For over a week in January I wasn't wearing my wedding ring. I've put on a bit of weight this winter and the ring feels uncomfortably tight. I vaguely remember taking it off at some point and forgetting to wear it until the week after.
It should have been a big deal but somehow, it wasn't.
Symbols are a big deal to me or so I always thought. I tend to go deeply into the symbolic aspect of words, deeds, actions and objects, convinced that there must be more to them than is revealed superficially.
When I got married four years ago, I took the symbols of the married state very seriously. So I set my shankha-pola (bangles of conchshell and red coral, respectively) aside so they did not break within the first year (a bad omen), I allowed my beloved wedding saree to be packed away in safety away from me so that it should not be damaged in the first year (another bad omen), I didn't wear black and I did wear my ring and loha (bangle of iron) on my left hand. When I was furious with Vicky in that first one year I threw his ring and bangle in his face, renouncing him and the marriage in my characteristically subtle, tactful and understated manner. Because those symbols meant so much to me.
Even now, when I wear sindoor in my forehead and slip my shankha-pola onto my wrists, I do feel a sense of being married that seems to add an extra shine to my day. But I no longer feel that way about my toe-rings and now I find I no longer feel like I'm doing something wickedly satisfying when I take my wedding ring or loha off. I tend to not take my loha off because I've gotten attached to it like I was once attached to my childhood loha, holding it when scared at night, considering it a blessed protection like an amulet (I scorn amulets by the way but I've never claimed to be consistent) and yet, I no longer instinctively feel like I'm putting Vicky's life in danger by going around unadorned "like a widow".
In my late teens and early twenties I found myself consciously rejecting many superstitions and mini rituals that I had picked up as a kid, refusing to believe in something that didn't make sense to me. When I got married I fell for a bunch of new beliefs -- it's hard not to when you feel like somebody out of a novel, when you see an unfamiliarly beautiful bride looking back at you from the mirror: something changes irretrieveably or so I felt then. Now, without thinking about it, without realising it, I've lost the need for these particular symbols. I don't need my shankha to break while I'm flirting with danger to realise I need to get back to my own home and husband. I don't need the dimaond winking on my finger to remind me that I have duties to fulfil today. And I don't need the sindoor in my hair to feel a bond that only death can break.
I don't know when this happened, but at some point in the last four years I've stopped needing these external reminders of marriage. I feel a wife and a mother and a daughter-in-law and a married daughter, I no longer feel like Sunayana Roy, swinging single. What is somewhat more disconcerting, this change actually feels right.
And yet, I don't discard all superstition. Some, like wearing not black to auspicious events I do follow and make Vicky and Rahul follow too. That is not because I think I shall bring bad luck to the occasion if I were to turn up in black but because I know many people don't like it and we have enough formal clothes to be able to avoid black at weddings, pujas and so on. I daresay nobody will actually complain if I do wear black but it costs me nothing to avoid it and I know some of the older people do take note of these things, so I don't mind.
Another little habit I was taught by Mejopishi is not precisely a superstition but I do make a point of it: she taught me to wear little sindoor and very discreetly at that to houses where women have just lost their husbands. I don't think any widow would take umbrage at a headful of red on me and yet, I think it's one little way of showing your solidarity, of not rubbing in their loss. Just one of those discreet things like not wearing too much jewellery or a bright saree.
It's a funny line to walk, clinging on certain superstitions and discarding others -- all for no particular reason. I'm aware that many friends find these habits laughable and pointless especially given my esoteric choice of which to retain and which to discard, but I find myself following this code of conduct by choice, because it makes sense to me. So, I wear my wedding ring because it reminds me of Vicky when I am aware of it but I freely confess I'm glad I no longer feel like I'm gambling with his life should I take it off and forget to replace it on my finger!