Friday, June 19, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "Can you wear a bindi with shorts?"


This week's reader question is a common intercultural dilemma....


"Hello Alexandra,

I have been a reader of your blog for quite some time, and I was hoping to ask a question to you and your readers....

I recently married a wonderful man from Kerala, and have been incredibly lucky to have a pretty amazing relationship with my Indian in-laws, my MIL in particular. My MIL asked me to start wearing a small bindi everyday, as it is customary for the married woman in her family to wear them. I have no problem with doing this, as I like the visual connection to my husband and his culture. I am a born and bred American however, and every once in a while I like to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts, and I am worried that it might appear disrespectful to wear a bindi with what might be considered an immodest outfit in India. Am I over-thinking it, or should I avoid wearing a bindi with these summer outfits (i.e. wide strap tank tops and 6" long shorts?)

I would love to get some feedback on this, as my city is experiencing a heat wave!"

--------

What do you think, dear readers?
Do you wear a bindi, or has your Indian family asked you to wear a bindi?
Do you wear the bindi with any outfit or does it only go with more "modest" outfits?
What would YOU do? Would you wear a bindi with shorts? Why or why not?
SHARE:

13 comments

  1. I am an indian and hindu who is supposed to wear bindi all the time, but I do not. I do not think it matters unless you want to. I wear it, only, if I want to and on certain occasions despite getting "eye brows raised" from my family.

    But, on the other hand one of my friend wears a smaller size of this kind of bindi which is visible but not entirely http://www.visionsofindia.com/Single-jeweled-bindis-assorted-colors-small-bi11.htm on every kind of dress. It is her personal decision and it kind of looks cute, you can give it a try. If you feel comfortable carrying it around, so be it. IMHO - it is none of anyone's business to comment on it.

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  2. This is such a good question, as I was also wondering what other "firangi bahus" do about the bindi! I'm an American woman married to an Tamil man. Here in America, I wear a bindi only when I wear Indian clothes (e.g., during a holiday, going to temple), which is maybe twice a month. When I was with his family in their house, I wore Indian clothes and a bindi everyday - which my husband and his family liked a lot (as did I). I personally don't wear a bindi with western clothes, only because I think it looks out of place. It would be like wearing heirloom diamond earrings with a dirty gym outfit. You can do it (and the more power to you if yo do) but I think it looks much better if it the bindi (a cultural symbol and beauty mark) is surrounded by nice clothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question. Personally I never wear a bindi, but I don't wear shorts either, so I can't be of any help, sorry. (Pad)

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  3. I personally don't wear bindi unless I am going for a big functions like a wedding or if I am doing the full ethnic look for Diwali. I also don't do sindoor on a daily basis.
    While sindoor is still done by many married women, even while wearing shorts, jeans or any kind of western wear, I haven't seen the bindi used as much by women from our generation unless it is for a party. My MIL's generation wears them daily but they also don't wear western wear much if at all. I'd say do what feels confortable to YOU do not count on the elder generation telling you what is right or wrong. Marriage symbols, and bindi are things that have evolved in India, and pretty much like in the West, elder will deem certain thing disrespectful on the account of the generation gap.
    Remember when we were kids and our grand mothers insisted it was a shame our generation didn't do Sunday clothes anymore? Same thing in India. Rest assured that elderly Indian women's and aunties have no more ironclad expertise than the little old lady in a flower dress in the West has.

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  4. I think bindis look very weird if they are not worn with Indian or ethnic clothing. So wearing a bindi with a sleeveless kurta and jeans would be fine, but wearing it with shorts would look very strange, especially because you are not Indian--it could be construed as disrespectful.

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  5. I fell in love with bindi after marriage :)
    I just love dressing up :)
    When i was growing up , i was a tomboy so i used to wear bindi occasionally on traditional wear.
    Even when i started working, i used to avoid.
    Though nobody in my in laws place , told me about wearing bindi as i began on my own when i used to wear salwar kameez or kurtis.
    My FIL used to initially remark about me not wearing bindi when wearing formal clothes or t shirts, my husband or I used to tell him that on western clothes , bindi doesn't suit well.
    He stopped remarking after that.
    Its your own choice, but do wear it when you wear traditional, i feel women look beautiful in bindis :)

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  6. "I am worried that it might appear disrespectful to wear a bindi with what might be considered an immodest outfit in India. Am I over-thinking it, or should I avoid wearing a bindi with these summer outfits (i.e. wide strap tank tops and 6" long shorts?"

    - I do not think it is disrespectful to wear a bindi with 'immodest outfits' at all. Some may argue that one is being disrespectful by not wearing a bindi at all and not following the 'culture'. I have noticed that 'culture' is a double-edged sword they use in Asia. Cannot think of a logical reason - culture to the rescue. Can't win an argument? - Use the standard 'culture' argument especially again foreigners. I experience it in east Asia as a foreigner and have seen it in India as well.


    Do you wear a bindi, or has your Indian family asked you to wear a bindi?

    - I do not wear a bindi. My extended family always used to ask 'where is your bindi' every single time they met me as a kid. You cannot be seen with a 'bare forehead'. I did not like bindis by the time I was 10 precisely because it was imposed on me and no adult could give a valid logical reason for the same. Besides, the dye in the bindi stickers gave me pimples and I was aware that the modern bindi was full of chemicals + lead and stuff like that. I did not that on my forehead. Also, I had heard of aunties who were allergic to the bindi but kept on wearing it because of tradition because only widows/ non hindus did not wear a bindi. Their forehead skin became black due to allergic reactions over time and they wore bigger and bigger bindis to hide the allergy. That was a ridiculous idea according to me because when you are allergic to something, just don't use it instead of doing something for which nobody could provide a nice valid reason.


    Do you wear the bindi with any outfit or does it only go with more "modest" outfits?

    - I always associated bindi with Indian outfits and did not wear bindi with western clothes. Something in the head on how we grew up associating it because western clothes were worn by western women and they did not wear bindi.

    However, I have seen plenty of people wear a bindi no matter what clothes they are wearing (usually simple dots or raindrop shape ones) because they feel something is missing if they are not wearing a bindi.

    What would YOU do? Would you wear a bindi with shorts? Why or why not?

    - I don't wear a bindi. However, these days bindis are more for fashion than not. So, wear it if you want because there are no hard and fast rules. Fashion is the way you interpret it and how you carry it off. Besides, there is no rule book that states you cannot wear bindi with shorts.

    Only thing is don't wear it too high on the forehead but not too low either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But isn't the bindi meant to close your 3rd eye chakra to bad energies ?

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  7. Forgot to add: There is always going to be someone saying it is disrespectful/ against our culture, so don't worry about that.

    There will be someone saying "it is against our culture to marry a casteless western woman" or disrespectful that a DIL is wearing shorts and sleeveless in front of elders/her in-laws. So who cares?!

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  8. I would not recommend it in front of your MIL to wear a bindi w/ shorts. I come from a family where married women wear it daily; in South India, all women wear it. If she isn't there and you don't live in India then you don't need to wear it. It looks odd, disrespectful and borders cultural appropriation. I would recommend asking other women in the family who maybe wear pants if they wear it daily if they do, then go ahead. You might also ask your husband if it's okay or looks weird from the point of view of his experience of his family.

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  9. Dear, I live in Bangalore in India and have personally seen many south Indians also skipping bindi when they wear western attire. Also wearing Bindi is totally your choice and I think will look awkward with shorts. Coming to your in-laws, if you are in India-I would suggest don't wear shorts,it will hurt them. But if you are abroad ,then I think skipping Bindi would be okay :)

    Respect to any culture comes only when we value it from heart and not from what we wear or not :) Being Hindu , I rarely puts bindi but completely believes in my culture :)

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  10. Why would you wear a bindi with western clothes? Personally, I think it would look weird so wouldn't bother. What your mother in law doesn't know won't kill her! Lol

    ReplyDelete

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