Mrs.Shenoy stepped out of the bathroom and wiped her brow. It was no use taking a bath, it was so hot and humid. The climate of Mangalore had changed so dramatically over the years. The weather was always so pleasant earlier. And now for most of the year it was humid and you never could predict when it would rain.
She went to the dressing table and picked up the kumkum, tapped her right middle finger over it and raised the finger over her forehead. And then she remembered, she couldn’t put a bindi, not anymore, because 45 days back her husband had expired of a massive heart attack. And widows didn’t wear bindis.
Mrs. Shenoy shed tears silently. She missed her husband terribly but she also knew that these comings and goings were the way of life. But bindi? She never did any shringar except for the occasional kajal and the bindi. The bindi she had worn even before marriage. So why stop now? In the olden days even men were supposed to wear a tilak sort of bindi. The spot of vermilion was supposed to be put of the’bhru madhya’ as it was the spot of one of the kundalinis as well as to aid in concentration. So why should I stop wearing a bindi, okay maybe not a kumkum one, maybe one of those sticker black ones.
She got up and went to sit on the bed when there was s harp pain right from the nerve at the back going to the right leg and she cringed. She had been operated once, but it was yoga and walks which gave her relief. Now that was another issue bothering her.
Their house was in the vicinity of the Vitobha temple and the residents were of …you could say old dynasties. In such families it was not considered proper for women to move out alone and widows, not at all. Mrs. Shenoy used to take long walks in the evening, usually her walk would end up at the temple where she would either join in Bhajans or listen to ‘satsang’. She used to go to these walks alone as she liked to spend some time in solitude and to go out with someone meant that she would have to adhere to a time schedule which she did not like.
But now… could she go alone? Would her sons-Vinayak and Gopal like it, would their wives like it.
It was so simple earlier. She just had to ask her husband and he would take a decision, if she liked it , it was okay, if not, they would argue and come to a neutral path. But now that he was gone, whom could she ask?
Mr. Shenoy had been a conservative yet fair man. He didn’t like women working yet if someone wanted to work he would not stop them. He liked women in Indian attire but he didn’t sop his daughter or daughters in law from wearing western clothes. So many people he had helped, to set up business or to get their children married. So many ‘gupt daan’ which they had come to know only after his death. He had taken all the onus of responsibility on himself, she just had to look after running the household and the children. SHe chuckled at the thought of how every weekend he would arrive with 20 coconut; ration of the week, whether the earlier batch had been consumed or not. But this chuckle too brought on a sharp pain at the back and she groaned.
At that moment her eldest daughter in law Suchitra entered into the room nd hearing her groan rushed to her side.
‘Mayi, whats the matter?’
‘My nerve is bothering me again’
‘But, why have you stopped going on walks?’
Mrs Shenoy was silent.
Suchi persisited,’Mayi you care for us as you do for your daughter if maya vanhi was here would you not have shared your worries with her?’
Suchi had a point, Mrs. Shenoy reflected, till date she had looked after her daughters in law as daughters now it was time to go up a notch and treat them as friends. And she told why she was not going on walks.
‘But mayi, why not? Why bother about people and customs which have gone to rot.’
‘Thats what you think, but do you think the others think the same?’
Suchi was thoughtful, she didn’t know what her co-sister, her brother-in-law or the kids thought. Now that the kids were all grown up, their opinion mattered too. Hell she did not even know what her husband thought.’
In the evening Vinayak her eldest son came to her and asked, ‘Amma Suchi told that you were hesitant to go on walks because you are afraid that society may not agree. We do not have any problems you can do as you wish.’
Mrs Shneoy was happy. ‘Thanks but here….’
‘Yes Amma’, Vinayak continued,’Now that the first Masik too is over, we will return to our flat.’ Vinayak and his family had shifted to a flat in the vicinity because of space constraints recently, but after the death, they had come down to stay here for complying all the rites. ‘And at that time you can return with us. People there are more broad-minded Amma, nobody will mind your walking and that too alone.’
Mrs. Shenoy pondered, yes, people there were broad-minded. Most of the homes both the husband wife worked, so they really didn’t have the time to gossip. And staying there would have another advantage too. She would be away from “HIS’ memories. She would start life afresh, take on some activity…
‘Yes Amma, what is it?’
‘Can I wear bindi again, no not the kumkum ones, the small stickers that women wear nowadays’.
‘Who is stopping you amma,’ it was her other son Gopal, ‘nowadays no one object if a married girl does not wear bindi so I don’t think anyone will mind if a widow wears one. Anyways its your choice’.
Mrs. Shenoy relaxed, they had always taught the next generation to keep an open mind and today she was satisfied that their teachings had been well imbibed.
Transcriptions of Konkani words
Mayi-mother in law
Vanhi- sister in law
Masik- Till the 1st death anniversary, the monthly death anniversary is also observed to aid in the souls transgression to another life or another realm