A patriarchal practice in some Hindu community forces a woman to give up pottu, kangumam, flowers and colorful clothes. In the age of 21st century, where people have shunned the idea, there are still few people who follow this religiously. In a related incident, a 77-year-old woman in Chennai was denied the pension of her late husband for wearing pottu on her forehead. The government official believed that old woman should not wear the pottu since she is a widow now.

The elderly woman, Radha, lost her husband hardly a month ago after 40 years of togetherness and she was still struggling with the grief of having lost her partner. Her husband was 82-years-old when he passed away and worked at Port Trust in Rajaji Salai till 1993. Eligible for 70 percent of her husband’s pension money, Radha, on April 9, went with her son and daughter-in-law to sign the mandatory forms.

The government officials at the settlements wing of the Electrical and Mechanical department insisted her to complete the formalities regarding the transfer of his pension. One of the officials harassed the lady by asking her to get the ration card and a photo of her where she is wearing only sacred ash on her forehead.

“When we came to the settlements wing, the officer in question who identified himself as Ravi, was actually sleeping. We gave them the forms that they required, my mother-in-law’s identity proof, and a photo of hers that was taken four months back. But he took one look at her and then at the photo and refused to accept it,” family members of the woman was quoted as saying.

“In front of my mother-in-law, he insensitively told us that we should understand that a widow is not supposed to be wearing pottu or flowers. He told us we need to take another photo, where she is wearing only sacred ash on her forehead. He asked how a widow could come to the office looking like this.” Daughter-in-law explained.

“My mother-in-law was inconsolable. We took a photo of her without the pottu and it was difficult to watch the emotions she went through when removing the sticker from her forehead. What is worse is that she now believes that she is in the wrong for choosing to wear the sticker pottu when her husband died. The officer made her feel ashamed of what she did.”

The family went back to the office next day to complete the formalities and the officer who harassed them was on a leave. Luckily, they were able to complete the process fast.