Friday, December 4, 2009

The lost colours


A few days back as I was researching on Benarasi Sarees for my other blog, the mind wandered to the days when my mother's wardrobe was filled with colour. the blues and yellows, the reds and pinks seemed so natural, so taken for granted.

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.

61 comments:

अनिल कान्त : said...

एक स्त्री के जीवन पर इस कदर अधिकार जमाने की कोशिश की गयी कि उसके लिए तमाम नियम इजाद कर दिए गये, पति के रहते ये पहनो वो पहनो और उसके ना रहते हुए या तो मार जाओ या उन सभी चीज़ों को जला कर राख कर दो जो तुम्हारे पति के ज़िंदा होने की निशानी हों

इस तरह पूरी की पूरी परंपरा स्त्री को पुरुषों का गुलाम बनाए रखने के लिए बनायी गयीं, जिससे कि पुरुष जब चाहे और जैसे चाहे स्त्री को इस्तेमाल कर सके.

चलो धीरे धीरे रुढ़िवादितायें ख़त्म हुईं या धीरे धीरे कम हुईं, अब ऐसे में यह स्त्री पर निर्भर करता है कि वह कब क्या पहनना चाहती है और वो वही पहने जो कि उसे असहज ना लगे.

amrit said...

As they say - to each his / her own.

Bhavya.B said...

A touching post and a nice pic.
I too believe in the absolute freedom to choose what to wear.Why should our attire pronounce our state of life to a passerby?

PURN!MA said...

i agree. its the societal issue when someone's husband passes away. and it has so very well blended into our society tat it seems normal that women forgo everything. However, life continues as was for widowers.

Nice snap. :)

Balachandran V said...

Thats a beautiful you! :)

Whenever a conflict occurs vis-a- vis societal norms and self-interests, I would ask my conscience for help. Sometimes it agrees with the accepted norms, sometimes it does not. The choice is entirely mine. In your mother's case, what did she feel about it? Would she have been happier accepting the norms and thus being accepted by the society or would she have challenged the society? The society doesn't give a hoot either way. For a while, they might create a ruckus; they are too enwrapped in themselves to be bothered by others for long. Acceptance is the final word; either by oneself or by the others. Woe be unto those who have neither! (like I feel sometimes! :)

R. Ramesh said...

quite touching S..can understand what u say...

Shivi said...

It is soothing to see sometimes that someone in some part of the world has so much compassion, solidarity and beautiful thoughts inculcated within,and can express thyself in the framework of minimal clean words. Your values and thoughts teach me a lot...they often express what I always craved for expressing but could not due to lack of...I dont know what!:) keep writing Di...your words are like balm for many aching heart and souls! :)

numerounity said...

Hi Sujata

That was a very touching post indeed. NO one can replace the place of your father but it is really commendable for anyone to have a daughter like you. Esp when you said that why world makes a widow' life more miserable by constantly reminding, is appreciative.

I completely agree that a widow should not be forced to wear dull colors like white as a constant reminder of their loss.

I remember how my nani has wonderful saree collection but after my nanaji' death she stared wearing the dull one n not pure white. I always force her to wear colorful sarees but she feel offended more so because as what ppl will say. Damn the ppl who takes a person' right of happiness.

Sumandebray said...

"maut se kiska ristedari hai, aaj hamari to kal tumhari bari hai"
I know .. it is hard to see mother shed all the colors but there can be hope if the children are strong.
We lost our father quite early in our life. A very disciplined teetotaller left us just after his retirement... not so old, not so young .. a vialble diable age (GOST).
But My sister gave my mother a choice .. either we both eat veg or non veg and same for white saree. I feel proud of my sister for doing that. I hope to see our society to mature and shed such cruel rules against women. But still hold on to the values that matters.
And I have seen women are more conservative in this respect and they are the one who forces these onto less fortunates

Haddock said...

It changes from individual to individual. Its left to us (not the society) to decide what to do once your loved one is gone.
One can pine and live a secluded life or one can live on.

Kavi said...

Thanks for sharing. Its a touching thing for your mom and i am sure she belongs to a different generation and a time. And you do to a different one !

All things change. Including such tightly held beliefs ! And, when it is for the better, its all the more lovely !

Destiny's child... said...

That was a really touching post...
Sometimes we just impose things on ourselves...I do not know if the society is to blame...

Nice snap. That's lil Sujata in the centre, right? :)

Sucharita Sarkar said...

My mother also became a 'widow' when I was 18, in fact, a few months before my Higher Secondary exams. So I can somewhat understand what you and your ma went through.

sujata said...

@Anil thanks anil for the lovely detailed comment. I agree completely.

@Amrit vatsap?to each his own, as in?

@bhavya B thanks

@purnima these days society really does not interfere that much, but what does is our inbred prejudices. It takes a lot of courage to shed those I guess.

@Bala thanks. Mom has always treated me as a daughter, never a friend and so things like these are not discussed much. She is very fierce in her boundaries, and totally in harmony with what society deems fit. At times I feel if I had been her son, I could have cajoled her more..am not sure, I miss the colours on her, I dont know if she does.

@Ramesh thanks

@Shivi thanks dear, my writing is all about my thoughts, am glad you like it so much.

@Numerounity thanks. With age ladies all over India do graduate to lighter shades, that is there choice, may be not completely, but thats what they have seen others do and they follow. But to point out a colour to a widow and say thats the colour for you, is a sad state of affairs.

@SumanDebRay I am really happy that your sister did what I so wished and could not. People just kept saying give her some time and she will let go of her rigidity, and I agreed. However with non veg I took a stand and she finally gave in

Pesto Sauce said...

I too lost my Dad long time back but never did anyone, my Mom included, picture any loss on our appearances. I agree our society has an archaic mindset, which only compounds our grief and enhances agony

sujata said...

@Haddock I agree, but living in a structured society and wanting to belong leaves very little option but to conform to the rules that have been passed down.

@Kavi Yes we are generations apart, things have changed since then, and I am glad

@Destiny's child thanks yes that little me in the centre. Society does not interfere, its our own self imposed rigidity

@Sucharita I was 19 and in my first year of college, mom was 48.

Babli said...

A very nice, interesting and touching post. I liked it very much specially the picture, you are looking very sweet.

BK Chowla said...

Beautiful picture which says it all and a lot.

deeps said...

Even if I let alone the magic you have weaved with the impeccable language …the feelings and emotions expressed with such bright color and vivid tone, did make me sit back for a while …
I m not sure what to tell you here, except that I m glad me around here and be sure about it ….

Rajesh said...

Very touchy. One has to lead ones life as they want and not guided by the restrictions of the society. But it is very difficult to not to abide by the society flaws.

Aparna said...

My mother in law has given up going to weddings and wearing bindis. She also never wears those saris with red or maroon borders. She never realizes that it is upsetting for the son.
People who have grown up seeing such things around them, it is difficult for them to give up on such ideas.

bluebird said...

Yet another thought-provoking post, Sujata. I wonder how prevalent might be this unwritten code upon the current generation. Did you ever try to try and find out if your mother felt it the expected thing to do, as sacrifice, so to say; or did she feel it helped her feel connected to her husband in some way.

kavita said...

When i reached my home at Dly my dad was already cremated and my heart broke further seeing ma without her beautiful bindi and the red sindoor she always wore .In our culture a white attire for a woman who lost her husband is not mandatory,my daadima instructed my mom that if she wore a dull saree she would leave the house immediately ...my mom never wore whites but for a year or so she too avoided very bright colors.On my forcing her to do so ,she replied ...man hee nahin karta.
I respected her choice ...i think both the society and the ones close to the woman should leave the choice up to her.A very touching post Sujata.A very beautiful family picture.

R. Ramesh said...

thanks friend..how u doing?

sujata said...

@Pesto Sauce long time, hope things are fine at your end. I have also not been to your blog for long. The society is archaic and our minds extremely prejudiced.

@Babli thanks

@BK Chowla thanks Sir

@Deeps thanks for the kind words

@Rajesh, I agree completely

@Aparna I know itrs difficult, so I decided not to start at all, A man will niether make me wear sindoor nor take it away from me, same for bindi and colours and for food heaven's sake its so silly even when i type it out..who the hell made this decision in the first place!!

She did not feel connected by doing this to dad, because she knows very well how forward dad was in his views, anmd how much he had explained to her, not to follow all the rubbish that society would demand from her, and yet she did exactly that, its just that you want to belong to the society, you might have looked down upon people who behaved or lived against the flow, and when you were put in a similar situation, what option is left but to bow the head and follow the rules? My mother is from a small town, always has had very strict set of dos and donts. She follows thembecause she is not ready to change.

@Kavita I feel if we see a different society from our childhood, if we dont link colours to sorrow, to loss, then this will not be the case. However the generation our moms belonged this was common practise, white is a sad colour, So much so that my mother never alklows me to wear white, and being what I am, I just keep doing it, I love that colour, I love red too..colours should be worn as per your choice, as per your skin tone, not as per your marital status.. I can never explain that to my mother though, she woul;d think I am totally mad.

@Ramesh fine what did you do for the hols?

Debopam Chaudhuri said...

Cant agree more on the aspect. We are still quite a bit far from hitting the right balance to the social system of families and social bonds.

And on a different note: your face in the B/W pic is like a carbon copy of your seven year old son. The similarity is of a wow proportion!

indranil said...

from your comment in a posting of JU canteen-er adda, I followed the link and reached your blog for the first time today..

read through the fist few blogs . Sujata you are just brilliant. the spectrum of your blogs are really amazing. and your writing is very free flowing. (though i don't read much but i guess a Brida some where is evident).

yes !! my personal take on you matches your writings. my rating you was exactly what you scribbled in one of your blogs about men being trash etc.. you are indeed quiet, disciplined look intellect-loaded and mature. though your almost-absolute silence did not bring forth your wit which you had also written about.

just a small observation: a hard core stand to anything conformist makes one feminist-centric how ever one might analyze think otherwise.

Nona said...

Yes, when you lose a loved one, it leaves a vacuum.

My dad passed away in 2000. But my mother still wears color. I'm glad she does!

puspita said...

a very touchy post didi...keep it up .

R. Ramesh said...

hahah..su, u think u r the only "bengal tigress" i know or what? haha..come to UAE or mumbai, i ll introduce u to many of my friends..how is your work going..sure u settled down..

sujata said...

@Bluebird
She did not feel connected by doing this to dad, because she knows very well how forward dad was in his views, anmd how much he had explained to her, not to follow all the rubbish that society would demand from her, and yet she did exactly that, its just that you want to belong to the society, you might have looked down upon people who behaved or lived against the flow, and when you were put in a similar situation, what option is left but to bow the head and follow the rules? My mother is from a small town, always has had very strict set of dos and donts. She follows them because she is not ready to change.

sujata said...

@Debopam Yah he does look like me, I am so glad!!

@Indranil da its such a joy to have you on this page and get this super duper comment from you. I am a rather reticent person, more of an observer, am sure over time we will get to know each other better and my wit will emerge spontaneously to you! By the way, you have a super blog too, am glad through this comment I could visit your page and read your current post. will go back and read more and then post my comments. Thank you once again for the lovely words of encouragement, and Paulo Coehlo speaks my mind and soul, and brida is a character i identify with!!

@Nona thanks, i am glad your mom is above all the prevalant prejudices, it just makes life so much more easy.

@Pushpita thanks dear, hope you are having a good holiday

@Ramesh, I never had doubts about your social circle!! Your blog is just too good, and it livens my spirit each time I go there. Going to India for the annual vacations on the 9th of dec will be back on the 7th of jan, work is good,am enjoying it thanks for asking

Vivek Patwardhan said...

Very touching post, and straight from heart.

I understand feelings of both your mother and you. Someties it is difficult for a grieving person to describe what she is going through.

Will be visiting your blog regularly,
Vivek

SUFFIX said...

You are rite Sujata, We cant live for the society and we can never satisfy their aspects especially to show them what you are. Good narration.

JD said...

Such a beautiful family pic. The post is so touching. It's sad how a family member clips her ownself into a shell and we as women can understand the feelings behind it too but are unable to do anything about it and u seem a lot like me..

Jyothi said...

It is beautiful the way you have expressed your feelings towards the issue. But I feel that this is totally a personal choice.

Nice family picture. And the heading pic is lovely too..

sujata said...

I am on a break for a month. See you all back in The new yera. Wish all my readers and friends a very happy new year in advance. Take care and keep smiling..

Zeba said...

So much pain in this post..

Our society is such.. practicality and sensitivity are not it's greatest strengths.

Fighting it is too difficult and not worth it I guess..

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

A very touching piece, but I felt the focus gets shifted.
1 Tribute to the father
2 Mother as a widow
3 Keeping one’s identity

Who is that cute little girl in the middle? ): (I had intended to put a smiley, did I succeed?)

R. Ramesh said...

me too going to india ya...this 20th...to be back on jan10...r u going to mumbai?

ZB said...

poignant, but i enjoyed reading this post.(dont take me wrong)....For several minutes i was staring at the photographs, and combined with your words that i read it was a strange sense of delirium, I was transformed into another world. Genuinely Nice post.

ZB said...

Just read "headed to India " header...me just returned after a week trip to India.......It was heavenly holding my 9 months old daughter in my hands.....But she cried, showing signs of unfamiliarity. But after a while we hit it off. TC, have a nice vacation

2Shaye ♪♫ said...

Wow, wow, wow Sujata! My heart is so full and my mind is just spinning. You have so eloquently stated the issues that all cultures face to some extent. And your return comments are equally as mind-boggling. Just absolutely lovely. I hope to come back a little later this weekend to re-read and let this sink in more fully. I love it. ALL of it! I've missed you very much.

eye-in-sty-in said...

enjoy your vacation....

dressing is a way of being social... its what we have been taught... nothing wrong in wearing an outfit that you feel comfortable in.

Reading the post makes me feel like you are saying that she is missing out on life by missing out colours in the saree. But thats like saying that one is missing non-veg food coz they decided to go vegan. Its a personal choice... could she be making a statement that the loved one has made her life devoid of joy?

Crazy Four said...

Very emotional post. Some customs and practices are horrible. Never understood why people enjoy to point out things for which you are not responsible.

AS said...

hii Sujata :)

nice post..its really sad that we treat widows so differently

Imagination said...

How did I miss to read this Sujata. Very very thought provoking. May be your mother just feels like to belong to the same society. I believe these societal norms are so inbuilt or may be we all are so conditioned that really don't want to move out of these.

Very nice post. I am really touched

Suraj said...

We many a times forget to live our life thinking about the society and trying to adhere to its standards..(true or false ?)

But i strongly feel we should not let our individuality be lost in the search of being an ideal society person.

As one of the ad line says "Express Yourself". You are the best amongst the person whom i know, who truly can do wonders in expressing almost anything & everything.

Nikki said...

Very touching and very true. My nani still wears a tiny bindi and my Dadu (dad's pa) hated her for that.

My aunt was widowed a few years ago but she does everything she likes. She wears all the colours and yeah, dresses the way she feels.

anilkurup said...

Poignant piece.
Our society adepts well in Hypocrisy, and it is wise to be indifferent to the do and don’ts society tries to foist upon us

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

an extremely beautiful, heart wrenching and insightful post. dont know how i didnt read it earlier.
a work of art!

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

@ arun meethale chirrackal
they are all related issues. add complexity to the issue rather than dilute focus. without all three, it'd be a simplistic treatment.

subu.ps said...

A very very touchy post.
But it seems like your mother was content enough to lead a life without color as the society demanded.
It seems that the boldness quotient of woman were less in previous generation, or they were fearful in having their choices spelt out and were content with what the system demanded.
As you pointed out, I know many ladies who does not wear a bindi, just because they don't like it and now a days no one ever questions it, even their husbands. It seems like education is slowly showing up its advantages.

crackedchronicles said...

A very beautiful painting of words as usual from you. loved the way you have written about such a cruel custom of our society and your words "at every step the society puts a reminder that she is a widow, in case one fine day she forgets!!" sends shivers down my spine.

Wishing you and your family a happy new year

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Oh, this is a sad post. Thanks for sharing nonetheless. Happy New Year!

Cris said...

When will the day come when people realise love, sadness, respect and all your hundred odd feelings are not designed to be made visible and shown as proof of its existence. Its there to be felt, to be understood, to be lived with.

Deeps said...

heartwrenching post! Its a harsh fact that we sometimes do allow ourselves to get dictated by societal norms no matter how unfair and illogical they are.

I hope with each passing day such regressive thoughts and practices will find their way out of our minds,our lives and we get to live in a progressive society instead.

A very happy new year to you and your family Sujata!

SJ said...

Happy New Year Sujata!

bluebird said...

Happy New year, ma'm!

sm said...

sorry to know about the loss , and you very well said about our Indian society and culture,
thanks for sharing.

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