Happy Karwa Chauth! Just like any other festive occasion in India, this one-day festival of married women fasting for their husband's long life is celebrated with great enthusiasm every year. Pictures of women flaunting their henna-laden hands flood social media a day in advance and on the festival day we will also see them all decked up waiting for the moonrise. The ladies observe Nirjala Vrat, refraining from both food and water from sunrise to moonrise. Karva Chauth is a cultural tradition that is mostly followed by Hindu women since years and your perception of it over the years does not make it a "right" or "wrong" thing to do.
To give you a bit of its origin, back in the days, men would be a part of military campaigns and go off to fight a war. It goes without saying that their family would pray and hope for their safe return. A wife would pray for her husband's long life with the Karva Chauth Vrat. Another interesting tale of its origin lies in developing the bond of feminine friendships. Wherein, newly-wed women in arranged marriage scenario would make friends with another woman as her friend (kangan-saheli) for life.
Now, Bollywood has painted Karwa Chauth with a tint of love and romance. So when Kajol as Simran in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or as Anjali in Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham is waiting for her Shah Rukh Khan as Raj or Rahul, a love-struck viewer has probably pinned on hopes that one day they will do it too. Irrespective of the cultural nuances, the idea of keeping Karwa Chauth Vrat for your lover/husband has etched somewhere.
So many women had been doing it before these movies came to the big screens, and many would be opposing to not do it at all. Can you judge them for it? No.
Cut to the present, a conversation between two friends:
Friend 1: "Are you keeping the Karva Chauth Vrat?"
Friend 2: "Yes. I am. So excited! I will be dressing up after so long."
Friend 1: "Really? Why do you have to fast for that? You can just dress up if you want to. Pura din bhooka kaun rahega (who will stay hungry for a whole day) that too for your husband's long life? Lol."
Friend 2: "But I do not look at it that way. I have seen everyone in my family doing it. I like it and it is exciting."
The conversation can go in different ways but the idea is that each one has their cultural beliefs and associations and we should let them stick to their choice. To bring in a shade of feminism to this part of the culture does not make you any better in taking the stand of "feminism" ahead. A woman may be keeping Karwa Chauth Vrat for long life of her husband and she can still be a feminist. A woman may not be keeping the same Vrat and she can still not believe in feminism. Either way, learn that it is her choice and respect it. We will be doing a major disservice to a powerful and meaningful concept such as feminism to shame each other, by dragging it to put one another down.
Emma Watson once said, "I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself." We need to reiterate this sentence in letting women make their own choices. While we teach and empower women to be stronger, equal and decide for themselves, let this keeping a day-long fast for her husband or family, be her choice after all. On the other hand, if she is not doing it, even after it being a part of culture, let her not. Let us not put down our ideas to divide in a gap which has always been wide. We can teach lessons of feminism where they are actually needed like empowering girls about menstruation, training them to be fighters, and so on. But belittling them for fasting or not fasting, is not a mark where this conversation fits in.
On a lighter note, "Hell hath no fury like a woman
scorned hungry." So if she is choosing to fast all day and stay hungry do not make her feel foolish. If she is doing it with all her choice, let her enjoy the festival as much as you are doing by gorging on food all day! To all the women, fasting or not, Happy Karwa Chauth 2020!
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 04, 2020 01:28 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).