The missing dot

I haven’t written in a diary since 2006, and I stopped then because I found out my cousin was reading it diligently (and secretly), so I tore every page into tiny bits and never wrote in a diary again. I used to address those posts to myself. (What can I say? I was young.) It occurred to me a few days ago that my disposition has undergone a slight shift, because every time something upsetting occurs, I now think of ways to write it and form entire paragraphs in my head while in the shower. And sometimes, unfortunately for you, dear reader, you are left witnessing the verbal vomit. A friend once asked me, “So what do you blog about? Is it like a Dear Diary sort of a thing?” I wasn’t offended (not too much, at least), but maybe he wasn’t so off the mark.  Which now leads me to the question, what was I doing before I started this blog? What did I do when I felt like I must get the words out or they might scratch their way out of my skull?  I can’t quite remember. Maybe I was venting more to friends. Or maybe I found fulfillment in writing college application essays for acquaintances.

Work isn’t interesting, but interesting things sure happen at work. A colleague (who can be considered to belong to the same generation as me) said to me:

Pottu illa ma, paathuko. (The dot on your forehead is missing ma, take care.)

Just to be clear:

without-pottu
Forehead without dot
with-pottu
Forehead with dot

Now I knew I didn’t have a dot on my forehead, because I hadn’t kept one that morning. On purpose, yes. (I suspect my colleague wouldn’t have liked to hear that.) He asked me if I had something to draw the dot with or possibly a sticker dot in my handbag (don’t women usually have that sort of thing?), and then suggested I draw a dot on my forehead with a ball-point pen. Ingenious! “No, it’s okay,” I said. He looked at my empty forehead for a moment. Was that a slight shake of his head? Awkward pause. He went back to his computer.

Here’s a question for you: Take care of what? Of whom?

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19 thoughts on “The missing dot

  1. Nicely put, lass! It’s an odd little thing isn’t it – the ol’ blocker of the third eye.

    While it was said about an unrelated matter, this train of thought may apply – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Hashtag make in India.

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      1. Yes you should nanba. It directs a decent amount of traffic here (not much vice versa though). It’s fun to condense thoughts at times too. And some people showcase such tremendous humour with it. Try it on for size 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who uses her thali about 2-3 times a week, I am sure about one thing.
    They say these things only when the deviant attitude of the women confuses them and they think they can talk her out of it. Beyond a certain extent, absolutely nobody questions you.

    It may have to do with some people thinking that my religion is just too different from theirs and so they are not very sure if that is the reason. But I don’t think I’d have used the license chain too often anyway. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve met one Christian man who actively endorses (Christian) women wearing the thaali and a pottu. Apparently, Tamil kalacharam is most important to him (in his words).
      There are also people who react with surprise when they find out Christians have a thaali. I am wondering too, if this could be why no one has asked you 😀
      Maybe people think I’m still young enough to be ‘moulded’, so to say. I need to work on my intimidation tactics?? Hehe.

      Hey I’ve been thinking about this: are people more comfortable around women who exhibit a certain devout nature? For instance, would people’s perception of a Hindu woman with well known temple visiting habits and sacred ash etc. on the forehead be better than their opinion of a Hindu woman without any of that? Not sure if I’m making my point in a lucid manner, let me think about this some more. 🙂

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  3. Very true. People are woefully unaware of the basics of other religions and want to make sweeping judgments on people of other religions. When I was in college, I was often asked if I watched movies or if I listened to non-Christian songs. It used to amuse me. I could see that I was somehow falling from the great esteem that they had until then reserved for me. A Christian woman is eternally like a guy on a Sabarimala fast in the opinion of these people. She is too pure for sinful song and dance routine and prefers to praise the lord. There is yet another way people react if I tell that I do not consider watching Tamil movies sinful. They may warm up to me considerably.

    There are so many beliefs and prejudices at play here.

    1) She is a Christian and is not obedient to the rules laid out by her church. (So I am considered defiant even if it is something they themselves often do)
    2) People who are non-religious are lower than religious people. We never know where we are with them.
    3) People who are non-religious are less pure and so less intimidating.
    4) And most of all, all churches and Christians disallow movie watching.

    The thing is, I find it boring to explain that there are different denominations and different beliefs in all this. So I just permit them to continue believing a combination of the 4 given points. 😀

    In the case of the Thali, it is the opposite. My denomination is similar in its thali sentiments to Hinduism but I am left off the hook as Hindus just assume that it is not so. 😉

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  4. Rahini, Anu: It works the other way round too! I am often implicitly assumed to be Christian because I consciously avoid wearing jewellery/flowers/forehead-mark of any kind. The lack of forehead-mark made my predominantly Muslim classmates in college warm up to me, and on hearing my rebellious views of the religion I was born in, feed me with some nuggets of Islamic wisdom (hoping, I guess, they would win some brownie points in their religious accounts for winning over an infidel). But when I started contradicting those too, they just wrote me off. My teachers in that college (predominantly Muslim) again thought I was just a rebellious feminist – avoiding all ornamentation on principle. The reason was actually much simpler – I was lazy – and also had a terrible gold aversion for environmental reasons, having signed a pledge for the NoDirtyGold Campaign as an idealistic teenager! But this was something I could never get across to people, simply because they wouldn’t believe it.

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    1. I believe you! I’m the annoying person who tells others off for not remembering to take a bag with them when they go to the grocery store, or when they brush with the water running, the one who pchchchs at those who spit on the road, etc etc etc.
      In the words of my brother, “Why are you such a pain?”

      I’m going to start observing how women with outward marks of piety are acknowledged, versus women who don’t have any of that.

      Muslim women don’t have it easy too..from what I’ve seen. Those who don’t cover their head and/or face are questioned often on their values, morals, beliefs! Though the people doing the questioning (judging) might be so ignorant, you’d want to cry.

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  5. Haha, annoying others about what I consider objectionable behaviour? Count me in. Though I try to confine that only to people I know well and can take for granted (to some extent).

    I chuckled at the water-running-while-brushing reference. I’m far worse, in fact. At any given moment, high-pitched exclamations might emanate from my direction for varied reasons:

    “I TOLD YOU I’ll pour the oil in that cup myself!”
    “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! Finish scrubbing all of those with the dishwash liquid before you have the tap running!”
    “THAT is NOT how you mix the batter!”
    “I said I’ll format the pen drive. I TOLD YOU I don’t wan’t to run the Quick Format option.”
    “All these novels go HERE, not on the top-shelf. And yes, alphabetical order means, by authors’ second names, not book titles. So, all Marquez novels together, yes.”
    “NO, You can’t throw out that coconut shell yet. It’s still got coconut in it even if YOU can’t see it.”
    “I said, remove the space BEFORE the fullstop, not after. And while you’re at it, capitalise that letter T in ‘Thanks’. Good!”

    LIfe isn’t easy already for perfectionists. But it’s a daily horror if you’re both a perfectionist and a lazy lump at the same time! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice writeup!

    “What did I do when I felt like I must get the words out or they might scratch their way out of my skull?”
    Exactly, what did I do before the internet came into existence…I hadn’t bothered to even maintain a diary or something 🙂

    “Pottu illa ma, paathuko”
    Seriously? I thought intrusive remarks of this kind were passe, even in a society like ours. Maybe some are just too slow to catch up 😀

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  7. I’ve had my class teacher in XI & XII do this to me all the time. It was both condescension and reproach in her case, plus what she thought of as well-meaning warning against the purported spiritual dangers of leaving your forehead unmarked. She used to tell the girls first about the missing dot, then tell them off for it and offer her red pen to supply the dot. In case she noticed this often, she’d report it while meeting the parents on the ‘Open House’ days – Can you believe it? (“Your daughter is never seen with a proper dot on the forehead. Does she leave the house without one or does she wipe it off on the way?”)

    One of friends used to quote her neighbour as saying something to the effect that her forehead appeared to have been licked clean by a dog! (I tried typing that in Tamil as I heard it, but found it grossed me out.) So, yes. Happens even today.

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    1. This whole pottu thing, it’s been an ‘issue’ for as long as I can remember. Of course, this is the first time someone outside the family took it upon themselves to set me right. It’s irritating enough when relatives do it.

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    2. LOL. When I read that the forehead had been licked clean by a dog, I felt “Oh I wish someone had told that to me”

      The opening of the third eye… the spontaneous combustion … wow, what fun. 🙂

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  8. Hello Anu,

    Really nice write up. That is awful that a colleague told you that your pottu is missing. There is no concept of personal space, preference in India.

    What do you do when enthu cutlets, offer you multiple rounds of kungumam? I recently had to endure a 20 something newly wed (I am ten yrs older than her) repeatedly offering me kungumam and trying to show me the right ways of following madi, pathu….I was like chill.

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    1. Hello!
      Thank you for the comment.
      I think we just have to build a formidable exterior, that no one even thinks of approaching us with such ‘well meaning’ advice. Or make it known that we couldn’t care less. Hehe.

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