts.

Bikram..i guess its not about showing off.It's got more to do with not being an anomaly and fitting in .

A.. I wish that were true. I guess there are pockets of conservatism still prevalent.

Suko.. I am totally in agreement with what you are saying.I can already see my little cousins looking at me weirdly when i tell them about things relevant to "my generation".

Smita said...

lol!Please help me and tell me what does self-actualised mean

lifeunderthesky said...

Not wearing a thali is still considered blasphemy in my side of the world:)I just dont tell. simple:)That said, I like toe-rings- sleek ones (yes, there are!) Thali- a quiet affair;)No,I don't lie either;) For the world to see- I fit a stereo-type tambram:) And a happy one at that! You rant beautifully gal!!

Bedazzled said...

smita.. ha ha ha.. Google!! ;-)

Life..its blasphemous in this part of the word too;-) .that was why i was so surprised when most of the comments said that people are not as narrow minded anymore.I was left wondering whether I live on another planet actually !

Geeta said...

Nice read.

I agree with you 100%. You can get away with bindi, toe ring etc in Chennai but not thali. I guess you got to be a Chennaite to understand that.

Geeta said...

Nice read.

I agree with you 100%. You can get away with bindi, toe ring etc in Chennai but not thali. I guess you got to be a Chennaite to understand that.

emeire said...

What a fascinating post! I don't know much about your culture but this makes me want to learn more. I guess customs are changing, everywhere in the world!
Em

Bedazzled said...

Geeta..Nice to know someone understands;-)

emeire.. Glad this post made you want to know more.I normally dont post too many personal rants these days,but I guess i should.

Sound Horn Please said...

Exactly how I feel! I put on a charade and wear the thali and the bindi everytime I come to Madras. Feel like such a fraud...

GB said...

Have to agree here...I like to wear bindis and bangles to go with my Indian clothes, but I'm not a big fan of sindhoor. I hate putting it on to "fit in" with social norms....what we have, as a married couple, is so much more precious than these outward displays of matrimony.

nice post.

Bhargavi said...

SHP.. :-) Glad to know that I have company

GB.. Thanks for dropping by. I guess some societies still believe in giving more importance to outward appearances of matrimony than what really matters