Come Karvachauth and men bashing starts. i don’t know how much of it is justified and i wont get into it. i take this opportunity to reminisce about the day through different stages of my life.
My earliest memories of Karvachauth are of my mom. That was the only day she would be all decked up even though she was at home. She would drape one of her best sarees - which weren’t many considering she had 3 kids to raise on one income. She’d put on her jewelry set, lots of bangles and vermillion in her parted hair. She said this is how women got dressed up on this day since it is a sign of being married. This information was our only window to the world of Karvachauth since we had no other reference point in the 80’s in Bangalore. The tradition hadn’t swept the whole country like it has now and was celebrated by only the Punjabi women. She would do the rituals for the day by herself in the evening. And by night, my brother and i would be making frequent trips to the streets around our house to see if chandamama was out. And no, the concept wasn’t Bollywoodised yet and my dad wasn't supposed to feed her the first bite. My mom would just walk out with her pooja ki thali and sieve to finish the ritual. She would first drink water because that was a more immediate need. And the day ended without much hoopla.
When we shifted to Delhi in the mid 90’s, i got to see the glitsy and glamorous version of the day. With some commercialization, some Bollywood and some Delhi’s high-class culture, Karvachauth was a whole new concept here. Mehendi on both hands was a must and the mehendiwali made a killing at the exorbitant rates. Women turned out in their most expensive finery for the communal pooja where women from the whole building gathered to do it instead of doing it alone in their homes. My mom had stopped fasting by then due to health issues. So, we would just watch all this from our home and feel glad that we didn’t have to be a part of this pageant!
i looked forward to the time i could play the Bollywood-style wife, draped in traditional best and do the look-at-your-husband-through-the-sieve-ritual! But the ultra rational person that my darling husband is, he said i could do all the decking up i wanted to make myself happy. But the wife being hungry for the resulting long life of the husband was pure ‘buhawkee’ to him! In hindsight, i am also relieved at some level. Films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham have totally made the whole thing so filmy and melodramatic! i'm sure i'd imagine one of the scenes from films i was doing my own pooja and it just wouldn't seem real at all!
Sometime around the same time, i became aware of the feminists’ angle to the story. Why should women fast? Why should only women fast? Aren’t we equal in a relationship? Poor men! They also offered to fast. Yet, the bashing of men begins every single here. Even if women fast voluntarily.
Here’s what i think about it. We all have just become too hyperactive thanks to multiple avenues we have of venting out our sense of rectitude. To me, Karvachauth is a beautiful festival. In today’s times, when women hardly have the time or the inclination to dress up traditionally, i think it is great opportunity to do it even if it is just to keep up with the spirit of the day. How else will we keep the traditional in us alive? Also, add one more day to birthdays and anniversaries when married people can take time out to strengthen their bond with each other. If fasting is the bone of contention, lets do away with it. i know it’s like hacking at the most important part of the festival but don’t we change so many other things to suit our convenience? Fasting can be optional since women have equally demanding careers. But with equality being the flavour of the times, there can be a different dimension to the festival. Earlier, women did everything like a dutiful wife. Now, men can help cook, take care of the kids and generally take time out for the wifey! Why create controversy over something that can be turned around to for the better! Don’t you agree?