A friend’s father died a couple of weeks ago. That Sunday morning, the dead-body / corpse, once a living Mr. D, was to be taken to the Sion crematorium from his house in Matunga. I went to offer my condolences and to be around in case my friend needed any help.
There were quite a few friends, family and neighbors already there. While some were busy preparing the bamboo stretcher on which Mr. D would be placed on the way to the crematorium, some others were trying to finish the rituals associated with Mr. D’s death and body.
Finally the time came for all of us to circumambulate Mr. D to pay him our last respects. First went the family members and close friends…we were to follow. My head was bowed and I was watching the slow shuffle of bare feet, when I saw one with perfectly painted, bright red nails, the kind of red polish you see in Maybelline ads, the kind women wear when they are going to a wedding or a party wanting to be noticed, the kind of red that always stops roving eyes and draws attention.
My eyes moved further up and stopped at the bright red fingernails appearing even glossier than usual against the background of the white colored kurta. I finally reached the face…a 30s/40s Gujju lady, part of a growing tribe that takes such good care of itself that I can no longer pin down women’s ages accurately, unlike the situation just 10 years ago, when it was so much easier to tell. I then looked at the feet of some of the other women. Most were either nail polish free, or if they were painted, the colors were muted or pastels.
I couldn’t stop thinking of the woman with the bright, beckoning red nail polish, for the next couple of days!
When we go to funerals and prayer meetings, the rule is to dress sober, usually in white, the women typically wearing white saris or churidar-kurtas with tied-up hair and the men, whites, blacks or blues. I have never noticed the footwear that women wear during such functions, and since there is usually no reason to go bare-feet, have never really noted their toe nail polish as well.
I am assuming that the lady either had an important event to attend the previous day or had something interesting lined up later. Or perhaps this is the way she normally paints her nails, now that bright and unusual colors and patterns have become the norm, this seeming wildness no longer restricted to college going girls, but embraced with an amazing lack of embarrassment by women of all ages.
Should she have removed the bright red before coming to the funeral? Is it incongruous during a death? Or given that death is also a release from the travails of living in this world, should it be fine to add a bit of color as if in celebration? My intuitive reaction was that this seemed a little off, but on second thoughts, why should it matter what color nail polish someone decides to wear at a funeral?
My mind can’t seem to make itself up on this issue. Here are some more facts. It was not an emergency. Mr. D had been dead for two days and if she wanted to, the red lady had ample time to remove the nail polish. Obviously, she took a conscious decision not to.
Is this even relevant? Have women always been wearing bright nail polish at funerals and I haven’t noticed? And is then even relevant?
Am I a dinosaur or just socially nail-color blind?