Indians are currently going gaga over Kamala Harris, the new vice president-elect of the US who is of Indian origin, but when it comes to women closer home, the attitude of some is seemingly caught in a time warp. They certainly have not heard of this country's great social reformers, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and others. Had they done so, they would have known better than to censure a woman in this day and age for 'not dressing and conducting herself as a widow ought to'. In this day and age, a Haryana woman is being trolled, for wearing bright clothes and sporting a bindi despite having lost her husband almost six months ago.
Forty-three year old Kaushal Devi, popular as the folksinger Papal Sangwan on YouTube, lost her husband in June to cardiac arrest. She is famous for her cultural song-and-dance performances and her channel has more than one lakh subscribers.
After the sudden demise of her spouse, Papal had stayed away from social media. But after continuous insistence by her family and her 'kirtan group', she staged a comeback. But much to her dismay, she ran into a virtual 'khap panchayat' of opposition.
"I put out videos, in my usual song-and-dance style on YouTube. In one such video, my newly tailored outfits were on display, which didn't go down well with a few," Papal told The Free Press Journal.
"One person warned me not to wear such bright colours, reminding me I was a widow. I specifically replied, asking if they were funding my attire and even shared my contact number, asking them to call me and discuss the issue. But as I expected, they didn't call or comment any more," she added.
Some others taunted her for wearing bangles, a bindi and wondered how she could continue dancing.
Enough was enough, the 'Jaatni' decided and decided to make the trolls' jaws drop. "I then made a new video, in which I wore all the make-up and jewellery that a married woman usually wears, especially the mangalsutra," she said.
Notably, this video was made and posted last week, the day when north India observed 'karva chauth', an arduous, daylong fast kept by women for the longevity of their husbands.
"I wore my mangalsutra and I continue to do so, even now. Because for me, my husband is not dead, he will forever be my husband. All the make-up, jewellery, clothes I wore when he was alive, I continue to wear," Papal said.
In her video, which has gone viral on social media, Papal has questioned the age-old traditions putting restrictions on widows.
"I don't believe in these traditions and thus, I continue to wear my mangalsutra, bangles, anklets and toe-rings, which a widow is usually not allowed to wear. Why? Because they say once the husband is dead, the wife should not wear any such things," she said.
"But I think if that's the case, the house I am living in also belongs to my late husband, as do the children. So by their logic, neither should I live in this house, nor look after my children," Papal said.
Papal's point is simple: Why can't a woman, widow or otherwise, be free to lead her life on her own terms? "I am not doing anything wrong. In fact, I am just trying to live my life and showcase my talent," she said.