My first Sindur Khela

I’ve been married 9 months now. 9 months today, actually.

In all this time, I’ve refrained heavily from applying the vermillion that marks my marital status across my hairline.

This, not because I’m prejudiced in a feminist way but simply because I’ve been addressed ‘aunty’ by kids passingly when I embody an older image of this kind. Can’t blame the kids as they’re just being their polite best when they walk past me in stores and streets – “Excuse me, aunty”, they say in a sweet voice that seems uncanny despite the manners.

This happened twice over in the first few months and I decided my sindur dibbi and its contents would rarely see the light of day until my mind grappled with this inevitable sequence of events.

Cut to : The pujo week when I got a chance to visit a bangali bari pujo and its customary celebrations.

Dussehra marks the victory of good over evil, death of Raavan and all of that but for us in Bengal, it also marks the day the Goddess leaves. But before She bids adieu, there’s a little celebration in the farewell too.

Ladies of the community gather to say goodbye to Her Highness. The goodbyes are complete with what is called the sindur khela. If you’ve seen Kahaani starring Vidya Balan, you’d roughly recall what the scene looks like : ladies in white sarees, bordered in bright reds, their scalp smeared with sindur and the resounding tune of the dhaak to mark the last evening of festivity and frolic, along with the dhunuchi naach that fills the air with a distinct pujo fragrance for one last time.

A closely knit affair, the sindur khela I went for was marked by rejoicing members of the family and a few close friends only.

I felt a tad bit emotional as I smeared sindur on the Devi’s forehead, symbolically fed her sweets and then used the pan leaves to metaphorically wipe away her tears as she prepared to leave.

Even the Devi herself had responsibilities to fulfil. She had a fixed tenure that she couldn’t overstay. It was as if the societal norms applied to her as well.

That evening, looking at my own reflection in the mirror: it was one of those moments when I felt most married than ever. Not just because the sindur was screaming out loud from amidst my scarce hair, but also because the realisation dawned that rules were rules and even if She wanted to stay, She had to go when all She could say was:

“Assche Bochor, Abar Hobe!”

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