Thursday, August 1, 2013

The rites of woman

I met a most unusual man sometime ago.  He observes a special ‘vrat’ and fasts on Wednesdays for the well being of his wife! I’m sure he can be mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records because neither the scriptures nor custom stipulate any such thing for men. On the other hand as soon as they are old enough, girls are trained in these rituals so thoroughly that even women like me who profess to be progressive make it a part of our life! Every community has its own special ‘husband welfare’ programmes for girls.In Andhra Pradesh, married women worship Bathukamma- a pyramid shaped structure made out of mud and decorated with flowers - to shower blessings on their husband. Unmarried girls pray to Bodemma to give them good husbands.
 In Gujarat, for five consecutive years girls between the ages of five and seven follow a salt-free diet on a particular day of the week.  On completion of this, friends and relatives are invited to celebrate the occasion for this achievement is supposed to ensure the availability of a ‘good husband’.  How a girl’s salt-free diet can shape a boy into a paragon is a question nobody dare ask.
In the North, women celebrate karva Chaut by fasting the whole day and then break it after having a glimpse of the moon and the husband’s face through a sieve! It is a social and festive event too as women deck themselves as brides and cook delicious fare. My mother-in-law had warned me not to have an oil bath on Mondays as this endangers the life of my sons! Though I poohed the idea, deep within I was so scared that to date, I avoid washing my hair on Mondays!.  By what deductions of logic this connection has been established is anybody’s guess. 

     Another belief is that every time a wife utters the name of her husband, his life span decreases by a second.  If this were to be true, every wife who wanted to get rid or her husband without the fear of the noose, would go on repeating his name in the privacy of her bathroom! When girls touch the feet of elders, they are blessed with ‘Deerga Sumangali Bhava’, which in other words means may you die before your husband! Even the girl’s parents bless her that way.  That’s because it is believed that women who die in harness – with ‘sindoor’ in their ‘mang’- go directly to heaven. 
Unmarried girls are urged to worship the tulsi plant if they are interested in acquiring a good husband while the married ones do the same to keep him. My grandmother would insist on my combing my hair with a mid parting, as that would ensure my acquiring a good husband.  What intrigues me is this ‘good husband’ concept. There are no well defined parameters for this being, because his existence seems to be totally dependent on the strict adherence of ritual, by young girls whom he doesn’t even know.
A confirmed bachelor I met the other day told me that he was single only because he could not find a ‘good wife’. I suggested he follow salt free diet and worship the tulasi plant