My Amma gives Vethala Pak to ladies every Navratri…sometimes 1 lady a day and on some days 10 ladies..whoever she gets.
I have tried to do that for the past 6 years..earlier, I would just take the stuff of the Vethala pak to my office and give it two married ladies there. Then when R was born and we shifted to our new place, I would call our neighbours.
One who is a Maharashtrian and one who is an East Indian. The first time I called the East Indian lady, I asked her if she was okay with it knowing that her faith is different from mine and she may take offence. But she was absolutely super sweet about it, came in, asked me where to put the kum kum, accepted the vethala pak with enthusiasm.
I learnt a lesson that day. You are what you want your religion makes of you. She follows Jesus, but that doesnt mean she creates a fuss about Durga. She is one person who treats everyone equally.
Then came this year. I again, called my neighbours and gave them. this year, however, I wanted to give something to a little girl as well. Most south Indians would be aware of this custom, where you give clothes to a girl who has not yet reached puberty. So I have a friend whose daughter is about 10ish. I thought I will ask her. Then she has a son who is about 4ish. and so I called him. and I obviously, called my friend home for lunch on Dusshera. Along with it I called another friend as well, SDT who helped me take pictures for the Pratham books initiative.
Should I come, SDT asked me.
Why not, come na, I can give you Haldi kumkum and we will have fun at lunch. Nothing elaborate, I am just making idlis and sambhar, I told her.
Well, you cant give me Haldi Kumkum, she said.
Arey, why not, I asked her.
Well, because I am a widow.
and I was flabbergasted. Thats when I realised the other friend, I had called, whose daughter, I wanted to give clothes, even she is a widow.
Dont widows get Haldi Kumkum was the first thought in my mind?
Well, why not, I thought. For me, I have always associated Haldi Kumkum with a ritual where ladies can meet up and give each other stuff as well as socialise with each other which otherwise, is difficult in today’s busy life. Thats how I have always perceived it.
It really struck me only when my friend told me that oh, is it only for married ladies. Is it?
I searched wikipedia..and yes that’s what it says.
So, I guess, my understanding of the ceremony was wrong till date eh? 😦
But hey, since when did I rely my understanding of the ceremony on wikipedia *rolls eyes*
So, I went ahead and called them. They enjoyed, we enjoyed, the idlis were kadak, but the sambhar was edible.
Adn yes, I did give them vethala pak, coconut, banana and prasadam. The only thing I didnt give was the haldi kumkum that too, because they refused it. Instead of that, I gave them vibuthi 🙂
Well, that was upto them, I dont believe in this honestly. Does being a widow mean they have lost their identity? Does it mean that they cant socialise anymore? Does it mean that they cant enjoy wearing an occasional bindi if they want? Why do our customs lay so much emphasis on married ladies but seem to feel as if widows dont exist? cant they enjoy?
This post came up in response to LF’s post on Widows she did a few days ago.