Red, Stained with Good Fortune

Aai and Fauzia, her Libyan friend from office had been talking in hushed tones in the women’s drawing room for over an hour, their conversation dotted with muffled sobs. When the tearful sounds subsided, muted words would fill the room. I wondered why Fauzia was crying. Just a couple of months back, she had seemed happy, effervescently announcing that she was to be married. Was she not getting married anymore? But of course it was not my place to intrude or ask.

I did steal a glance at the strikingly beautiful girl, while she adjusted the white farrashia before leaving. The thick chador fell like a tent around her, hiding her shape and identity. She kissed Aai thrice on the cheeks, and clutching the white cloth close under her chin, made sure that it completely covered her lovely face… all of it, except the kohl-rimmed left eye, with which she peered out at the world.

That was the last time I saw Fauzia.

Many years later, when Aai thought I was sufficiently grown up, she told me of the custom of the white sheet. The virginity test… the proof that groom’s relatives needed… the red stained white sheet on which the marriage is consummated. Fauzia had been returned to her father because the white sheet was not bloodied.

All these years, I thought of Fauzia as a proof of the subjugation of women in Libya. Until last week, when a news held my attention. A girl was sent back to her parental home and her marriage annulled by the caste elders in Kolhapur because she too had failed her virginity test. And it made me wonder…

Red, Stained with Good Fortune

I smear / the red
In / the parting of my hair
Wearing / proudly
My streak / of good luck
And fortune
That is /mine
Will be / mine
Until
The day / that I pray
Will / never arrive
When / they will wipe
The red / out of my hair
And
Cover me / in
A white sheet.

Jyostna Atre

This post is a part of the Blogchatter A2Z challenge

7 thoughts on “Red, Stained with Good Fortune

    • Customs followed by certain communities. Sadly, in this case at least, the younger generation with their education and good jobs did not resist such an outrageous violation of the bride’s right. The heartening part of the news was that the bride has decided to fight this atrocity.

      Like

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