Recently my guru asked about my progress in Hindu culture. He catalyzed me to realize that for most of the past ten years as a Hindu I have been leading a kind of dual life: a Hindu on Sunday (if you will) and a westerner or a disguised Hindu the rest of the week. I had worn a faint pottu, but I wore it mostly with western clothes. It must have looked odd and out of place! This startling realization propelled me to personally reevaluate the meaning of Hindu womanhood.
I used to rationalize that, except at the temple, daily Hindu dress was not that important. Knowing I was a Hindu on the inside seemed more important than showing it on the outside. But was it, really? A few months ago a very lovely cultured Hindu lady and I agreed that a sari makes us feel elegant and feminine, and that it is such a graceful from of dress. We decided Hindu and western dress really don't compare.
Then in June, one of our neighbors came by for the first time to ask a favor. We introduced ourselves, and she said, "Oh, what an interesting name. Is it Italian?" "No", I replied. "It's Hindu." She said, "Well, you don't look Hindu." That statement put me into a state of shock, but once I got over it, I felt she must be a deva in disguise! It was true. I didn't look Hindu, and I knew then it was time to make a change.
Auspiciously, the next day American Veterans called for used clothes. I gave them most of my western clothes. That same day, I wore a punjabi outfit and a small but more visible red pottu to work. The reaction was favorable. A couple of teachers asked where they could get such an outfit because it looked so cool and comfortable. I felt more confident and began wearing a sari or punjabi everyday to work, at home and shopping too. The transition was so simple and wonderful. I felt more Hindu.
On pilgrimage Gurudeva asked me again (he has for six years) when was I going to get my nose pierced? My husband approved as long as I would wear the nose ring with Hindu dress only. So I asked my dear friend, a nurse, Saroja Saktivel, to pierce my nose, and my six-year prayer came true. Shortly after I had my nose pierced, the director of the day care center where I work (who is very supportive) told me her boss said, "My, Bhavani is looking very Hindu these days!" I truly appreciated that comment.
Do people stare? Of course they do. Do I mind? Not really, because God, Gods and Guru have given me the love and support I need, and because I am proud to be a Hindu woman. I feel my Hindu womanhood emerging now more than every before.
My humble thanks to my spiritual master for teaching me the importance of being modest and for making me aware of the beauty and importance of our great Hindu culture and religion.
Article copyright Himalayan Academy.