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This ad asks for inclusion of all women in a Durga Puja ritual (which is less exclusionary now)

‘Let’s change the tradition of division.’

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On the face of it, this advertisement is a call for inclusiveness. Timed with the celebration of Durga Puja, the Bengali spot presents a little tale of “outsiders” among women – the lesbian, the trans person, the woman whose husband left her because of cysts in her ovary, the lonely widow – who are supposed to be excluded from the traditional custom of “sindoor khela”.

It is true that till recently, this ritual – carried out on the morning of Bijoya Dashami, the day on which the idols of Durga and her family are immersed to signify their return home – was confined to married women and related to a blissful conjugal life. And people such as the ones depicted in the advertisement (portrayed by actors) were left out.

However, that original practice has been largely abandoned, especially at community celebrations, and all women – and even men – irrespective of marital status or age, take part in what is one of the last moments of merry-making.

The ad, put out by a newspaper – and somewhat overacted with slightly melodramatic lines – builds its narrative around women without husbands who declare that they will also participate in the ritual. While the statement, asserting freedom and equality, is a timely one, the insinuation of exclusion from “sindoor khela” may not be in-sync with the times.

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