About 4–5 years ago, one of our relatives, a man in his mid fifties passed away. We went to their house to pay condolences to his wife. Let us call her Kamala. That was the third or fourth day after her husbands death.
She was sitting in one corner of the room on the floor with grief stricken face.
There were many people, most of them relatives roaming hurriedly here and there and occasionally coming to her and adorning her in some way or other.
When I saw Kamala the first thing I felt, was a shock. Then there started a dull pain in my heart.
She was dressed up just like a bride. A bright colored saree, hand full of green bangles, lot of flowers in the hair, turmeric applied on her face and a bindi on her forehead
An old lady passing by saw her and commented “Why is this sticker bindi? Let her wear a big size bindi with kumkum(a red colored powder)”
The old lady removed the sticker and applied large round bindi with kumkum.
“Oh Kamala, why are you accepting all these things? Don’t you know what is going to happen in a few days?” my heart cried silently.
But she had already been conditioned to acceptance. Even as tears flowed down her face, she sat silently accepting whatever was being done to her.
I knew the reason. And it broke my heart.
People believe that the man’s ‘atma’(spirit) would be roaming around until final rites are performed on 11th day.
To keep the man’s atma happy, his wife would be decked like a ‘sumangali’ (married woman whose husband is still alive) things for those 11 days.
And what happens on the 11th day?
The same women would break her bangles, erase her kumkum, remove flowers from her hair and what not.
You adorn her like bride, and one day you suddenly remove all those signs of sumangali.
You do not let her grieve peacefully in those eleven days.
You do not let her come out of her grief after eleven days.
We went there to talk with her for sometime and console her. But there was absolutely no scope of talking with her. We couldn’t withstand all those happenings. Even as we tried to explain her not to accept all these things, she would not listen.
We returned home after ten minutes
I think irritating would be a very mild word for this ritual.
(Even though this ritual has been done away in most of the places in India, it still continues.)