The mask of a modern society


Piya loves the tinkling sounds of the colorful glass bangles. There is a big hand crafted wooden box that sits on the right side of the dresser in her mother’s bedroom. The box has decorated vines on the sides and pretty flowers on middle. Inside the box there are different bold and bright colors of glass bangles to go with the saris. Whenever her mother plans to go out either to a party or to a movie or to a friend’s house she changes her bangles to match with her sari. Today they are going to a wedding party. Piya adjusts the frill of her lilac dress and settles herself on a small wooden chair close to the dresser. She glances at her mother. Her mother gently opens the box with her slender fingers and pulls out each color of bangles to try on the sari. She nods her head and tries another color then another. It continues for a while. Patience is very important. At the end either the matching color or a contrasting one wins. Piya pushes her curly black hair behind her ears and lifts her big brown anxious eyes. A delightful smile plays on her mother’s face. Daisy waits patiently to see the next part. Her mother pulls out a royal blue silk sari with a golden boarder, slides the matching bangles in her arms and stands in front of the huge mirror. “Mom, you look so pretty!” Piya says touching the soft material of the sari.

Piya’s mother smiles lovingly as she pulls out a pair of small bangles from the wooden box.

“Let’s try these on your arms.” The bangles sit perfectly.

“you look lovely too.” She says hugging her daughter.

It is a stormy day when the driver comes to pick up Piya from the elementary school. Piya makes several attempts to ask him the reason for picking her early from school but she decides to sit quietly. The house is full with people; her grandparents, uncles, aunts and lots of her dad’s friends. The atmosphere of the house matches to the outside weather- very gloomy!  Piya walks into her mother’s room. Her mother sits there on the floor with her head down on her folded knees. She has a white sari and no bangles .The room is full with other ladies of the neighborhood. Piya runs towards her mother.

“Mom, what is going on here?” She says gently touching her mother’s shoulder.

Her mother makes an attempt to open her mouth then she quickly looks down. Her eyes are brimming with tears. She tries hard to control but could not. She pulls piya to her lap and wraps her arms tightly around her.

“Mom, what has happened? Why are you crying? Why are you wearing a white sari? And no bangles! Why mom?” Piya asks curiously wiping the tears from her mother’s eyes.

One of the lady wipes her own tears with a handkerchief and clears her voice. “Sweetie, today something bad has happened. Your dad has passed away to heaven. It is a custom that from now on your mother has to wear white saris and no bangles”. She shakes her head, dabs her eyes and says.” But you will not understand that, so go to the other room to your aunt.” The lady bends down to pick up the broken bangles from the floor.

Piya takes her mother’s cold hand within her hand and slowly leans against her body. Tears roll down on her cheeks. “Is that true mom?”

They hug each other and cry while seven years old Piya promises herself to make her mother happy.  She cannot bring her father back but she will let her mother breath. Yes, her mother will wear the bangles and the pretty bright saris.

The mask of the modern Indian society to hide the saddest superstition has fallen apart. It is still prevalent and deeply embedded in the culture. It exists in most of the small cities and rural areas. People strongly believe that the widows cannot remarry, cannot wear jewelry, can’t wear bright saris which are all useless dogmas. Life should not end as one becomes widow. They should be allowed to open the door and step out.   



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