MY BINDI

The mark of my fem­i­nin­ity.

Woman's Era - - News - Bindu Va­sumathy

My son stood watch­ing me im­pa­tiently from the door­way as I hur­ried through the fin­ish­ing touches of my make-up. I opened the bat­tered shoe­box upon the dress­ing ta­ble and started to thumb through the con­tents, my move­ments fre­netic with the in­creas­ing tempo of his fin­gers drum­ming upon the door jamb. There was an abrupt halt to the rap­ping. He came for­ward into the room to watch me grab a sticker bindi strip from within the pile in the box , peel one deftly and smack it re­sound­ingly in the gap be­tween my eye­brows. With­out both­er­ing to preen my­self once more be­fore the mir­ror I turned hur­riedly to see him close the shoe­box and run his fin­gers con­tem­pla­tively over its faded ex­te­rior. He ex­claimed, "Amma have you not changed this box yet? I re­mem­ber this from my tod­dler days." I looked at him in sur­prise. Some­where at the back of my mind I felt grat­i­fi­ca­tion of my moth­er­hood, at hav­ing pre­sented him a warm if triv­ial mem­ory he will carry with him al­ways, of his mother. I could not be sure how many more such im­ages were there in his com­posed mind, but of this one sharp one I was con­tent. In a way he was suck­ing into his core the top notes of my im­pres­sion, a sig­na­ture mo­tif, that pro­claims with­out guarded scru­tiny a con­clu­sive iden­tity. Many a times it was a bindi, stamped upon a fuzzy mem­ory and with the dis­jointed pieces of my lips, eyes, hair and ges­tures my bindi too blazed out to be a valu­able clue, of­ten the fi­nal clos­ing piece to the puz­zle of the en­tity that is, me. I am not an­noyed at be­ing iden­ti­fied through such an an­ti­quated adorn­ment, the bindi. My fas­ci­na­tion for this fem­i­nine en­hance­ment be­gan when I was a small girl in my spiky pig­tails. I can­not re­mem­ber those faces, but to date my mem­o­ries of the fore­heads stamped with those def­i­nite spots of ver­mil­lion, of the long aquiline noses shaded red

with the fine dust­ing from those puffed up cir­cles upon the fore­heads, is like a crim­son gash, pul­sat­ing in its fresh­ness. I re­mem­ber their per­fect­ness and their crude­ness... the chapped cir­cles crum­bling slightly at the edges, the dry pow­der­i­ness of a freshly ap­plied one giv­ing way to a dull ma­roon com­pacted spot with time and the faint red im­pres­sions they left upon the fore­heads al­ways. I watched many of them be­ing made and washed away.

NO CHILD’S PLAY

It was no child’s play, I was told. It be­longed to a fully grown woman. When the toys and tri­fles of ado­les­cence were flung off into the repositories of child­ish in­no­cence, then came the time to take up the thim­ble hold­ing the ver­mil­lion, time to en­grave a bold red state­ment upon a smooth fore­head, pro­claim­ing a chal­lenge to be taken. Time to keep watch, to fence and to ul­ti­mately ca­pit­u­late.

I drew my share of bindis in time. But the ver­mil­lion never agreed with me. My ef­forts with it failed to cre­ate the cher­ished im­pres­sion. It al­ways lay limp upon my dusky fore­head, never re­tain­ing its fri­able in­ten­sity. I re­luc­tantly gave it up and daubled with liq­uid kumkums, of dif­fer­ent shades in cute nubby bot­tles. I painstak­ingly drew strokes, sym­bolic of the name­less, un­recog­nised in­sti­ga­tions of my mind gov­ern­ing my not too steady hand. It cre­ated a rip­ple of amused in­ter­est of­ten and made me aware, for the first time, of the aura of a dis­tinct spot upon a fore­head. It had noth­ing to do with my trained be­liefs, cul­ture or cus­toms. It was solely an awak­en­ing of the woman within me, seiz­ing upon the ca­sual with in­tu­itive acu­men, far be­yond her years, that would go into the mak­ing of some­thing supremely fem­i­nine, at the same time pro­claim­ing proudly, her eth­nic­ity.

The pas­sage of years has brought on its share of vari­a­tions to the bindi too. I was al­ways ea­ger to try out ev­ery mod­i­fi­ca­tion – still do.

But de­spite the years of bear­ing this sin­gu­lar mark of fem­i­nin­ity upon my fore­head ha­bit­u­ally I take this mo­ment now to re­flect upon the true mo­ti­va­tion be­hind this tena­cious fad of mine. What has been its con­tri­bu­tion to the re­al­i­sa­tion of my fem­i­nin­ity, my wo­man­hood? I draw a blank there. I pro­gressed through the phases of wo­man­hood to ma­tu­rity with­out re­ceiv­ing any of its pur­ported in­flu­ence. Its pres­ence was never in­stru­men­tal to mak­ing my­self per­ceived ei­ther at the phys­i­cal or psy­chic lev­els.

This makes me think upon the mil­lions of women who faith­fully mark their fore­heads with the con­spic­u­ous red each day, those who never fail to ac­cen­tu­ate the parted edges of their hair flips with the gaudy red, those who touch the thim­ble of ver­mil­lion sa­credly against their closed eye­lids be­fore open­ing to don its con­tent, those to whom any de­vi­a­tion from draw­ing the ha­bit­ual cir­cle of red upon their fore­heads would be sac­ri­le­gious even to re­flect, those who go to sleep and wake up with the red speck in­tact on their fore­heads …what tones does this cel­e­bra­tion of red colour lend to their lives? What makes them cling on to its un­proven power? I would like to be­lieve it goes be­yond the bliss ac­corded through the con­ju­gal sup­pli­ca­tion. Th­ese women were the lucky few for whom the in­cul­cated myth el­e­vat­ing an or­di­nary red speck to the hal­lowed ef­figy of a pres­ence in their lives…their part­ner on this jour­ney called life, have some­how turned true in ev­ery sense. But the re­al­ity mostly vests with the con­trary.

I have seen much of life so far, met many in­no­cent women, who be­lieve the bolder they forge a red cir­cle upon their fore­heads they could per­haps hope for that in­signia to be­stow upon their lives that promised mar­i­tal con­tent­ment that has strangely eluded them. I have met many women for whom this red was a veil, shad­ing them from the un­blink­ing cru­elty of a thou­sand lech­er­ous gazes. I have come to know a few who used the red lined hair flicks grac­ing their fore­heads to their best ad­van­tage to snub out all shad­ows of im­plied im­pro­pri­ety that their lives have re­gret­fully thrust upon them. Red be­came a guardian and a tyrant at the same time.

THE SWAY OF RED

But the sway of red and the bindi was des­tined to work in a to­tally enig­matic way upon me, its ar­dent ad­her­ent. I re­mained de­tached from its im­pli­ca­tions while mak­ing it a cus­tom­ary part of my hearty life. So I con­tin­ued to lean on it heav­ily us­ing it like an­other limb upon my body, to reach out, to emote dif­fer­ently as per the mood grip­ping me, each day. I could never think of part­ing with it with­out re­luc­tance and lay­ing bare the in­no­cence of my un­en­cum­bered fore­head. Would I be coaxed into do­ing it? If I do I want it to be as per the spon­ta­neous dic­tates of my mind…a swamp­ing dom­i­na­tion which would make me tear away this dis­tinc­tive stamp upon my fore­head, with never a care and walk in the nude, bare as the day as I was born, to re­joice in the recog­ni­tion of the sub­limely fem­i­nine within me.

IT WAS NO CHILD’S PLAY, I WAS TOLD. IT BE­LONGED TO A FULLY GROWN WOMAN. WHEN THE TOYS AND TRI­FLES OF ADO­LES­CENCE WERE FLUNG OFF INTO THE REPOSITORIES OF CHILD­ISH IN­NO­CENCE, THEN CAME THE TIME TO TAKE UP THE THIM­BLE HOLD­ING THE VER­MIL­LION. Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Ac­tion will de­lin­eate and de­fine you.

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