Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The bitter truth about Karwa Chauth...

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!

49 comments:

Cheryllyne said...

LOVE!!!!!!

Suresh Mandan said...

Well fasting is voluntary. It is a matter of dedication,determination to do something for a person you love and keep away from food for almost the entire day. When the Muslims or Jains do fasting during their holy months, they do it for their religion or God who is not visible but felt. Here you are doing something for someone you love or respect. There are certain things which are made for women like sacrifice etc and which women happily do. Don't you do something great for your male child. You do but do not question the rituals or religion.Men also go on fast even today though involuntary when they work on a target without caring for food or water for hours together.They are doing all this for their wife or children.There is always some science behind fasting?But secular indian have a habit of questioning everything which has links with Hindu culture.

Aayushi Gupta said...

You go girl!

I hate people who turn this whole day into a #holierthanthou fest. My love for my husband would be equal to his love for me. If he isn't socially obligated to keep a fast for me, I won't either. The love can find other ways of expression ;-)

hafbloodyhaf said...

and i have to say it ! I'm a FAN !!! :)

Woman wisdom said...

The festivals rituals are voluntary if you feel good do it if you don't then don't. I am proud to say as a woman I don't want to be same as man. I know I can do these things better, I have better will power, sensibility and care in my heart. If a man wants to be equal to me its again their choice I am not changing myself to be a man.

devanshi said...

I completely agree to the thought of not fasting. not because men dont but because it is not necessary to remain hungry and thirsty! even our prayers can do d the same if it has that much power and sacredness!

Ambika said...

Well, I am okay with either. Just spare the drama and histrionics. I must thank my MIL for letting me choose for myself if I wanted to fast for my husband on vatapournima (Maharashtrian equivalent of Karva Chauth). She doesn't fast, but if I wanted to, she would explain the rituals. I chose not to, simply because I have an acidity problem and if I go without food for several hours, I would feel sick.

Arti Rungta said...

According to me fasting has various facets. It shows devotion,love,determination. Scientifically too fasting is good for health. Human society has designed roles for men and women.In an ideal situation men are responsible for finance and protecting the family and women are for nurturing the family. Fasting done by women for her husband or kids is a type of love, determination towards family nurturing.Regarding dress up... well everyone likes to dress on special occasions. People dress in marriages, birthday parties, disco parties. Fasting still is considered cultural hence people dress in their finest traditional dress. Every working women dresses and does make up as per the requirement of the job. So why not housewives??? such events are also source of get together and human interaction,being human everyone likes to be presentable in the finest way as per the occasion. And again it depends,not all are in their marriage attires it's just a part rest do it as they are comfortable with. It's only the finest dressed one are conspicuous and talked about.

Satya said...

Ah! Even I dont understand how women can give up their food and starve.. er... fast...

Well, if he is like SRK... then... being Kajol wont itch!!

Loved this!

irwin rego said...

Super - You read my mind on the subject. It defies the sanctity of marriage - the pyaar ka vaada 50/50 bit. Thanks.

Irwin Rego
www.articlewalla.blogspot.com

Latha said...

We south Indians have an equivalent function called "kaaradai nonbu". We prepare a sweet & a savoury specially meant for the event, tie the mangal sutra (a yellow thread) once again with the husband's hand & pray for his long life. But no, we don't fast. That is for somavaara vrata where women fast only on Mondays praying for the long life of their husbands. But that is optional. No compulsion. That is done in the privacy of their homes. It is done on particular months. Total no of Mondays = 16. They can eat fruits, drink coffee & milk. No salt, oil chillies & other masalas. The interesting part is, on the last day of the vrath, they've to prepare wheat laddu & offer everybody, should never be angry. (laddu recipe: Ghee 1/4 kilo, aatta 1/2 kilo, jaggery (Gud) 400 gms. Strain the aatta in a strainer, add melted ghee & gud, mix well & make small laddus) In Punjab women eat pre-dawn of Karwa chaudh and it's called Sargi normally prepared by mother-in-law and in Uttar Pradesh women eat on the eve of festival And hats off to the women who really fast. If they have no acidity problem, why not ? Though we south Indians don't fast, we have great admiration for the north Indian wives who do. And they also have fun, dressing up for the occasion, wearing bangles, bindis... & get gifts from their hubbies. That is the day off from any housework. Just get together & have fun. In the olden days of hard work, what relief that would've meant ! And an opportunity to wear the wedding dress which is never worn otherwise ! After all they are not harming anybody. If husbands don't keep a fast, so be it. Those of you who don't want to keep a fast, so be it. But we can't trash some people's belief in good faith. Let there be some well meaning women who fast for their husband's longevity. Amen.

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Mahesh Yadav said...

The typical woman in the kitchen would fear for her husband's life and so will do it with deadly devotion. But the situation is changing, with education and infliction of new thoughts and people like you and me.

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perpetuallyperipatetic said...

YES! I'm totally pro-fasting for health purposes, even do it myself once a week. So in principle... fasts are great! Wives fasting for husbands? Great! But only if it's reciprocated equally. It shouldn't be a gender-specific rule.

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hduthree said...

Shobha - first of all a great fan of your writing. About this particular ritual. I believe that religion is too personal. everyone its own. If a woman is doing this out of her own personal choice than we should let them be. I personally wouldnt do it but have nothing against woman who do it out of choice. I will not judge them.

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tofeeq ahmad said...

Its your wish how you show respect to your beloved either God or Husband. No body forced to fast for anything

swati namjoshi said...

It's all Patriarchy...no matter how loudly we shout for the womanhood, this shadow of Patriarchy would never leave our society...

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Sravanthi said...

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Spraha said...

Well If you keep all the ho ha aside...I love the fact that you get to make someone feel special. I am no typical Indian girl with a closed mindset but after a few boring days i love the way festivals like these make any usual day into a day of drama!!! Oh and who does not love drama :) Its Indian valentines day for me :P

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