Almost ‘fully’ married : toe-rings, bangles & my impossibility to shine like an Indian woman!

Two months ago I met a French nurse on the train to Khajuraho. She had really nice payals (anklets) and she wore toe-rings. “Toe-rings are only for married women.” I told her. She didn’t know. I kind of wished I didn’t know so many Hindu rules in India, because if I had not known I would probably have started wearing toe-rings before as I find them cute. I guess I take things far too seriously. So I decided to wear anklets again and to start wearing toe-rings. Kishan gave me some from the shop.

Starting to wear toe-rings, as the close family slowly discovered I’m married…

A few days later one of our young cousins looked at my feet and exclaimed “You’re wearing toe-rings!? But it’s for married women!” He said. “So what!?” I replied. It’s really stupid that he still doesn’t know I’m married to Kishan (or perhaps he pretends) and I’m over-careful, but I avoid talking about my “status” to him, because his mum is a pest who is nice with me when I’m in front of her, but she has a habit of talking behind people’s backs and she gives a hard time to Kishan’s mother teasing her about her bad bahu (daughter-in-law)!

But I decided to wear the toe-rings, as a bold (not really!) step forward I guess. A few days later Priyanka (Kishan’s eldest sister) saw my feet, and she told me that the next time she comes to Khajuraho she would bring nice silver toe-rings for me (her husband is a jeweller).

Raksha Bhandan Festival

Raksha Bhandan (brother-sister) Festival, Aug. 2013
Raksha Bhandan (brother-sister) Festival, Aug. 2013

In August I came again to Khajuraho for Raksha Bandhan, the brother-sister festival at the occasion of which sisters give a bracelet to their brothers in recognition for their protection. Kishan’s sisters who were visiting wanted to give me a bracelet because I am their brother’s wife. I’m always quite uncomfortable when I have to perform rituals… Anyway, when it was time we sat together. Amma was sitting behind me and she threw my dupatta (shawl) onto my head to cover it, as is custom as a mark of respect from daughters-in-law. I felt so uncomfortable with my head covered like an obedient Indian wife! Then each sister proceeded firstly to tighten a bracelet onto my wrist, secondly to draw a mark between my eyebrows (with red powder and raw rice – you look really silly with rice between your eyebrows, and it falls down quickly anyway!) and thirdly to put a piece of laddu (sweet) in my mouth. After that I had to touch their feet and give them two-hundred rupees.

My first marriage-related presents

Priyanka and Lakshmi (sister no.2) had chosen this occasion to offer me a “marriage-related” present. Priyanka gave me four beautiful silver toe-rings, not too big as I had wished. I put the rings to my index and middle toes as all married women do… “You’re never to remove them.” She said. Ahem… The rings were pinching my skin and were quite uncomfortable. “Don’t worry, soon you won’t feel them. I got so used to them that my feet don’t feel right when I don’t wear them.” She added. A couple of days before, Lakshmi had noticed that the two shiny bangles I had decided to wear as soon as I’d arrived in Khajuraho (to look more shiny and girly for the occasion, like a “proper” (almost!) bahu!) were too big for me. Granted I too thought they were too big, but you have to squeeze your hands really tight to get them in, and I was not good enough at it yet to get smaller bangles. So when it was Lakshmi’s turn, she presented me with four shiny bangles, a size smaller than mine. She helped me to squeeze my hands into them; wow what a technique! You have to squeeze your hand reaaally tight, progressing from top to bottom, and be careful not to break the bangles by pressing your bones really hard, because they are made of glass. Ouch! “I’d need three hands to do that!” I laughed. But somehow, yes, it was possible, and I did learn to do it on my own after that.

Sindoor or not?

Married Indian women : bangles and mangal sutra
Married Indian women : bangles and mangal sutra

The following day, Lakshmi’s husband had arrived to pick her up. We were sitting and he noticed my toe-rings. “And when are you going to start wearing the sindoor (red in your hair parting)?” He rightly asked. This is the most important mark of being a married woman (with the toe-rings I guess), but not even Amma has ever said anything about this step and I was very happy to avoid the subject. “I don’t know!” I replied pulling a cheeky face, and I left the room…

Sorry, but I’m not the shiny type!

Later that day I decided I would wear only one bangle per arm, because two just look TOO SHINY for my tastes!!! Another day passed and I decided to remove two toe-rings because I can bear one on each index toe but not two rings which rub against each other and pinch my skin and just hurt. Yet another day passed (after both sisters-in-law had left) and I removed the remaining two bangles, because I had developed an itchy rash on my arms due to sweating too much…

I guess I will never be a girly, shiny Indian woman – ever! And at the moment, I’m just an hybrid – almost fully – married woman in the eyes of the community. HA! Almost there, almost there…


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