A few weeks before I got married, I had an engagement ring,my first marital symbol . The first day I wore it, It drew too much attention. Friends and strangers called it out with equal exuberance.
They held my hand and ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ about the sparkling stone and wanted to know everything about my “love story”. It felt like I had announced my wedding on prime time TV. It made me way too conscious. So, after a few days, I hid it in my purse.
Following the wedding, I was adorned with the Mangal Sutra. I willingly wanted to wear it as part of the wedding ceremony. It was my homage to tradition.
Jasmine flowers in my hair and Mehendi in my hands, this was part of the quintessential wedding fantasy. I had unknowingly nurtured this dream since I was a little girl. But within a few days, the black and gold chain, as well as the shiny engagement ring, were both forsaken in an obscure corner of the dresser drawer.
Significance of Mangalsutra in India
In India, when women get married, they wear a Mangal Sutra. It is a simple chain made of gold with black beads woven into it. But, it is no ordinary chain. In it is packed centuries of tradition and history.
It is the upholder of virtue, a cornerstone of social norm and a shining symbol of loyalty. You may grudge it, seeing it as a weapon that men use to make sure their women are branded as theirs. Or you may revere it as a reminder of one’s change in identity, the first step of a new journey together in life. No matter your viewpoint, one thing is for sure, you may not ignore it.
Significance of Rings in America
When I came to America, instead of the chains, I witnessed rings. The symbol of a marital bond was shared here by men and women. Here, the ring was the sign of a couple’s commitment to one another. Single people filtered eligible men or women they might see at the bar, grocery store or random meetup group by a quick, expert glance at the ring finger.
Men and women thus make sure their spouses are not exposed to roving eyes and unwelcome advances. The power of the diamond studded metal ring ensures couples are able to a secure, UN-threatened, marital life.
My Real Marital Identification
Initially, there were some occasions like the annual Diwali celebration, a guilt-induced temple visit, or a friends baby shower for which I frantically looked for the ring or the chain and wore them for an hour or two. But as the years went by, I realized I had no use for them.
It is not that I don’t like jewelry, I do. My drawers were filled with earrings – long ones, terracotta ones, gold ones, beaded ones. I used to purchase little trinkets from all the places I traveled to. I had a necklace from Peru, a bracelet from Amsterdam, a pendant from Arizona. But the charm of all these was that they didn’t need to stay on me forever. After a few hours, I could put them back in the jewelry case and get back to an unencumbered life.
Wearing stone studded metal rings on my finger all the time got in the way of me cooking, cleaning dishes and daily ablutions. It was too much trouble.
As for the chain, it swung about when I went running, slipped when I went swimming and itched when it was a hot day. So I discarded them both in the 2*2 foot locker of my bank. I might indulge in cosmetic jewelry every now and then, but I don’t bother with the ‘real’ stuff anymore.
If you see me now, nothing sets me apart from a merry spinster. Well, nothing other than the baby weight that is sticking to me like a piece of discarded chewing gum on hair. If you are wondering whether my husband ever worries about romping men hitting on me because of the want of a chain or a ring, rest assured.
For one, he doesn’t wear one either for similar reasons. And secondly, he has nothing to worry about.
I have a better symbol of being ‘taken’ that I carry around with me all the time; My cheerio infested, melted crayon marked, sticky candy filled, eight-seater minivan.
What is your marital identification ?
Sandhya Acharya, author of the best selling children’s book the Big Red Firetruck grew up in Mumbai, India and now lives in the Bay Area. She worked as a financial professional and now pursues her passion for writing. She is also an amateur runner, a dance enthusiast and loves reliving her childhood through her young sons. Her work has appeared in NPR(KQED), ThriveGlobal, Peacock Journal and India Currents among others. She blogs regularly at www.sandhyaacharya.com