Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Karva Chauth - charm or charade?

(The day of the complete fast kept by a married Hindu woman for the longevity and health of her husband.)

I-pod firmly plugged in, I'm out on my late evening walk. Its the perfect weather, when you work up only the faintest beads of sweat. I know the theory is: sweating = great work-out. But some days, no sweating = fun workout. (For me!)

I am amazed at how many couples I pass on my route today. Wives bedecked in finery that makes them shine like christmas trees from a mile away; husbands gallantly reaching home early from work, to give their beloved partners some company on this difficult day.

All day I've heard people exchange greetings on the phone. Mothers-in-law who can see that their son's marriage is all but over. Daughters-in-law who spend the other 364 days of the year cursing their husbands.

I fail to see the point of the glitzy clothing and the fast. Yeah, it was a great way to get husbands to feel good about themselves and lord it over the women-folk (but hey! didn't they always do that in our culture?)

It was also a great way to make the women feel like they were sacrificing their very sustenance for their husband (and we wonder why Indian women are such martyrs - whoopee! there's even a day to celebrate it!)

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the ritual. Like many other rituals, I'm sure Karva Chauth, is about much more than the ego high for the male and the martyr lesson for the female. It is not about the sieve and the moon and the dolling up. Nor is it about the extravagant gift the wife demands of her husband. And for God's sake, its certainly not about the parcelling of specific food items from saas to bahu or whatever route it follows.

That it has degenerated to this, merely shows how pointless rituals are when perceptions are skewed.

Karva Chauth would be the perfect day for life partners to renew their vows and reaffirm to each other why they chose to be together, what they learn from each other and how the relationship is helping them grow as individuals. It would be a great time to take stock of how the other partner feels, where pockets of resentment might be bubbling and how best they can deal with it. It would certainly be a wonderful time to share their hopes and aspirations for the coming year.

Karva Chauth is when you look at your partner through the sieve, symbolic (to me) of looking at your relationship with a sieve. Sorting out your emotions and taking a good honest look at what you are giving to the relationship and what its giving back to you. Are you taking too much crap? Are you giving too much crap? Has this bond degenerated into bitterness? Is it a noose around your neck? Are you committed to your values? Are you a doormat? Are you selfish?

Yup - face it, face it, face it. In an ideal world, one would face it on a daily basis (but then, I realised at the humble age of 19 that an ideal world exists only in my head.) Well, if only once a year, atleast we're being honest with ourselves.

Let Karva Chauth be the day we thank our partners for the wisdom they've brought into our lives. For being mirrors to reflect our own eccentricities. For being teachers on our journey through life. For walking with us - as far as we can walk together. For accepting the moment when our roads part. For sharing with us in the exquisite human bond of love.


STEVEN said...

I think this is a wonderful point of view, and support this kind of thinking for practical valuable workable spiritually growing relationships.

Sankari W. said...

reading this made me miss you more! i miss our talks - and walks - and walk&talks :) you are my durga devi and i adore you!

Natasha said...

heh..This is awesome..Just proves you're not meant to be in India!

sushbee said...

I completely and whole-heartedly agree ... I don't get the concept of fasting for anyone, whoever it may be - EXCEPT yourself if you're trying to get rid of a spare tyre or two :-)

vandy said...

This is so true and fantastic. Harsh realities of life ........

Kirti said...

Totally my sentiments as well. Girl you need to pack up and head out, this land will not understand you.........

~ गौरव ~ said...

Very well written

Vino Aunty said...

Thank you for including me in your blog. This is the first I've heard about Karva Chauth. 'Charm or Charade' indeed........and why not the other way around........or do the husbands feel their women are beneath this sacrifice.
You were always sensible and sensitive beyond your years, Saraswati.
Well written, with emotions aptly captured.

Geetika said...

This piece is very well written, Saras, and I agree with a lot of it. Yet inspite of being in a long-term relationship I still have a romantic in me. So I would like to give you my perspective on Karvachauth.

One of the major points of fasting is that everytime I think of food, I remember that I am not eating it because I am thankful for something. Karvachauth is a day to be thankful for the support I get from my husband. The point of dressing up like I did on my wedding day (or like a Christmas tree) is to remind me of the innocent hope and excitement I had on that day; to remind me that as long as there is love in a relationship, no matter how tough the going may be, there is the hope of a beautiful life. To remind my husband, that inspite of any grudges I may hold, I still care about him.

Although, it would be great if my husband also fasted for the same purpose, I hope n know that when he is planning throughout the day to come home early or to buy me a gift, he is also thinking of how much he loves me n appreciates me.

It is important to remember all this because all goodness comes out of positive thoughts and a positive attitude.

I know I will continue to fast as long as this gratefulness, love and hope remains in the relationship. If this one day can remind us of the goodness in our relationship, it is worth the effort.

Saraswati said...

Geetika...well put! I really like the reason for the Christmas tree decor - to remember the innocent hope and freshness of why you chose to be with this person - to renew your wedding vows in your mind. Would've liked it if the men had to wear their sehra all day to remind them of the same:) Thank you for your words and for providing the balance, always :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, how naive I was when i first came to India.

The first year i witnessed Karva Chauth, I innocently asked "So, when is the date for the men's fast."

The group of men around me nearly split their sides!