'Karva chauth' is a festival which really really gets my goat. I mean why, why in this day and age does it still remain the 'done thing' for millions of women - including the younger generation - in north India?
In India and Nepal, Hindu married women observe a fast on Krishna Chaturthi of Kartik (October-November) . The only aim of this fast is to save the husband from an untimely death and have a long married life.
After taking bath in the early morning, before sunrise, women should undertake a vow for welfare of the husband, sons and grandsons. Shiv, Parvati, Kartikeya, Ganesh and the moon (Chandrama) are worshipped. The fast is broken only after seeing the moon.
The origins of this festival are murky. One story that is always related on this day...
A lady called Veeravati broke her fast and her husband died. She preserved the body of her husband and he came back to life the next Karva Chauth. It is believed that a Pati-Vrat woman has the power to confront the God of Death, Yama.
I would have thought that modern young women would gradually lose interest in a festival with such retro contours:
The fast is a rigorous one as the wife does not even drink water on this day. In the evening, all married women, dressed in gorgeous wedding garments and jewelery, undertake worship. As the moon rises, they bow down at the feet of their husbands and give the decorated plate with fruit and other material to their mother in law. This festival deepens the relation between the wife, the husband and the mother in law.
However, interest in the festival has in fact increased.
Bollywood has had several poignant 'karva chauth' sequences (remember Shahrukh and Kajol in DDLJ) and of course beauty parlours and other commerical estabishments have jumped into the fray offering 'full day packages' to keep hungry-thirsty women occupied till moonrise. Esp so in the very dekho-ji-maine-kitne-paise-kharch-kiye culture of Delhi.
Life in the 'fast' lane
Actually I would categorise karva chauth fastees into 3 categories:
a) Sab karte hain: Everyone's doing it, so you do too. This applies especially to those women who live in joint families.
Some of course actually enjoy all the shringar, sacrifice and saas-saheli bonding. Others play along, knowing that resistance is futile in the face of biradari and expectant mother-in-laws. !
Aur kuch nahin to kuch maal to milega :)
b) 'What if...': This lot is not very keen on the fast but keeps it anyways thinking of it like an annual insurance policy. Just in case something terrible does happen, there can never be any fingers pointed at her for not even keeping 'karva chauth'.
c) 'So romantic'!: Lastly, there is this new breed of women who don't actually believe in pati-parmeshwar but think it's a very cute and romantic thing to do. Many expect the husband - in SRK-DDLJ style - to also deprive himself ("Dear, at least keep a fruit juice fast", they might kindly offer).
This lot expects the fast to be broken over a romantic dinner and/ or a special gift. Engaged and 'newly married' types are usually to be found in this category - as u might well expect!
In the 'slow' lane
As for me - no I am not fasting and not feeling in the least bit guilty about it. Luckily for me mother in law does not believe in this stuff although for years my mom emotionally blackmailed me into it ('fasting is good for health also you know').
After reading all this I'm sure the word that comes to most readers minds will be: 'feminist'. But you know what, I'm more of a practical feminist than a crusading one. I pick and choose my battles.
So, I'd rather hold a (metaphorical) gun to Yatin's head for an issue like 'who will wake up early and pack off Nivedita to school', than extract a pledge for a one-time fasting ritual.
Bottomline: Each to her own, of course. Some find it a sweet tradition - but for me it leaves more of a kadwa aftertaste.
Here's hoping the moon does peep out on time tonight - for those who feel otherwise!