Your husband dies. Words cannot describe this experience, so I won’t even attempt to write about it. But I will write about something that I experienced first hand at my grandfather’s funeral. This was the day when I finally started taking gender equality seriously.
My grandmother got married when she was just 12 and my grandfather was just 21. I’m not adding up the number of yours that they spent together. So, what happens when this shocking incident happens? You are put in a room and locked. You are under house arrest. You remain in that room for like 3 days. This happened just a few days after my grandfather’s death. And why do you do this? Because it’s Indian culture. I honestly have no idea why they do this. I tried asking some people but I didn’t want to make things more painful for them, so I just controlled myself. I don’t know the reason but I find it inhumane. But let me tell you what happens after the room is opened.
Some 100 relatives come and see the widow, one by one. And before they enter the room, the women put “kumkum.” To me, this is the most inhumane thing that someone can ever do. I felt that this was deliberately reminding the widow that your husband is not alive anymore, but hey, my husband is alive, and here’s the mark to make you feel more depressed! It felt like sadism.
I heard that in some parts of India, there are worse customs. Widows are ‘decorated’ from head to toe and then, slowly, they break their bangles, wipe away the ‘bindi’ etc.
The most important thing that a widow needs at a time like this is emotional support, someone to be with her..so that her mind can deal with the shock. But the exact opposite happens in these customs.
I expressed my opinion to my aunt and she felt the same. But it was something that “had to be done” because you will go to hell if you don’t. Honestly, *this* was hell.
There are more customs to torture women. The deceased person’s son’s wives cannot visit their mother’s home unless their sons first visit and stay there for a night. It’s okay if you find it hard to understand because it is nonsense. My aunt, i.e. my father’s brother’s wife’s mother is not well but her daughter cannot visit her because of this stupid custom. In short, customs are more important than humanity. If your mother is seriously ill, you have to wait for your husband (Whose father has died) to visit your mother’s home. Both the customs were designed to torture women. However, it’s not just women who suffer because of these customs. My father was not really allowed to even think about his loss because he is a man and men are expected to take care of all responsibilities like inviting guests, organizing the function, etc. And the worst past is that they are not allowed to cry much. They are expected to be strong and not show any kind of weakness.
I hope the flagbearers of “Indian culture” understand that women and men need compassion and understanding during such difficult times. Life is already tough but customs like these make things worse for people.