Karwa Chauth is an annual festival largely observed by women in the Hindi-speaking Northern and Central regions of India. It usually occurs 10 days before Diwali, and on this day women fast without food or water from dawn till they spot the moon, as they pray for the long and healthy life of their husband.
My very first memory of Karwa Chauth is that of returning home from school to see Mom, my aunts and their friends sitting around having Mehendi being applied on their hands and feet, in preparation for Karwa Chauth the next day. It was such a fun atmosphere, with chatter, the fragrance of henna and endless cups of tea and snacks and we kids being asked to help them eat and drink.
We woke up the next day to see a platter of Mithai’s kept aside for us, from the Sargi that mom had eaten before sunrise that morning, and Mum readying her Thaali for the evening Pooja. The rare occasion that it was a holiday on the same day we rejoiced, as the aunts and their friends would troop in from morning and the ladies sat together to watch films on video. What a treat that was for us!
My Pooja Thaali
Come evening and the ladies started dressing up, and how! I remember Mom looked, and still does, like a Goddess, in her saree, jewelery and bangles.
We sat for the evening Katha and Pooja with the ladies. After which the Husbands returning from work joined us. There were stories, teasing, bantering and gossip galore! As a teenager my favourite bits were hearing how the couples had met and when the ladies recounted their experiences of their 1st Karwa Chauth.
As kids it was our duty to run up to the terrace and spot the moon, so that the ladies could break their fast. The Moon always troubles women on this day, by hiding behind the clouds and refusing to make an appearance. When the moon was finally spotted, the women prayed to it and broke their fast, by being made to sip water by their husband’s. After which there was a feast! With everyone sitting down to a sumptuous meal together.
I am married into a South Indian family, where Karwa Chauth has zero significance. My Husband didn’t ask me to observe it, nor did my mother-in-law. For that matter, nor did my Mom.
I chose to keep it.
Logic, education and exposure to life have given me enough sense to realize that one person abstaining from food and water will surely not extend another’s life. Just like taking a dip in a holy river will not ‘wash away your sins’ or fasting for any number of days will not ensure a place in heaven. Or that candle marches will do nothing except bring in business for the candle maker.
Nor do I think I hold the kind of power to grant someone a long life.
I fast because I choose to. Because I love the significance of it, and the romance around the thought. Because like all the festivals we may follow, this too brings with it happiness and creates memories. And because I love my Husband and this is one way of showing it.
Karwa Chauth is a day like any other. I am not treated specially nor do I treat my husband specially, on this day.
Each Karwa Chauth I see women posting anti Karwa Chauth messages on all social media, some going so far as to verbally attacking women observing the fast. Shouldn’t you be respecting another woman’s wish to do as she pleases to with her priorities? Imagine, if a teetotaller like me attacked your choice of enjoying your glass of whatever spirit you choose to sip on or smoking your lungs away with cigarettes? That too just because I choose not to, which is why I don’t think you should either? Weird right? My life, my choices, and all that? Exactly!
If YOU think keeping Karwa Chauth makes me regressive, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
If YOU think it is ridiculous, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
If YOU think that I am being subversive by ‘going hungry and thirsty for a man’, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
And I only respect opinions I ask for.