Monday, March 10, 2008


There are a few things in the world that attract the attention of people – guys and girls alike. Well, am not here to do any philosophical preachings, but write about one such thing! (Well, I need a topic for my blog too after posting a borrowed one prior to this!) So here I am talking about one such 'attractive thing' - 'Bindi'. For the uninitiated 'Bindi' is that red dot which Hindu women traditionally don on their forehead. But lemme not talk about the significance of bindi, but about how it attracts people. Not just Indians but Foreigners too! Now what is so spl about a bindi? Isn’t it a long forgotten custom of Hindu girls, anyway? The pizza eating jeans wearing girls hardly sport a bindi! Well may be forgotten by girls, but guys, sure do remember it!

Or atleast that’s what has been my personal experience! I belong to that category of girls who wears bindi very regularly (irrespective of if my attire is a formal one or an informal one!). So one day I forget the bindi or it falls off, I have atleast 2 of my male colleagues/friends pointing it out to me that I don’t have a bindi on my forehead (Another reason could be because of their optimism ‘Let’s see if she looks any better atleast with the bindi on!’ But lemme not talk about it, this is about the bindi and not about what they think :D :D). My handbag may not contain other cosmetic items like lipstick, powder, comb, mirror, etc. But it sure does have a bindi pack. Gosh! Else I am dead and tired explaining to people ‘Mm… yeah I know that my forehead is bare, I did wear a bindi looks like it’s rubbed off (or more likely fallen off)’ And believe me some guys actually suggest to me ‘Fine it has fallen off, but you must be having a spare one in your hand bag right? What else do you girls carry hand bag for?’ (I am actually glad that I have been acknowledged as a girl! ‘Tapori, rowdy, etc are just among the few names I have earned for myself!!’)Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. I do not know why other girls carry a hand bag or what they have in it. But my handbag is almost like a dump yard (Well, so is my book-shelf, my table, my cupboard, etc! :D) - full of papers. (I have wondered myself from where do I get so much junk to dump inside my bag!) Even guys who otherwise call me a tomboy, have advised me to have a bindi in my bag (Perhaps an attempt by them to try and make me look feminine, I never know!)

Fine it’s understandable that Indian guys are so attracted by bindi. They are our countrymen, our guys! But foreigners?! As the girl next door software engineer, I have been abroad a few times – a few days’ trip to a few months’ trip. And whenever I travel, my suitcase is packed with an assorted wardrobe – jeans/western wear and salwar/ethnic Indian wears. But whatever I wear, I don a bindi. (Perhaps it has been drilled into me that a Hindu girl should never be bare-fore headed) But the point of contention is again the bindi. During every one of my trips, I find myself explaining what is that ‘design’ I have on my fore head? Why is it sometimes red and sometimes black?

Foreigners are ever fascinated why I wear a bindi! Then I start my explanation. ‘It’s customary for a Hindu girl to don it. It signifies Hindu God Siva’s third eye. The designs are because of my attempts to modernize this tradition called bindi. It is very important esp for married women. Blah! Blah! Blah!’ (Basically whatever strikes me at that point of time! I spin a convincing story/explanation and people are happy!!) End of the day, they get an explanation about this ‘strange thing’ on my forehead between my eye brows!

All said and done! Bindi does add grace to a girl’s face, esp if she is in an ethnic Indian wear – Salwar or Saree or (worse or rather better?!) Half-Saree! As one of my friends once told me ‘Women look more beautiful when they wear a bindi. It adds grace to their face!

The Journey

She was peering through the rusted bus window, counting the vehicles that went by, “at least a few!” she whispered to reassure herself. Days are always longer when they are unusual.

She had to be at Chennai, in her home, the next day. She remembered her mother’s words “The guy is extremely nice and good looking, you ARE coming home to meet his parents”. She dreaded acting contradictory to her mother’s words, especially if the ‘are’ part is stressed at. Moreover, it could well be the saccharine boy of her dreams.

A few used cigarette butts were scattered on the floor. Cigarettes made her queasy, she reminded herself not to look at the floor of the bus, particularly a Tamil-Nadu inter-state bus as rundown and reeking as this one.

As she turned around to the whiff of a cold wind that blew across the back of neck, some silent faces greeted her, one as perturbed as her. ‘Understandable …’ she figured. It was a day of violence between the maniacs of the two states, Kaveri was the usual trigger, this time it was no different. Vengeance murders between them were an accepted aspect of the modern society in the country. The bus had to take a detour from its usual route fearing trouble. Although hardly any, the few passengers of the bus did not seem too pleased to be going wherever they were headed.

She was feeling edgy, unwanted details of Sameera’s narrative on suburbs popped up in her head. The outskirts of Bangalore were ran by local gangs, there were bad stories ranging from petty theft to murder. There was a huge market for kidnapped girls, they were sold into prostitution, but according to some unspoken code, girls from reasonably rich houses would be held for ransom and left back with just a few bruises. ‘The unspoken code was not even remotely comforting’ she thought to herself. The tingling feeling in her stomach was increasing by the second; she couldn’t say with complete honesty that it was just due to skipping dinner.

The bus made way through a winding rocky road that barely seemed wide enough for it. She looked out of her window to be greeted by a steep drop, tens of feet down. Her nerves were crying out for a semblance of a civilization.

They passed though small eateries where men drank liquor and played cards on the side of the road. ‘Their version of weekend partying!’ she quipped, not knowing that their party would get a just a bit wilder. It was a long stretch of land, some houses had lynched dolls or scarecrows hanging from windows, apparently this was to keep away bad spirits from the newly built homes. Although the scarecrows had the striking appearance of a human body on a noose, she consoled herself attributing it just to the creepy environment. After ten more minutes of bouncing in the seat, she noticed a hefty man standing almost right in middle of the street, about twenty metres from the bus. His demeanor was quite threatening and his eyes were eerie even from that distance. His power seemed unworldly, he just stared down at the vehicle, and amazingly, it stopped!

“It is the ditch … Oh! Thank heavens!” she mumbled, finding solace in able to attribute a rationale to the breakdown, still unsure of the influence of the man’s gaze on the event.

All of a sudden, men carrying machetes, torches and sticks appeared, surrounding the bus. They did not want the bus to move, the hefty one from the group heaved the terrified driver out of the bus. She saw the empty drunk eyes of the man who hauled the driver, sickening fear began to rise in her throat. Two more boarded the bus and dragged her and another middle aged woman out of the bus. She only half-fought, but, they didn’t seem inclined to show her mercy for her limited resistance.

She was man-handled into the muddy ditch, some men eyed her, and a few became touchy. The hefty one came to her side; he pulled her from the rest and scowled at them to back them off. A fleeting emotion of gratitude arose in her, but it was to be short-lived. He doused her with petrol from a large can snatched from one in the gang. “No!” she cried over and over again, kicking and screaming, finally aware of her impending death. The burning torch neared closer and closer.

The next moment, she shrieked as she felt unbearable heat. Waking up from her mid-day nap, in her dark room with closed rusty windows, she noticed how sweaty and hot she felt. “Damn, power cut!” she exclaimed looking at the recently fit window air conditioner. Although relieved at the reality, she was still confused on the cause of sweating. “Sameera, I am gonna kill you today!!!” Muskaan shouted, searching for more expletives and her friend, before packing up things for her trip to Chennai.

Note: This short story was NOT written by me! One of my friends wrote it and I am just publishing it here. Comments(if any) are still welcome, they would be duely passed on!