Professing one’s love through rituals

To me festivals have generally been more about togetherness, draping new clothes, and of course, food!

Before my marriage, I would often help my mother during karadayam nombu or Varalakshmi nombu but rush away to work, the moment she would relieve me! The whole idea of helping her was to reduce her stress and nothing else! The most important event for me was to eat a meal with my parents and siblings.

Post marriage, it was challenging as my ex-MIL is a widow, who was eagerly waiting for her daughter in law to restart all these rituals in her house! 

 Somehow, these rituals never struck a chord within me. Being the only daughter-in-law, it was drilled into me that I should wake up in the early hours to make food for my ex who, by contrast, had all the privileges as a man! He was even allowed to go out and have food cooked with onions and garlic, while these would be proscribed for me at home! I was made to follow every ritual with all sincerity and devotion! Often my mother would be mocked for bringing me up as a girl who never knew how to follow these rituals! These comments were made with such subtlety that I had no space to retaliate, and would quietly do all these chores just to save my mother’s name!

How can I love my man when I have to constantly prove my love for him, and that too, even after marriage?

This made me dread any festival that demands that I prove my love and commitment to my relationship with my spouse. Somehow, I refused to embrace the age-old value of being a sumangali or a suhagan! That does not mean that I love my spouse any less compared to women who diligently follow this tradition.

Death never waits for any particular gender. Why should one add more stress in proving their love that is our natural self?

 Only during the later years did I realise how my ex-MIL was driven to celebrate such festivities purely out of fear and peer pressure. I did see the same fear and insecurity in my mother who was deeply saddened by losing the status of her being a Sumangali (Suhagan) post my father’s demise. Her fears came true when many relatives and friends stopped inviting her for auspicious occasions, treating her presence as a bad omen. Some never said that openly but kept her in a corner. Ironically, these were the same people who celebrated her when she was still a Sumangali.

Once I saw the stranglehold of these beliefs on our collective mindsets, I felt terrible for women like my ex-MIL and my mother and many more women who had to live as a mere shadow of their former selves, after their husbands’ demise!

 Since then, I have never glorified such festivals. Celebrating such festivals is a choice we make and some just like the ‘old me’ were forced to do it to protect some strong superstition that runs deep as fear inside every woman.

Thank u so much for this clarity. I love you, even though I do not want to profess this feeling ostentatiously, just because others chose to do this in a particular way!

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