This appeared in Mumbai Mirror....
The bitter truth about Karwa Chauth….
Today is Karwa Chauth. Ahem. I am not fasting in honour of my husband. And my hands are devoid of mehendi. I didn’t participate in Sindhoor Khela either. Does that make me a terrible wife? Should I be feeling guilty? I have never observed Karwa Chauth. And my husband is still talking to me. Then again, he has never kept a fast for me. Does that make him a bad husband? Should he feel guilty? It doesn’t work like that, my women friends who are fasting today, say staunchly. Fasts and prayers are traditionally dedicated to the men in the family. I am told by fasting during Karwa Chauth, a wife believes she is extending her husband’s life. Which is all very well. But what about the wife’s life? No extension for the poor lady? Errrr… I am walking straight into a land mine here. I am about to blow myself up. And this is the right moment to exit the debate. Stop me, someone!
The first and only time I was invited to a Karwa Chauth lunch was by a well meaning, unsuspecting neighbor. That was years ago. Not knowing what to expect, I strolled in casually dressed. There were over thirty ladies present in the large living room. All of them were clad in bridal finery and feeling awfully virtuous. One of them was a freshly minted wife – a simpering dulhan. This was her first Karwa Chauth and all the other mother hens were cluck-clucking around her. I felt like an intruder who had crashed a bizarre initiation ceremony. I was asked - loudly and aggressively - “ So… you don’t fast for your husband?” I cheerfully shook my head and replied, “ Nope!” There was a quick exchange of meaningful, knowing looks (“ She is not like us!”). Seeing their disapproving expressions, I made it worse by adding, “ My husband doesn’t fast for me , either.” The women guffawed – “ As if men will ever give up food for their wives.” But why were these ladies dressed like they were inside a shaadi ka mandap? There was music and dance, bangles, bindis, dupattas in vivid colours. And they were obviously waiting for something and someone. Aaah – the moon and the men. At some point, both appeared and it was all over. The husbands looked mighty pleased as their wives gazed at them through a large strainer. The wives looked even more pleased when their mates fed them icky, sticky, evil-looking mithai. Next, the hungry wives pounced on platters of rich food, but not before pouncing on the lavish gifts given by their grateful husbands. All this drama for giving up khaana-peena for a few hours!
I guess this ritual made sense in ye olde days when men went to war and engaged in other foolish activities ( hunting!). Men still go to war. They still hunt. But in a different context. Corporate wars can leave a chap pretty bloodied. Agreed. But that’s not war-war. All this was going on inside my wicked head when I received a call yesterday reminding me about a very high profile Karwa Chauth lunch in the city . Damn ! I didn’t want to subject myself to another round of accusations. And I certainly didn’t want to climb into my nauwaari saree and make pretend that I was a love-lorn bride praying for my hubby’s long life. Besides, the weather has been playing cruel tricks on us. What if the moon did a no-show? Would I have to starve an extra hour or two till our lunar friend was spotted? I asked my husband whether he minded my not fasting for him on Karwa Chauth. I urged him to be perfectly honest and swear he wouldn’t hold it against me if I nibbled on a macaroon or two. He said it was fine. That made me feel worse. I even suggested we starve together. For each other. He said he wasn’t SRK in DDLJ.I said that was okay. Did I look like Kaajol ? This was getting complicated. So, I rashly promised to make it up to him in some other form. He jumped at the offer!
I guess I am the one who is in deep trouble now!