Thoo vella

To those of you who doesn’t speak Malayalam, Thoo vella means pristine white.

When she was growing up, she was told by her mother that her life was like a thoo vella saree..any blemish on it will be easily seen by others, so she should lead a very pure life. In other words all her mother wanted her to do was to keep her virginity for her husband. Don’t experiment, don’t sleep around and don’t be a woman with needs.

The interesting part of the above story is that her mother was the daughter of a woman who worked as cleaner/cook in a very prominent family and her father was forced to marry the cleaner’s daughter when the said daughter got pregnant. (political interventions)

But in true typical Mallu system of governance where the parents can do any thanthonnitharam, but the kids are forbidden to do the same, the mother watched over her daughter like a hawk.

Then got her married to a guy whose lineage can be traced to St. Thomas’s crew (so they claim). There was only a small problem. He is gay.

Her parents didn’t want her to apply for a divorce. They didn’t want to deal with the potential rumors and stigmas associated with a divorce. They told her, sex isn’t everything. I never understood how any mother worth her salt would ask her daughter to continue live with a man who goes out at night to sleep with other men.(plural, cause he was using the services of male sex workers)

After 25 years, she finally managed to get a divorce. Her parents haven’t talked to her since then.

When  I was talking to her, I told her. “You are now single, time to start living your life, you haven’t had sex, it is time to enjoy it”

And that is the problem. She is stuck in this ideological hell, where she thinks sleeping with a guy is the worst thing she could do.. She believes in love, marriage and sex as the only possible combination. But that is bollocks.

If I could change one thing in the Indian way of thinking, it would be this notion about sex. Sex outside the realm of marriage  is wrong according to Indians, yet everyone is sleeping around, but only behind closed doors.

Sex isn’t wrong. It is just a biological function. If you want to live in a relationship without sex, that is your choice. But don’t think that it is crime to think about your own needs. Marriage is just a piece of paper given by the state or church that tells you that you can now legally sleep with your partner. But the truth is, you don’t need the church or state’s permission. It is your body, your life, your choice.



18 thoughts on “Thoo vella

  1. Nowadays when I think / hear about the importance given to Virginity I find it very funny – don’t get me wrong being Indian I was in the same mold when it came to thinking like that when I was younger – Now with maturity of age I can see that it is total BS. Somehow it (The importance of virginity) only applied to women and not men (Anything would be “forgiven” for a man!). But I do believe that the thought process is changing in India. Divorce seems ubiquitous nowadays whereas it used to be a huge deal even 20 years ago. The change will come but it is slow.

    I cant agree with you more about sex that it is a biological function and we have clothed it and made it into this dirty monster that should always be kept under wraps! The women in India have borne the brunt of this and It does affect you psychologically when it has been drilled into your mind that it is “dirty” .

  2. I remember the shock in my office when i said about the so called arranged marriage and not sleeping with anyone before marriage:)

    I had to say , its all based on luck….

    • Nitha: I don’t believe in luck. For a lot of woman who never had a sexual partner other than their own husband, they would never know if they are missing out on something, I have a friend who had an arranged marriage and has never experienced an orgasm in her life. You don’t miss something you never had.

  3. I have a close friend, who got out of an abusive marriage. That was about 6-7 years back. She still won’t see anyone- she is ready to go through the love-marriage-sex route, but nothing else. She doesn’t know where to start, and hasn’t really done anything about it. I can see that she is lonely, but have no idea how to get some sense into her.

    • SV: It is a pity..that after 6/7 years of a divorce and with a prospect of a lonely old age, your friend still can’t stand up for herself.

  4. Your friend needs to grow up! Easier said than done. Years of influence and ingrained sense of ‘right’ which only served the society!
    Give her time, she will learn. You cannot teach, she will have an epiphany!

  5. Agreed. As long as you are mature and responsible for yourself, what is the harm? I agree that religion does sometimes take things to an extreme, especially very conservative churches (like in Kerala) or other very conservative religions where I can’t help but think that they want full power and control of people’s lives and ostracize/shun those who don’t fit the traditional mold. Religion is good in the sense that it should encourage its people to do good and be good to others, sense of harmony you can say (and we need that in today’s world !), but it’s more like a dictatorship more than what it emphasizes and can be brutal times since some followers don’t have rational thinking and blindly follow what is told w/o questioning. Luckily friend knew what was best and did what she did to start afresh. I know many won’t do that and will stay in those horrible marriages.

    And yea, Indian society is interesting in this aspect. You’d think many still are very conservative and believe their kids are following the same path when in reality they are not. Things are changing rapidly there now, but it seems so slow in Kerala due to “moral policing” and such.

    And what’s thanthonnitharam?

    • J1289: Religion is not needed to make people do good and be good to others. We are born with a moral compass that can function without religion.
      No idea how to translate thanthonnitharam.

    • The closest I can think of for ‘thanthonnitharam’ is ‘being a maverick’. Than = self , thonni = feel. Thanthonni is someone who does whatever he/she feels like.

      • Thumbi: I don’t think it is maverick. A maverick is a free spirited individual. Thanthonni is a stubborn idiot who never thinks of anyone and is only interested in himself.

  6. There is a lot of cultural change going on in India and many of these archaic belief systems will change over time. Many of this BS will mostly end with the Gen X folks.

    Economic Independence (Empowerment) and technology (Knowledge) will change many beliefs held over many centuries in a few decades.

    And many parents today don’t raise their kids so stubbornly as the older generation did. Even the one’s that try don’t succeed that much. The kids today are quite smart.

    • Selsen: I disagree. I have cousins in US who are in their 20’s and never even been kissed. They have the knowledge and yet are chained by the mallu society dictum’s.

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