The bedroom door creaks,
as her pottu runs cold,
reaching speeds of estimated tax returns;
she shakes her fists at the world,
screaming “turn me into a porcelain doll
before my private parts start to burn”.
A pottu or a bindi is a little coloured dot that Indian women wear on their foreheads. It is more of an Indian tradition than it is a part of Hindu mythology. Given how non-secular my country is, I can’t really tell the difference.
I have heard from many elders how a pottu can help a woman sharpen her focus while thwarting evil forces. It never quite seemed that way to me. It only reminded me how society expects women to reconsider their priorities once they are married. She has to wear a pottu to symbolize that she belongs to someone else. A sign that she probably deals with menstruation as quietly as possible. That she might have been forced into ceremonial copulation. Motherhood. Confused into thinking that she has to lose weight.
It’s just my perspective though, as I am sure many wear it with pride and without coercion or cultural conditioning.
One time I asked an unmarried colleague why she sometimes wore it . She said that she only would whenever it matched her ear-rings. That made a lot of sense. Pottus can be aesthetically-pleasing accessories. They can highlight the gentle slope of the bridge of a woman’s nose. The adorable misappropriation of her eyebrows. A darling of a pimple on her cheek. But I wonder if they make women feel empowered. Capable of telekinesis. Or at least strong enough to deal with having their bodies tattooed by patriarchal societies.
The idea of an empowered woman is subject to such loathsome debate in India. Our pop culture has so often reflected so poorly on what constitutes a strong independent woman. Blaft, a publishing house in Chennai, helps creatively repair this image. Read about some of the wonderful work they do here.
The featured bird is a Coppersmith Barbet. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I spotted a couple. I wanted to gently pull them by the tufts of their feathers and ask them just how pretty they intended to look. It is unnerving how loud they are given their sizes and considering they don’t always open their beaks while calling out to their mates. These photographs were taken in Chennai and Vedanthangal.