What it Means to be a Woman

The red vermilion on her forehead and the red, green and yellow beads on her neck always fascinated me with its secret. Its mystery provoked me to find more about it. Since I was a child, I was told it was not just a piece of jewelry to groom a woman but something more important. It held such importance that I wasn’t supposed to touch, forget wearing it. I used to look at the red powder in the small box and the beads that entangled in the most beautiful shapes with its simple yet beautifully constructed structure, still unaware about its secret but attracted with its charm.

As I started growing up, I learnt that you were not supposed to wear the mysterious ornaments without being tied in wedlock. But I did not just realize that fact. I was to learn more about how I should act and behave; like a girl. There were norms and rules that forbid me to do many things especially when my untouchable days (four days a month) began. I considered myself different because I wasn’t skirts and long braids; I was more like pants and short hair.  Make-up, new hair style, shopping and other activities done to denote characteristics of a girl was not shared by me. But in a community where I come from, I couldn’t rebel against the norms and cultures of being untouchable once a month. My family was definitely liberal compared to my friends because I could enter kitchen and rooms but still, getting scolding for touching fruits or flowers brought for gods really saddened me and made me feel inferior, somehow.

Growing up was realizing more about the identity that you possess or that is created for you. There were more restrictions than you had before, there were problems that were to be whispered because it was a taboo and you were shy enough to talk about your body. The act of staying away from anything holy once a month became a ritual; you stopped fearing your mother’s scolding but started fearing punishment from higher power for being a sinner.

I still look at my mother’s red vermilion and the colored beads around her neck which I am not supposed to wear. It’s not a mysterious ornament anymore because I’ve learnt to unfold its secret to some level. I know in order to be able to wear one of those; I need to learn more about patience, strength and values. I learnt that the ornament were symbol of being a woman, beautiful and mysterious. But I learnt one more thing, a woman has experienced all those restrictions mentioned above but is still standing firm, strong and resilient. People are changing their opinion on restriction to women or the taboos in the course of time for betterment because it’s all about vision and thought and a little change in attitude.

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