‘You don’t look married!’ ‘Where is your toe-ring?’ ‘Why are you not wearing sindoor?’ ‘Only watch in your right hand! You should put on a bangle…red one !’ ‘Now that you are married you should fast, for your husband’s well-being.” “Errr..I don’t see a nose-pin”. ‘You should look married …or else boys might chase you!’ ‘Men are different but women must dress accordingly’.
I am not a feminazi; just a secular rational agnostic. But the hollering of opinion from both horizontal and vertical strata of society has left me dazed. And before you bury me with further allegations let me clarify I am only speaking for myself; I am not the messiah of a classless society screaming for universal liberation. By the way, I am only 25 days old in my current profile as ‘the Indian wife’.
In the last few days, I have trained my mind to ignore stray opinions from random people about how I don’t look like a new bride because I have realised that my poor ‘little grey cells’ as well as blood vessels will soon crash down due to overloading of unsolicited observation and suppressed anger. Instead I have opted for session(s) of serious introspection over my so-called blasphemous marital etiquette which supposedly signals impending misfortune for my other half ,a standard statutory warning repeatedly uttered by my ‘well-wishers’ (though no one has given any satisfactory response as to who will be held responsible if I encounter some adversity).
For what I know and I have seen, most of my female friends, cousins, sisters-in-law or wives of male friends who are settled abroad or in some metropolitan co-ordinates of the country move about without a shred of hesitation or without bringing any misery to their husband or his family despite their lack of confirmation to the married woman appearance. But yes, like every any good actor they love to get into the skin of the character they are playing. So the moment a trip to the in-laws is planned they gracefully translate themselves in to the bridal model.
My loving-neo-progressive- liberal-balance headed-corporate husband had no issues with me not adhering to the external semiotics of marriage, but not before suggesting to abide by the look-book of a perfect Indian bahu especially when I am in the company of my in-laws (like the quintessential Indian wife) so that their sentiments are not hurt, a seemingly unreasonable argument (so what about my sentiments which are constantly being compromised?).
Sentiments apart, my husband also loves to introduce me as the jeans clad/dress wearing ‘modern’ wife to his friends/associates while nurturing a latent desire to see me turned into the traditional wife for his parents and family. And this Peter Parker – Superman syndrome leaves me confused most of the time; one moment I am this, the other moment I am that; in the process losing a bit of ‘me’ with every metamorphosis!
This constant tussling with appearance has left me wondering (aloud) do I really need to put on this mask. I am not a hypocrite; I don’t want to be one. Role-playing (as one comes across in sociological context) is different from stage acting. So why do I have to keep changing my persona (every dress demands a dress-appropriate behaviour, isn’t it?) What I don’t understand is why is everyone judging me for not confirming to their pattern of existence? The reverse could be true as well (but who cares about the recently inducted member with no real power or authority)!
There seems to be no justified rational behind the desire to indulge in the vulgar display of marital symbols and the well-being of a household (the great Indian one that too!).Am sure what I am undergoing has been faced by millions before and is not a standalone case, yet each experience only reaffirms the presence of serious socio-psychological disorder in our society which we refuse to address.
If the tinkling of the bangles, the jingling of the anklet and the extra red line makes one happy, then so be it. But if it makes one feel like a stranger trapped in borrowed robes then it needs probing. Let’s accept it, in our society a prostitute with a thick stroke of vermilion and a truckload of nuptial testimony can never manage to win our respect; a red bangled married third gender will almost always be smirked at and a lesbian or gay couple will hardly be accepted as married; while most extra –marital affairs were/are/will be carried on under the veil of the black-beads around the neck and rings adorning the toes.
I don’t have to be away from my husband to cheat him; I can do it with him sitting right next to me; either I am honest and fair in a relationship or not, irrespective of my ‘look’ preference. I am not anti-culture or anti-tradition or anti-relationship. I just expect a little less of hypocrisy and some respect towards individual differences. To each, her own. After all, aren’t we a nation that prides in its heterogeneity?
On a closing note, while I am constantly struggling with disapproving looks and caustic remarks for being a failed upholder of marital codes of appearance my husband proudly swaggers around as the ‘single man in possession of a large fortune…in want of a wife