Gatra Haridra

The high pitched single tone of the conch declared the beginning of the auspicious ceremony of yellowing. Ira sat on the wooden stool placed at the centre of the roof. The stool was around one foot high. The top of the stool was covered with red and yellow paper. Ira sat straight on the stool, keeping her knees close and feet resting on the ground. Two small sized banana trees on both of her sides stood there on top of mud bases. They were accompanied by brass pots and green coconuts on top of it on either side. Ira blushed gently and pulled her saree a bit from the ground to reveal lower part of her legs. Thick bordering on her feet by mahawar along with red polished nails was definitely stealing attention. A yellow cotton saree with green border lace, draped around her body. Her face, beaming with smile had no makeup. She used her palms to guard the sunlight falling on her face 

Women of the house stood around her in a circle. Two of them came forward from behind and put a gamucha on top of her head, covering her shoulders as well. A senior family member came in front of her with a plate full of rice and other things properly accoutered for blessings on this occasion.

All the women started ululating and one of them played the conch while the senior family member continued with blessing rituals.

After a while, now it was turn for each of the women to come forward and smear turmeric paste on Ira’s face, hands and feet. One by one they came forward and applied the paste on her face. Initially Ira displayed a fake resistance but allowed everyone to apply turmeric paste on her face, hands and feet as they pleased. The photographer was taking photographs from different angles and asked almost all women to repeat their action while he took improvised semi choreographed photographs of those moments. All of the family members knew the importance of the first marriage of any generation in a house so they complied with all requests from the photographer in order to beautify the moments and capturing them. 

Ira’s elder sister Neera came forward to perform her part of duty. She was wearing a red saree. Her head and left side of the face was entirely covered by the end of her saree. She was holding the loose end of the saree in her left hand. She came forward and put the lose end of her saree into her mouth and locked it using her teeth. She took the pot containing turmeric paste in her hand and smelt. She could smell freshness of rose water along with turmeric. She smiled at her younger sister and smeared paste on Ira’s forehead. 

“Please sister! At least you do not overdo it. See, my whole yellow face. I need to get ready for my bridal make up in 2 hours time. I did not want so much turmeric paste on my face but look at me now” complained Ira.

“Don’t worry Ira. These are moments you will remember for years. When the photographs arrive, mark my words, it will be the best Ira’s photographs without any makeup. Do you know, turmeric paste was first applied on Shiva and Sati on their wedding to cool their bodies? It is good for your skin as well” replied Neera applying the paste again on top of Ira’s nose.

Once this was over, one of the women brought a bucket of water and poured it on Ira’s head. Ira shivered a bit in sudden coldness of the water touching her skin. When the ceremony got over, everyone moved inside the house.

Neera went inside a bathroom to clean her hands. She opened the tap water on the wash basin. She looked at the mirror, loosened the end of the saree in her mouth and gradually uncovered her head and face. Slowly she applied the residue turmeric paste on her right hand to her left cheek. She again could smell the turmeric and rose water but the cooling sensation did not reach her senses.

It again reminded her of excruciating pain and burning sensation that aroused on her face five years earlier when someone sprinkled acid on her face. She could never imagine such an event could happen to her, being on the denial side on love, the boy could perform such a shameful act of vengeance. Tears rolled down her cheek. The turmeric paste might have cooled down Shiva and Sati but it was not able to lessen up her burning sensation and would never make her face glow again like it did earlier.


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