And then the day when we lost the only man in both our lives came to mind. The early morning hour when the last, laboured breath was taken and the pain finally erased from his face, the last shred of hope erased from ours. what followed that day is sepia toned and dogeared in my mind, a natural dam against a furious storm. The image that, is stark and clear, however, is that of my mother, rigid, alone, and devoid of all colour, apart from the red of her eyes.
Nobody told her to alienate the colours, She was not forced into whites, and yet the society which she had grown up in, which was imbibed in her did not allow her to think any other way. The idle days that followed, which were devoid of the punctual nursing routine, saw her rigid frame lying still for hours at end on her side of the bed.
On the 13th day of dad's passing away, she gave away all her sarees to who ever wanted to keep them for the sake of memories, the rest were given away to maids and the numerous helps who worked in the house of mourning.
So many years have passed since then, I have held my sorrow in me, but my life has moved on. The material things in my life did not change with the passing away of my dad, but for my mother and so many like her, the loss of the husband is not just a painful stab in the heart, there is a physical change that follows, at every step the society puts a reminder that she is a widow, in case one fine day she forgets!! The colours vanish, so does jewellery, there are restrictions on what she can eat, where she can go. There is nobody who is monitoring, there is nobody who will question, its just the cognitive morality that has seeped into the system, that is forbidding.
As a daughter I could have taken the initiative, I could have persuaded her not to shy away from colours, but her rigidity and my non confronting nature came in the way. It rips my heart each time I go into a shop and tell the shopkeeper to show sarees without red and maroon borders, He invariably shows me a white saree with a black border, he smiles a sad and understanding smile, and I leave the shop.
I am not a feminist, but I cannot let any man rule what I wear. I have never worn sindoor in my life. Bindis are also a rarity with me. I have no fascination for jewellery or for anything that declares me married. Its not that I want to project myself as unmarried, its just that like a marriage certificate all these physical declarations seem like bondage to me, they clip my wings, they take away my identity. They are dependent not on love but on norms. Sati might have been abolished, but the sneer on the face of society for widows is still there.