Just as we think that society is slightly, maybe, improving in learning to let a woman make independent choices, and then we realise how impossible that end actually seems. For society finds such an idea so intolerable that it will go the mile to implement inane measures to prevent it from happening. The latest evidence, to support these claims I’m making, lies in a social media user’s observations of a YouTube channel named “Universal In Sights.” Someone on Twitter recently noticed that there is an added sindoor to Anushka Sharma’s forehead on her Diwali pictures shared by them. Sharma, who is married to Virat Kohli and is pregnant with their first child, had marked Diwali this year with a pictures of herself in a white traditional suit on social media. There wasn’t any sindoor on her – a concept that was so indigestible to the said channel that it edited some onto her forehead.
Aside from being wholly bizarre, the incident is also telling of the reality that women – especially married women – are still expected to remain constricted within the norms of tradition even if they want to choose otherwise. Can you imagine the kind of outrage someone would have had to feel in order to take the effort of adding sindoor to the actress’ forehead? To enable a kind of enforced preservation of the way married Indian women are supposed to look? That the choices a woman makes will incontrovertibly be reversed if it doesn’t fit the ideal? This presents a dangerous reality, a regressive one that must be universally fought.
This came up on my YouTube right now and I noticed something off with the picture.
They literally added the sindoor to her pictures.
I’m – pic.twitter.com/Vu4sZWR8Sb
— ruta (@baateinvaatein) November 19, 2020
Sindoor: Isn’t It A Choice?
Contrary to popular belief, that has long been propagated by the likes of Shantipriya of Om Shanti Om, the sindoor is neither a woman’s “sarr ka taaj,” nor is it “har aurat ka khwaab.” It is but a choice that no one else except the woman must be making for herself. Sure, it stems from deep-set notions of patriarchy that required women to “look” married in the public eye, especially to male strangers who would know the woman “belongs” to someone else. But in an empowering turn, women today have discarded these regressive ideas attached to the sindoor and have reclaimed it as a mark of their agency. A woman wearing sindoor doesn’t denote male propriety anymore. If anything, it shows that she has the decision-making ability over what she wants to adorn her body with.
In this situation, that is limited to what a wife wants and her husband supports, why must society interfere? Why do anonymous platforms feel the need to prescribe how an “ideal” married woman must look? Was this pathetic liberty only taken to “complete” the traditional look Sharma was donning? Is a simple salwar-suit incomplete for a married woman without the sindoor complementing it?
Yes, Anushka Sharma has worn Sindoor in the past
The fact that wearing sindoor is nothing more than a choice has been proved by none other than Sharma herself. The actor has, on occasion, including her wedding reception, sported the vermilion on her forehead. And so have her other contemporaries like Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. This is not to say that these women, for making that choice, haven’t faced public ire. These actresses were slammed for their choice of wearing sindoor which many claimed was a public reinforcement of patriarchal norms. But this is precisely that other end of the extreme that feminism seeks to fight. The empowerment lies not at the end of the road, but in the million independent choices women make going down it.
So does Sharma, or the thousands of other women who do sport sindoor, need this iron-handed validation from society? Does she or any other woman for that matter need a third person to tell them – by way of photoshop even – how a “dutiful” wife allegedly looks like? Or that a woman is only as married as the red streak on her forehead? Marriages are not sustained on colours. They survive on partnership and emotional investment, blind to sindoor.
Views expressed are the author’s own.