Features Thursday, September 04, 2014 - 05:30
Sameera Ahmed | The News Minute | August 31, 2014 | 09.00 am IST Puberty-related taboos and misconceptions are not new to India. Over decades, women have broken free of a number of restrictions, yet they still grapple with social evils relating to periods right from being disbarred from temples to the kitchens of their homes. Strangely enough, the same Indian society that shuns its women during “that time of the month” celebrates the occasion of a girl’s puberty attainment with one and all, with as much pomp and splendour accorded to a wedding – even if they cannot afford it. Commonly, South Indian families celebrate this joyous occasion by conducting grand ceremonies, its scale ranging from simple to luxurious depending on the families’ wishes. Some even bring in event management companies to oversee preparation for the function. Can they afford it? To this question, Shine Thomas, of Creative Event Organizers in Chennai told The News Minute that event management for such occasions includes everything from food, a function hall, dresses for the girl and some on the side entertainment for guests. “Families spend in lakhs for such events. Even if they don’t have money, they borrow and ensure they conduct it,” he said. Why is it that a society that shuns a girl because she is “dirty” puts her on a pedestal and celebrates her womanhood with the entire neighbourhood. “It’s more like a have-to than a want-to,” said Thomas. He explained that most families want to celebrate their child’s happiness with friends and relatives, but even if they couldn’t, they would borrow money and conduct it. Sundar Babu of A Z Events has a different view. “Many families only do these functions to make the elderly happy. My parents would not want to do such an event for their daughter,” he said.  He explained that the traditional puberty-attainment ceremony has evolved from the usual dressing up in grand clothes for the young girl to something more contemporary. “People have conceptualized this family social in a modern method and given it an elegant twist.” A number of videos available online show such ceremonies conducted on a larger-than-life scale; including everything from a horse-carriage to exquisite jewellary. “People who approach us are either middle-class or upper-middle class,” said Suman, of ARKID Wedding Planners who also oversee puberty functions.  However, lower-income groups too in Chennai follow this practice religiously. Valli, a cook working in Chennai explained that some functions are carried out in big houses; others are done in big halls. The ceremony is conducted on such a grand scale that even local politicians are invited to attend. Poster invitations are stuck in the local area to indicate the function’s approaching date. “People ensure that they do the function no matter what financial situation they are in,” she said. She told that the value of the function in today’s times is something that made sense only in villages years ago. “Earlier it was only through such functions that an entire village would know that there was a girl of marriageable age. It was a way of announcing to everyone that they had a bride,” she said. Practised by different communities and castes, only the intricacies associated with the ritual differ. The relevance of puberty rituals has slowly left society, but the taboos associated with discussing this biological necessity are far from removed in the social order.
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