“It was very cruel whatever they did with my didi. Even the ladies were abusing her.”

How many widows do you know of who dress in colorful clothes and attend family/religious functions  – As Equals?

I met an elderly widow who wears lipstick (but not red or pink lipstick) and sarees in pretty colors (but no shades of auspicious red). She lost her husband at the age of 58. She says times were changing but she knew her limits. So, although she attends (and is invited to) weddings and functions, she does not attempt to perform certain rituals because she didn’t want someone to check her, she said many rituals are performed only by suhaagan women (i.e. married Indian women whose husbands are alive).

Sharing an email and wondering at the limitless power of Tradition and Custom, which seem to have the same hold over many of us that manipulative abusers have over their victims.

The victims are so busy trying to prove they did not wash their hair on a Thursday/Friday/Anyday that they never question how their hair-wash-day could have caused another person’s pickle to spoil/child to be ill/husband to die.

Often, the ones who can ‘see’ the abuse, and those who can bring changes, are the young. But young adults in India are held firmly ‘in control’ in the name of family values and respect for elders.

What kind of culture and ‘family values’ allow this? If it is painful for someone to watch it happen, how does it affect the person going through it?


Hi IHM,

A few months back, my brother in law (sister’s husband) expired in a car accident when he was coming from Mumbai. He was just 28 and didi (older sister) 24. Then his funeral function was held at his hometown which is a very remote village. It was very cruel function whatever they did with my didi (elder sister). So horrible and her age was just 24.  Newly married just 8 months ago.  She cried a lot.
And interestingly, both BIL & sis are very much educated.
They washed his body and prepared it for funeral with a white cloth on his body. While this was going on, all the ladies (including her sister in law, my brother’s wife, jiju’s brother’s wife who were nearly at the same age as my didi) made my didi dress in bridal wear, just as she was on her wedding day. And then after preparing jiju‘s body, they brought didi near his body and ‘made her a widow’ by removing mangalsutra, smashing her bangles & wiping her sindoor. She was also given a white saree by our maternal uncle to wear immediately. After coming in a white saree, she had hardly cried on her husband’s body for ten minutes, they picked him for funeral.  They, even, didn’t allow her to attend the function.
At last I want to say when this will stop. Even my mother was with those ladies to make her widow. Some jiju’s side ladies were abusing her for killing jiju at such a young age.
Regards,
Shalini
And in response to my comment:
she still using faint colored plain saree… but the funeral function of jiju was horrible. Even ladies were abusing her.
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90 thoughts on ““It was very cruel whatever they did with my didi. Even the ladies were abusing her.”

  1. I cannot believe what LW (letter writer) ‘s didi must have gone through… I dont know how to stop all these.. LW’s mom was also there.. may be she was helpless in front of the inlaws..

    Perhaps if marriage stopped having signs which are to be followed by the women only, like sindoor and all, these customs can be uprooted.. perhaps a women has to struggle a lot, be independent so that she has the power to decide where her husband’s last rites will be performed and who will be present there and all…

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    • ya my mother was helpless. in front of all relatives. also her in-laws also are very nice people but they remained quite only because of society.

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  2. “Making a widow” its a horrible custom. I’ve witnessed it and find it disgusting. A telling comment from one of the widows in my family … Better to be a divorcee than a widow”. Very telling

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    • Reading this I cried…. this is so sad………..
      I attended My Kakies widow custom i could not watch, she cried like a wounded animal…. so sad….. This is in South Africa
      When will this stop???

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  3. At my cousin’s wedding the groom’s sister wore hot pink. She looked gorgeous. She also happened to be a widow. I was 13 and I didn’t really think anything of it.

    Later that day I was sitting with my mom and my cousin’s mother. They started talking about how horrible and disrespectful it was. That she shouldn’t be dressing that way since her husband is dead, that she could have wore a pale pink instead. I was shocked because she was only 30; is she supposed to stop living her life. We’re all in Canada and me, my cousin and her sister in law were all born here. My cousin’s sister in law could care less what a bunch of old Indian aunties think and lives her life the way she wants and dresses the way she wants.

    But my mom and my aunt are women, and women who have spent more of their lives in Canada than in India and this is the way they think. I cant imagine what it must be like for women in India, especially in rural India.

    Anyways, my cousin’s sister in law has remarried and her in-laws (of the husband that died) tell everyone how hurt they are by her remarrying and say why couldn’t she wait until they were dead so they would have to see it. So if they lived another 30 years they expected her to be alone. Was she supposed to wait for them to die until she could move on with her life?

    Half way across the world we still experience this bullshit and have Indian culture shoved down our throats.

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    • I swear… these NRI-s seem to be more regressive than people here. There are lots of such specimens in my family too.
      My Dad says its insecurity. They feel so insecure & outta place in other nations that they hold on tight to all those outdated customs which even we in India have moved away from. My sis who lives in NY says she hs seen & attended more such stuffs in NY in the last 5 yrs than her 25 yrs in India

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    • I am shocked to know this happened in Canada. Its amazing how some peoplemanage to ‘get hurt’ just because somebody is minding their ownbusiness moving on inlife.

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      • And the very people who say she should have waited to get married again till her in laws died would have blamed her that she was just waiting for her in laws to die before she could get married again.hypocrites!

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    • My father’s sister continued to wear a bindi, makeup, beautiful sarees and jewelry after her husband passed away. No one questioned it. Perhaps it was because she was always the ‘great aunt’ figure in our family – someone the entire family turned to for advice, matchmaking, job searches etc. She lived life by her own rules and would not take nonsense from anyone. It’s not that she was highly educated or anything. It was just her ‘do not mess with me’ personality that people automatically deferred to. Yes, that also meant she was sometimes bossy over other folks in the family and offered judgement/advice where it was not needed, but then folks in the family were also free to ignore it/interpret it the way they wanted to.

      We women have to take charge of our llves. Education and financial independence definitely helps, but is not enough to resist the outdated stuff that is passed of in the name of ‘Indian tradition’. We have to question why things are done the way they are, and resist practices that do not make sense in this changing world. Our everyday words, actions, body language convey our self worth. Once the world around us sees that we mean business and will not take nonsense, their tendency to impose things on us without our consent automatically diminishes or vanishes.

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  4. When my maternal grandfather passed away, there was enormous pressure from my granny’s birth family (her brothers and sisters) to shave her head and wear white.That’s just what her sister had done , just a few months earlier.
    Her children convinced her to just carry on as usual. She struggled with the idea of not changing herself and her habits in any way, but ultimately ‘gave in’. She did however reduce the size of the bindi. She even found a way around the ‘no mangalsutra’ rule- she swapped her thaali for a chain that’s used as a mangalsutra in coastal Karnataka, but isn’t necessarily a marriage marker elsewhere.
    I contrast her with my paternal grandfather. When he became a widower, there was no question of any change in his lifestyle, Infact people went out of their way to ensure he wouldn’t feel ‘not taken care of’.

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      • I guess actively resisting other family members efforts to impose orthodoxy helps to a certain extent. Since my grandmother continued to wear her colourful saris and all her jewellery after her husband’s death, the women in my family who have been widowed after her- one at a very young age- have had no real opposition to carry on dressing and living as before.

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  5. I’ve actually never seen anything like this. When my dads cousin passed away his wife wore white for the funeral but that’s it. She went for a holiday six months after and noone said anything. When another relatives husband passed away the lady in question continued to wear a Thali and dress colorfully. After about 5 years her close friends started bringing up the topic of remarriage, but she decided not to.
    The restrictions placed on widows by some Indian communities are ridiculous especially because they don’t place the same restrictions on widowers.

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  6. My heart goes out to your sister. Under the garb od Indian values , traditions and respect basic humanity is lost. How can people be so heartless to subject an innocent girl( who is already grieving her husband’s death) to such an emotional turmoil. I can understand that her mother and sister could not protect her because when we are going through shock and pain our ability to stand up for something can be greatly impaired. However please keep your sister as far from these people as you can. you can find a counselor for her to cope up with what she is going through.

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  7. My grandma is a widow. She’s also the strongest person I know. I don’t know how she handled it, but she definitely could not have done it without the support she got from her family, both maternal and her in-laws. Even with all this support, she went through a whole load of crap from complete strangers. I can’t imagine what she would have done if she didn’t have the support that she did.

    I never asked her about what she went through, and she doesn’t want to talk about it because it’s the past and it’s done. She’s never taken shit from anyone, she wears all the clothes and all the jewels that she wants to. She went to teaching college, got a job, and raised my dad and subsequently all of us. And today, we’re all engineers, MBAs and university students with foreign degrees and foreign jobs and more things than we know what to do with. All because she had the courage and the strength to continue and make a better life for herself. If widows are really a curse, then I’ll take this curse over anything else.

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  8. Say, did the didi go to a honeymoon after marriage? Why? It isn’t Custom.Do the girl’s in-laws not care for Traditionand Indian values that they dare send her on a honeymoon?
    Do people at the in laws place sit on the floor for their meals? Do they not? Do they sit on chairs around a dining table? How could they? Do they not know that its customary to sit on a mat on the floor to eat one’s meal? Do they wake up at 3AM and bathe in a nearby river? They dont? Ohno! So how could they do this to her? On what basis?
    Seething with rage, shall stop now.

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  9. The mother, uncle, sister-in-law (brother’s wife), sister-in-law (husband’s sister) were active participants in this disgusting ‘widow-making’ ceremony. Sadly, these persons probably did everything enthusiastically, having been brainwashed since their birth that all traditions have been created by ‘our revered ancestors’.

    Going by how ‘traditional’ this family is, it would be fair to assume that Shalini’s didi’s was an arranged marriage with the usual horoscope-matching, etc., etc.. Did anybody in either Shalini’s family or her Jiju’s family bother to ask the astrologer(s) why they could not predict the man’s death?

    As for ‘Some jiju’s side ladies were abusing her for killing jiju at such a young age’, it can be taken for granted that, had Shalini’s brother died under similar circumstances, Shalini’s family members would have said similar things about Shalini’s bhabhi.

    Shalini wants to know when this will stop. This will take a long time and will be possible if all persons resolve to do away with such ‘traditions’. It could happen faster if such ‘traditions’ are made illegal, and/or if genuine support (not just lip-service) is provided by political leaders, religious leaders, etc.

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    • I think to do away with such traditions we have to stop forcing DILs to wear all sindoor, bindi, bangles and other nonsense. Why do people think that just because some one doesn’t wear sindoor she will lose her husband, especially MILs?

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        • I agree. I don’t wear any of that in my daily life, even when I am in India. Sometimes there are indirect comments but I am happy for people to know that I do not value these markers. I think (or hope) that if we are true to ourselves in good times as well.. not doing things just to please others.. then perhaps it will be easier to stand our ground when things go wrong. Even to stand up for other people when things go wrong for them.

          My uncle (mum’s brother) recently asked me on Skype why I don’t wear sindoor or mangalsutra.. on the other end were both me and hubby. I told him I just don’t see the point.. what does some red colour do really? He thought for a minute and then said ‘sahi hai.. suhaag sar pe pada ho ya saamne khada ho, ki fark penda?’.😀

          I think I was the first married woman in his experience whose wardrobe or make-up didn’t change post marriage. He also asked if I now wear nailpolish and I said no. He was genuinely surprised I looked exactly the same as before and hence the questions. Next time he comes across another woman like me, he probably won’t even ask the question.

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        • As someone who wants to wear these symbols for a couple of weeks post-marriage, (for no good reason other than wanting to do it), I wonder what it says about me.
          Like the debates about the hijab, what do you do when you covet/wear a symbol that means oppression for most others? I’m privileged enough to display these symbols purely out of choice and on a whim, and at the same time am acutely aware that the choice do so may be individual at some level, but is also is a social/religious statement in it’s own way, in a country where similar social and religious messages do great harm.

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        • Just a couple of days ago I had removed my bangles at night while feeding my baby because I thought the bangles were hurting him. As soon as my mil spotted my bare wrists , she instructed me to wear bangles with a bitter face. Not wanting to cause any trouble to anyone, i quietly agreed. However I want to refuse to be bound and gagged by these stupid customs, I comply because that makes everyone happy except me. For my happiness, I call my mom and crib and crib some more and find it therapeutic. Then I carry on life sasural style.

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      • Agree.Merely not forcing them to stop wearing sindoor etc will not suffice.I feel daughters need to be raised to be affirmative too.And I most certainly feel we are well on our way there.I see lots of women minus their sindoor, thali, bangles in the presence of their inlaws nowadays.

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      • Agree, along the same line women should refuse fast on karva chauth to pray for husband’s long life. This is an absolutely brain washed festival designed to prove a woman’s worth in life in only through a living husband and she better pray/beg/starve to make sure he is around (no matter how abusive or useless he might be). Treatment of widows is another reason I absolutely abhor Indian culture and have zero respect for it whatsoever.
        My grandmother (widowed in late 30s) gave up non-veg food. It is absolute cruelty when cooks amazing fish dishes for us but cannot enjoy it herself all because of some dude who has been dead more than 40 years. We keep telling her to eat it because it is so good, but she refuses too saying widows don’t do it. It is so sad see how she is conditioned even if no one is pressurizing her to stick to such norms.

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    • Its more than the symbols, it’s the mindset that needs ot change, the situation also needs some bright mind who is not scared to offend people and question the entire process at the spot. Discussing it later is not as effective, right at that moment questiont he reason for humiliting and causing even more distress to the already distressed girl. the SIl, brothers wife, mom etc., are hurt by the death, but the closest is the wife, no one’s trauma exceeds hers henc eshe should be given first priority, what she says goes, what she decided goes and someone should stand up for her even if that makes them unpopular, or worst gets them kicked out. It will not stop the horrifying practise right away but it will put some niggling thoughts in the mind of those forcing this. atleast those minds who still retaint heir thinking power. the rest can all go rot. no point debating with them, just have to wait till they are gone🙂 and the ideas die with them.
      this is a serious topic, but i have an incident that still amazes me ..
      we happened to go to a 3nd cousins funeral from my husbands side. we did not know them well and were not much in touch, our lifestyles and general thoughts clashed and they did not think we should have had a ‘love marriage’ huh… anyway the guy who passed was around 35-36? and his wife was about 33ish i think. we had heard there were some trouble in her marriage and thought it was in-laws issue etc., didnt know much.
      oh boy were we in for a show. they prepped is body and brought her out all decked up ( really garishly) i must say, i certainly wouldnt be dressed that way for my wedding. head like a flower garden and that enormous bindi . and then her in-laws someone came in agroup and had her sit near the body & oh boy did she erupt. she stood up and loudly told them to back off, and went on a rant on how they had made her life miserable and their son was an abuser, she was glad she manged to avoid kids and though she didn’t want him to die she could barely contain her happiness at her freedom. she took that enormous bindi off and brought out her bag and proceeded to wipe her face and get dressed right there !!! I’m not kidding. yanked the fake hair and flower garden off and in 10 min looked her usual pretty self. then she proceeded to go in and change into a nice salwar and came back and politely handed her huge jewellry and thali to her MIL and said these belong to you, i will come collect the jewels my parents gave me next week . and proceeded to explain to everyone how for the past 8 yrs she was forced into all this and how she couldn’t get away and yep blamed her parents for forcing her to stay too and she finally realised that if she didn’t get away today she would be stuck in this rot for ever. and thank you very much and good bye..
      yep walked away , actually there was a girl with an auto i think. i dont remember much past that, just that the funeral finished, we gave our condolences to the cousins mom who was sobbing even worse and about ungrateful girls and her dead child.. and we fled….
      sometimes i think back about how we stood there jaw dropped, i wish i had spoken up for her, or atleats i wish i had helped her change, or atleast i wish we had taken her in our car home , given her a cup of tea and given her time to catch her bredth or dropped her where she wanted. i wish i had kept in touch with her nad made sure she was fine.. i dont know where she is now but we really wish we had stood up by her side that day and left the funeral with her.

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        • Me too shail, I don’t know why I just stood there with my mouth open, at least my husband reacted enough to tell his cousins o back off and let her go and gave her a smile. It was long time ago. She must be in her late 40s now. Her mom screamed and cried that she bought them shame. So sad. Didn’t care about the fact that she said she was abused. We coddle and love our kids when young, what makes us throw them to the wolves when they are married? Aren’t they still our kids? I’m going to fing out where this girl is atleast now and tell her how much i admire her guts. and I’m pretty sure she is doing great

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      • I am in awe of this girl you are talking about. It must have been tough for her to walk out of the marriage w/o parental support but, when she got her chance to, atleast she did not give in to culture , customs or bother with what will others think of her .She did not care for the “tamasha be avoided” before public and instead spoke her mind.
        I am sure ,a girl as strong and courageous as she is must be happy wherever she is.

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      • Thanks radha .
        Unfortunately, there is nobody for a Woman who stands up. A woman stands up alone to fight for herself.
        My question is ,

        where are Our antennaes to stand by such women? why do we play dumb and scared like a still born ?,

        But sure our antennaes stand up to abuse such women.

        Surely , it is a matter of choices. Some choices have to be taken on our toes.

        if we dont participate the or are silent to abuse we contribute to the abusivenss.

        Thank You

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        • Question:

          : WHY DOES OUR ANTENNAES NOT WORK AT THAAT TIME?

          Answer

          : FEAR .

          Coming to Radha’s

          This girl was abused on all sides, even by the parents who gave her birth.
          She REALIZED that she would be come another static.
          She REALIZED that she is another slave and nobody will come get her, becasue everybody treats her as liability.
          she REALIZED that she is “sati” .
          she REALIZED that her own parents will eat her up.

          She was sitting all this while.

          When she stood the girl ran.

          – In order to change one has to stand up.

          once you stand up, you will learn to walk. ( there is enough strength in your legs to walk, to run, to make the jump and to take leaps – you will be amazed at the strength you actually have ( remember you were evolved over millions of years. you can only be STRONG ENOUGH.

          You can

          FEAR : Fear Everything and Run

          OR

          Face EVerything and Rise.

          currently i am reading this – http://www.philosphy.org – learn and live.

          Thank You

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      • Wow, what a brave woman. I wish even a 10th of the girls who go through such things find the courage to stand up. They’ll inspire the rest, and there’ll be a day when we won’t put up with nonsense any longer.

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  10. When my father died, my mum wore white on the day of the funeral. I am an only daughter and I did the cremation along with my uncles. People were a little awed, but fortunately did not have the gumption to say anything to me. Mum did not want to come for the cremation at all. Over the years, I have noticed that she started with wearing pale colours, but has now started wearing whatever she wants. At a cousin’s wedding, someone once hesitated when she came to bless the couple. Mum hesitated momentarily, but decided to go ahead anyway! Am so glad for her! It is hard to throw off deeply ingrained customs, but it is possible for independent, educated, financially independent women to not only do it, but also inspire countless women around her.

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    • That is so true.For financially independent women, its a bit easy.When I was in school, one of my teacher was widowed.After a few weeks leave, she came back to teach us, in coloured sarees and bindi.Sindoor was missing though.She must have been the subject of many a discussion in the staff room I am sure, but carried on bravely.

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  11. Makes me really sad such things still exist and even the new generation are being put through such absolute nonsense.
    I remember my widowed aunt to this day. She was a school teacher and lost her husband in the early 1970s. She cared two hoots for what others thought. She continued wearing bindi, colored sarees and spoke in loud voice and laughed heartily. We actually heard her before we saw her.

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  12. I personally haven’t seen this custom being played out. I know of 3 widows in my extended family – my granma, her sister and one more aunt who was widowed very early in life.
    None of them wear white or refrain from wearing jewelry or bindi.

    I guess there are certain communities who insist on this behaviour.

    I agree that we need to make away with this silly traditions where the woman is required to wear a sindhoor or bangles as a sign of marriage. None of my married friends (or my mom for that matter) wears the sindhoor (although mom does wear a mangalsutra).
    My friends wear sindhoor during functions like diwali or weddings, but only as a fashion accessory, and not out of any sudden devotion to their husbands.😛

    I wear toe-rings when I feel like it, even though in India it is seen as a sign of a married woman.

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  13. My heart goes out to Shalini’s didi, she must be having such a hard time dealing with the sudden loss and instead of supporting and comforting her at such a time they made it even worse for her. When one is already going through a trauma how can people make the person go through more? The woman who do this to other woman, don’t their conscience ever bother them? Don’t they ever feel that they could be scarring someone for life! There were woman her own age and there was her mother too….by dressing her up as a bride first and then ‘making’ her a widow publicly what message are they passing on to the younger generations – your life is over if you become a widow, you have to bear the great loss and are publicaly humiliated by your own family? You have to sacrifice most things that give you happiness for no fault of yours?

    My maternal grandmother loved flowers. She lovingly tended to her little garden and made herself a ‘gajra’ everyday and wore it proudly on her long hair. She did this ever since she was a little girl and it was not a ‘married woman ritual’ for her. But it was in the eyes of others once she got married. After my grandfather passed away she had to let go of it and I could see her missing it so dearly. She made beautiful gajras for all of us but refused to wear one because of some fear. Every now and then when no one was around I would see her sneaking a quick sniff of the fragrance of her beautiful flowers and her face litting up with the joy of the known comfort they carried for her. It broke my heart but I was just a child and could hardly do anything. I questioned it but never got any logical answers.

    I was really under the impression that things have been changing for good, atleast amongst the people I live when I met a new friend’s mom recently and she was dressed in a beautiful colorful sari and wearing a mangalsutra. Later on I came to know that my friend’s father had passed away when she was young and her mom continued dressing as she did facing and answering everyone who objected her by saying that although her husband has passed away she continues being his wife, carrying their surname and raising their kids. She tried explaining them that a lot has changed very suddenly for her children and her and as they are trying to get a grip of life it is important for the kids to see that some things will not change. My friend told me how her mom always felt the presence of her dad and always remembered him everyday, they were really inseperable and they were truly married in a way that even death couldnt set them apart. I felt so proud of the lady, I wish more women have the strength to stand by their own beliefs and not have to give up something out of fear or ‘what will people say’.

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  14. Even if one human being had raised her/his hand protesting this “abuse” they could have stopped it .
    It takes courage and conviction to stop abuses.
    Courage and conviction comes from within.

    I read this on a blog ” dont waste time telling others what to do or convincing others, believe in yourself and you do “.

    The world follows.

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  15. WHY???? Why do we allow these so called “customs”?? When my grand father passed away, my grand mom’s SILs started hinting about doing this custom. My mom and I yelled so badly at them that they just shut up. I didn’t hear even a grumble from them. Who the hell made these so called “rules”??

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  16. When my mom’s brother (mama) died at the age of 54, his wife (mami) said to my mom, ‘now I will have to remove all this right?’ My mom just said, ‘we have to change these customs, just keep wearing what you always do’. That gave my mami the courage and to this day, my mami wears her mangalsutra and red bindi. I am so proud of my mom and mami.

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  17. Okay ! I have an optimistic story here. Someone in a distant cousin’s family got widowed. Her parents were not very well off. The In Laws adopted her (not legally, they threw a function as a mark of declaration that their DIL was a daughter now). The girl eventually remarried and her former In Laws arranged the ceremony, threw a feast and celebrated the whole function. They, with her biological parents, did the parental rituals of the marriage too.( They must have broken a thousand strict religious laws by doing that. It is forbidden for In Laws to do this). My mother attended the party and she was shocked to see that many of the aunties back talking about the whole thing, while having their butter chapatis, were from elite educated class. The surprise doesn’t end here. The In-laws-now-parents are well off with money but not very educated and lived most of their life in a small town.
    Sometimes, I wonder if education has anything to do with humanity. I have believed all my life that education is the end of all misery, but may be its just not enough.

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    • Wonderful! The world needs more people like the in-laws you have mentioned. I too think education has nothing to do with humanity. Most of the times, it is the educated people who are regressive.

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    • Pallavi,
      It was good to read this story.
      I have another almost unbelievable story (unbelievable, considering that this took place in the nineteen seventies)
      Briefly:
      Our neighbour had two sons, who were just about 2 years apart in age.
      Both got married in due course and they all lived together as a joint family waiting for an opportunity to separate and go their own ways in future.
      They had a child each.
      Tragedy soon struck the family.
      One of the sons died suddenly in an accident.
      Within a few months, the wife of the second son too died of some disease.
      For a year or two the family lived in mourning.
      The mother of the sons took a courageous decision.
      With some gentle convincing, and throwing orthodoxy to the winds, she persuaded the surviving son and the surviving daugther in law to get married to each other.
      This was done in a temple, privately without much fanfare.
      The couple lived happily ever after.
      The mother was ostracized by her neighbour and relatives.
      She cared two hoots.
      The couple live in a different city now and their children are grown up and no one outside the family knows this background.
      I salute that bold mother who is now no more.
      Regards
      GV

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        • Such stories need to get published in broad daylight – A 1000 others will get courage to put their best foot forward.

          Thanks to both of you for narrating these lively stories – wish such stories get “gossiped ” about. Now wouldnt that make a lively conversation

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    • Wow, sounds too good to be true.Bur am so glad its true.More people should hear of such incidents, so that they become examples to be followed.And then the example become a norm.Wouldn’t that be such a nice thing to happen.Now the girl has three sets of parents.
      I too used to hink, in my teenage years, that education will end all misery.But as I stepped into my twenties, sadly, I became disillusioned.

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    • Ah, there is hope!🙂

      I think the problem is that education and literacy are completely different things. Our culture of ‘respect’ and obedience is such that people are actively discouraged from questioning what they are taught and thinking for themselves.. both in schools and in homes. We have a lot of literate people but few educated ones.

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      • Very true Carvaka. At my In-laws’ place even a 60yr old man falls to the feet of his ‘elders’ as a way of farewell or greeting. Sometimes children are FORCED to fall at the feet of 20 somethings because they are considered elder to kids. I was so shocked initially when this little girl of 5 was asked to fall to my feet (I am 27). She did it enthusiastically without a thought behind the custom but I stopped her from falling to my feet. I fell to my knees. held her wrists and asked for a high five instead. You should have seen her grandmother’s reaction. She had turned beetroot red. The kid’s mother was a puppet merely looking on. God!

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        • oh boy, I was shocked that a 17 year old guy did that to me. when he bended i said , why are you doing this and he said ” blessings and respect”.

          i said if you want to get mine – i only hug,
          the kid said “tradition – i said we will start some good ones – only if you hug will you get blessings. and my feet is mine – so keep away, or else wash my feet clean. i have a lot of clothes to wash as well ! i joked.

          the 17 year old was perplexed. 2 sets of rolling eyes of his parents and me giving him the choice to do for what he wanted.

          hesitatingly he hugged the first time. the 2nd and the 3rd time it became easy.

          the parents said to me – this is how we have done all along. i said you can do what ever you want, but if your son wants mine, it is a hug – take it or leave it. the parents did not know want to do and they kept telling that to the other members of the family.

          I am the 2nd oldest bahu in a very conservative one and am teaching the uncles wives to get their spine back and voice their opinion rather than nagging their husbands behind their backs ( i said Learn to fight your own battles …the story goes on …more stories next time)

          chow !

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  18. With time, these customs will become less common and finally die.
    I feel sorry for the letter writer and hope she will have the courage to give up customs she does not feel comfortable with and lead a normal life.

    In my own family, all these age old practices stopped with my parents generation.
    My grand aunt (paternal grandfather’s sister) was widowed as a child. She had her head shaved even as a nine year old little girl and lived a widows life, staying with my grandfather permanently as a member of his family. When my grandmother died, this widowed aunt practically “mothered” my father and uncles and aunt.

    This is the story of my family on my father’s side.

    In contrast, my mother’s side of the family was more modern.
    My maternal grandmother did not shave her head when she was widowed.
    She wore coloured saris and lead a normal life for the twenty years that she outlived her husband though I don’t remember seeing her sporting a bindi.

    I have not seen these cruel customs practiced with any body of my generation.
    I am sure the next generation will totally give this up.
    Some traditions deserve to die and no one will be sorry.
    Regards
    GV

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  19. Symbols are powerful. Sindoor and Magalsutra signify that a woman’s marital status is important – that it is directly linked to her self-worth and her worth in society. I don’t wear these, and by not wearing them, I’m making a statement – that my marital status has nothing to do with my worth as a human being – and that every other woman should not be judged based on her marital status.

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    • Same here. I too wear no such markers/symbols. I wore a lot of large stick on bindis and red powdered bindi during my unmarried, college days – it was being worn by others too those days (trend sort of in late 1980s) but I was always aware that it was traditionally reserved for married women.

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      • I am the first woman in my husband’s side to not wear these marriage symbols. The outpouring of criticism and venomous comments by all and sundry within the family was unbelievable. They made it a point to come home and lecture me about the ills of not wearing them. When my husband told them he had no problem with my choice and didn’t care about these symbols either they told me that I had blackmailed him and taken him on my side. My MIL suffers from high BP. She lost her temper, screamed on top of her lungs and even fainted. She has thrown us out of ‘her’ house. I was 2 months pregnant when this happened. We live with our parents now in a different city (until I deliver). Not a word on how my health is over phone let alone come visit me (not that I have any expectation). Its fallen upon my husband to keep in touch with her as she has severe health problem. He’s keeping sane by believing what he’s doing is his best and there is no bitterness. Fortunately, he is doing very well and she is the one who is suffering from loneliness etc.

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      • IHM, just like large bindis, I feel mangalsutras should come into fashion and they should be considered very hip. For once, we need to get rid of the mangalsutra equals marital-status-indicator theory.

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      • I love HUGE BINDIS – in all color – red, blue, orange et al
        I love mangalsutras as well – the tiny black beads ( i have heard that you get various colors – huge fashion statement. )

        I wear them on select occassions as fashion statements.

        when the sun beats down and your hat comes on

        The big colored bindi is the only color that you want to have with your white top and shorts. And the black mangalutra looks good too

        ( Red, white and black ) – I love these colors.

        I have used mangal sutra as a “sutra” at airports when the men stare at you no end. The mangal sutra ( i bought it for rs. 35 from a kirana store ) comes out from the bag like a sword. Indian men can be easily chased away.

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        • As a college student I have worn mangalsutra without realising that it was a mangalsutra, not the usual sort, black beads but in less common styles bought from various state emporiums. I think they were being worn quite commonly, in our circle, during those days.

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        • of course ihm ! i have heard many girls from the south say that ! because i think in the south they dont have the concept of mangalsutras as much we do have in bombay or further north

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    • I don’t wear them either. I was raised with believe in reason and logic than superstitions. But unfortunately I was not raised to stand up for myself. So when MIL and Sister in Law bullied me to wear all the trash it took me some time to tell it on their face that I will not.

      I was aware of bindi and sindoor as symbols in my husbands culture. So before getting married I had made it clear to MIL that I will not wearing these during a conversation on the phone when she hinted at me wearing sindoor everyday. I didn’t know other junk was going to be pushed on to me. During the wedding she gave me an iron bangle, a gold bangle and two sets of red and white bangles for each arm.she told me I have to wear it for life and not even take it off at air ports.in case they insist she said I have to tie a napkin around my wrist because it can’t be bare. She said she is very particular about it because she doesn’t want to take any chances with her sons life.

      The white ones broke a few times while she replaced. She resented me not wearing sindoor and bindi and said her friends comment on that. I took off the gold one very soon because neither do I like gold nor is it safe. I hate bangles…so after a year and a half I took them off. First my extremelly well educated SIL demended to know why i was not wearing any bangles. She created a hue and cry, accused me of not loving her son, wanting to look single. She commanded me to wear them. She yelled and screamed. Husband asked me to wear at least the iron one. He said if something happened to his mother he will not forgive me. So I am still wearing an iron one but got rid of other assortment. I can understand why some women wear it. The harassment and no support from husband. He even asked me to apologise to her. I refused because she was the one who yelled and screamed. I just stood my ground. It is a mini achievement for me because I was not raised like that. It didn’t come naturally to me.

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      • Ask him if he wears anything to denote his married status and if he values your life less? And I would tell him to be very careful since his longevity or /and his moms lies on your arms literally… Simple matter to lose a bangle eh, or worse break it. Then what poof they r gone. I’d say to them to be careful be v v careful🙂. He he

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        • Yes Radha I got it. But talking to people with closed mind is useless. He wears our engagement ring and I don’t so according to him that is his symbol. He doesn’t realise I never asked him to wear it. It’s perfectly okay with me if he doesn’t. The bangles according to MIL are meant for his long life. What he meant by not forgiving me if something to happened to his mother is not by taking off the bangle but by giving her shock and pain which would get her blood pressure high because after howling and crying and blaming she felt weak, tired and just dropped on the bed. Well all that hurt and pain is completely self inflicted. By not having your way around on what somebody else wears or not wears and taking that as a cause of bad health is stupid.

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      • Well done for standing up for yourself. Just wanted to commend you and send lots of hugs.🙂

        It is utter rubbish for the MIL to blame your accessories for her son’s longevity and for the some to blame you if ‘something happened to her’. Are these not adults who are responsible for their own well being? What about your longevity and if something happened to you? I’m shaking my virtual fist at them in frustration at this stupidity and their bullying tactics.

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    • True.I too dont wear any of these markers.As a new bride, I did.Just because it was something new, and fascinated me.But he novelty soon wore off.As soon as it started becoming a hassle, I slowly got rid of them one by one, the mangalsutra, which irritated the back of my neck, the bangles which would become wet each time I washed my hands, the sindoor which kept irritating my scalp. Seeing me, my husband felt releived that he too could remove the ring which was feeling too tight🙂.
      Ironically, when I was single, I would wear a thin bangle each on my wrists and a thin gold chain around my neck, which never bothered me.
      My MIL sees me as a person with different tastes and not as a person who is defying tradition by not wearing these markers.She says, to each her own.

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  20. Experiences from my family – my maternal and paternal granmas both wore colorful sarees but no bindis. My older aunts wore colorful sarees and small bindis but stayed slightly away from religious functions. Recently, a widowed aunt gave away her own daughter in marriage (usually the bride has to be given away by a married couple pulled in from relatives). So I guess things are getting better.

    One of those experiences that remain entrenched in my mind – I was a kid, 10 or 12, my very young aunt’s husband had died. (And that too, he had committed suicide. Imagine the trauma she was going through. She had 2 little kids.)

    We (my parents and I) travelled to their village for the funeral. My aunt’s f-i-l and m-i-l were/are very nice (but unassertive) people. They didn’t want to do the usual harsh ceremonies. But the village elders were insisting, especially goaded on by one of the elders in my own family. The widow’s mil and fil were giving in. My dad stepped in and put his foot down. He used a thunderous voice and fought with the elders for over an hour. My mom and another aunt took the young widow inside a house, locked it from inside, and refused to open it and allow her to be subjected to such indignities.

    In the end, the elders gave in. My young widowed aunt continued to dress as before. Some relatives helped her find a job. Although understandably devastated for a few years, she eventually moved to the city, and moved on with her life. Back then, I didn’t fully understand what happened but I feel so proud of my parents now when I think about that day.

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  21. My MIL is a widow. My FIL passed away when she was 60+. She continues to wear sarees of all hues and materials and loves buying jewelry (and wearing it). One of the many reasons I love her.

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  22. Pathetic custom! No one spared a thought for the young woman, who was grieving the loss of her husband. Blaming her for his death and subjecting her to those horrific customs was more important. Shalini, I hope your sister is feeling better now. Once she has recovered from the shock, please encourage her to do what she thinks is good for her and not give in to customs and traditions.

    After reading few optimistic stories from few readers here, I think it is possible to do away with such customs, if the women themselves make up their mind to not to be give in and lead their lives as they wish. I also wonder why people give so much importance to the ‘suhagan symbols’. I wear my mangalsutra most of the times because I like wearing it. And I remove it when I want to. No questions asked. I do not wear toe rings. What does all this have to do with husband’s longevity? We have been victims of many brain-washed customs. “Girls should not laugh loudly, girls should talk softly, after marriage women should wear sareers, mangalsutra, toe rings and sindoor. All this display will ensure the longevity of the husband, a woman’s life revolves around the husband, she has to live for him and understand that she has her identity only because of her husband” Added: Women who are independent and have a mind of their own shall be labelled rebellious and sinful.

    Another pathetic custom is to forbid women with no children from participating in ceremonies related to children. They are called ‘barren’ even though they might not be at fault. It could be the husband who might have had medical issues but women have to endure the blame. As kids my sisters and I used to visit an aunt’s home. She was very caring and loving and the uncle and aunt did not have children of their own. Many years later, when my eldest sister gave birth to her daughter and we went to invite her for the naming ceremony of the baby, she looked a bit hesitant. We insisted that she attends the ceremony. At the ceremony, she was hesitant to hold the baby because she knew she was being subjected to stares by other invitees. The belief is that such women bring ill luck with them and they should not hold babies, as their ill luck will pass on to the baby and there by the parents. Phew!!!!!!!!!!!!! We, specially my mother, insisted that the aunt holds the baby and blesses her, much to the displeasure of others present there. But things ought to change and the change should begin somewhere. Isnt it?

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  23. Pingback: ‘This ‘I, Me, Myself’ culture that most of you on this forum are propagating itself is hypocrisy.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  24. Pingback: Why Indian women wear toe rings (BICHHIYA)? there is a Science Behind this.. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  25. All this traditions…….! I I don’t believe all this….Especially the widow ceremony….Strictly i believe men should also must be done like that when their wives die….!Grow up fellows ….This is a 20 century…Change your mindset and move on toward’s achievement, reward’s and society enhancement….! Our society must think and change their thinking out of Box!!!!! Very very disappointing…..We are the most back dated…..Don’t waste time hurting Other’s and their personal life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Om Shanthi…shanthi…shanthi ……
    Om Saha Nau-Avatu |
    Saha Nau Bhunaktu |
    Saha Viiryam Karavaavahai |
    Tejasvi Nau-Adhiitam-Astu Maa Vidvissaavahai |
    Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

    Meaning:
    1: Om, May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student),
    2: May God Nourish us Both,
    3: May we Work Together with Energy and Vigour,
    4: May our Study be Enlightening and not give rise to Hostility,
    5: Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

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  26. Pingback: 21 Married Women in Chennai Remove ‘Thali’ Despite Husbands Being Alive | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  27. I am enraged after reading what they did to that poor girl in the name of customs. I remember when my maternal grandfather had passed away, all my aunts asked my grandmother to remove her mangalsutra and special instructions were given to my mom that she should not see her mother on that day. My mom was furious, she told that my mother is mourning her husband’s loss. She needs my full support and I should be there with her. I don’t care about customs or rituals. I was so proud of my mom that day.

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  28. Pingback: “Change, if it came at all, would come from within—by a process of evolution.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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