Awakening to the first light of dawn, I am drawn to drape in colors of an afternoon sun, rimmed with a blouse in deep, burnt-orange hue. I choose the three-tier earrings lined with golden dewdrops. My neck, I frame with a string of golden mango leaves, punctuated with a delicate eye of rose-red rubies. The chill of the silver kamarband~waistband sends an icy shiver through my body as I tighten its screw around my waist. I adorn my ankles with a pair of silver anklets, carefully crafted in the city of Bhopal. I slide a thick gold bangle into my wrist, that has grown into an imperfect circle after years of travelling across continents with me, a wedding gift from my mother. Eight scarlet glass bangles jingle their way across my wrists clinging to halt when they meet the golden metal. I slip into my right ring-finger my grandmother’s ring, and in the left one, another, from my Amma. In my nostril, I pierce the golden needle of the nath~traditional nose-ring with the pomegranate-red ruby that sits nestled amidst an island of pearls. I open the silver filigree Dabbi~box , which holds the sandalwood paste mixed with fragrant oils. I draw out a spot in the center of my eyebrows, then place the loose vermillion, red pigment of kumkum~tilak upon it. The two merge, illumining this face like a new-bride. I line my eyes with the black collirium, and also draw a delicate horizontal line beneath the circle of the red kumkum. The sight appears to me like a bright morning sunrise, rising in joy above an infinite horizon. I hear the voice of my grandmother whisper, “Forget not to draw a black spot behind your left ear or feet, lest someone’s evil eye were to fall upon you, o beautiful grandchild of mine.” So I do just that. I braid my hair, and weave the kunjalam into it. I neatly knot the loose ends of my hair with a black thread. Slipping on a pair of red-soled chappals~footwear, I feel the embrace of its silvery, gold, braided leather weave across the slopes of my feet. I adjust the silver toe-rings, sacred symbols of my marriage. Stepping out into the quiet light of dawn, this heart flutters with excitement and a promise of glorious adventures into the unknown and the unpredictable.

[Photo courtesy: Santosh Sivan]