Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oh Lady! Why do you fast?

22 Oct 2013 is "Karwa Chauth" in India.  For those who don't know, 'Karwa Chauth' is a ritual of fasting observed by married Hindu women seeking the longevity, well-being and prosperity of their husbands. It is popular amongst married women in the northern and western parts of India. To know more, click here

At the outset, let me clarify | I have nothing against the practice of fasting. In fact, I personally think giving your body and digestive system a break does so much good for anyone. And there is enough and more medical research (in almost all kinds of medical practice - normal and alternative) and evidence which prove that an occasional fasting actually helps the human body. Personally, I've had this practice of skipping one meal every week, and I've loved the results in my overall state of well-being.

So moving on, It is the "Why? of fasting" and social significance associated with the practice of fasting which leaves me with many unanswered questions..

Firstly, I am truly unable to comprehend this - If a "wife" does not eat food for one day in the year how it will add to her husband's life? And if there is indeed truth in this practice, then why does the husband not fast for the longevity of his wife? Or is the husband's life more precious than the wife's life that its not even a consideration? Just think about how any husband's life usually transforms after the demise of his wife. I don't need to explain, but think about any such man who lost his wife, and you'll get the answers!

Secondly, is longevity of her husband the real desire of any wife? Would you rather have a "healthy spouse" alive till 60 or an "ailing bed-ridden" husband alive up to 90 years? Tough to generalize and answer, but I think deep down we all know what would be the possible choice of the vast majority. And hence the wife's wish for the husband's well-being.  Not just physical well-being, but any wife possibly wishes for mental, social, financial, emotional and spiritual well-being of her husband. After all, she has to live with the man for the rest of her life and all these are the critical dimensions of a balanced, rounded and grounded individual. Now, what about the wife's well-being? Who takes care of that? Or again, is it not important for the family and society? Trust me when I say this, if the wife / women of the house is "not well", then its a tough ride for the entire family. Look back at your own life, and you'll have enough examples to agree with me. Most importantly, how is it possible that if a wife fasts for 1 day of the year, it contributes to her husband's well being. Honestly, I don't know!

Thirdly, anyone's prosperity is usually a function of many things - You're own knowledge, skills, hard-word, dedication, sweat and blood, etc etc. and last but not least, a bit of luck. Now again, I don't get how if a wife fasts for 1 day of the year, it will lead to her husband's prosperity.

So many unanswered question, but no real convincing answers..

In an attempt to understand the origins of 'Karwa Chauth', I asked the wise old women in my family. And here's what they said "In olden days, the husband was the primary bread-winner outside the house and the wife was the bread-maker within the four walls. The role of the husband was considered far more superior than that of the wife  because if he did not get the money home, then the role of the wife had very little meaning, and how will the family survive? So, the husband was considered equivalent of "God" - as being the provider and protector for the family. Hence, he was worshiped and given respect every single day. And on the special day of Karwa Chauth, wife's truly revered their husbands to the divine status, and kept a fast to pray for the husband's welfare". OK! I guess that's how it all began, and it was all about the "power of money". And that's why financial independence has probably been the most important desire for most women.

But what about today? In today's day and age when the wife is an equal contributor to the family in every which way that counts and makes a difference, then either they both fast for each other or no one fasts. Right?

Sadly that's yet not the case | Till date, way too many Indian wives (irrespective of whether they're educational background, social standing, economic status, etc) in several parts of India continue to practice this ritual even in modern day India. For some women, it is lack of choice and pressures of family and society that compel them. For many, it continues to be a choice to with-hold the age old family traditions and customs. For some, it is a day of celebration and merriment where the wife gets a day off to relax, indulge in 'retail-therapy' and some 'spa-therapy', dress-up, look pretty, flutter those eyelashes, pout those lips and shake those hips - all in an attempt to make the husband's bank balance a lot lighter! Well, whatever!

Bottom-line | I do believe in the power of prayer and the fact that one's faith can work miracles and makes all the difference. So if a wife is honestly and genuinely praying, wishing and hoping for her husband's welfare (with or without fasting), then I believe there is power in it. And if the wife honestly believes that fasting will contribute to her husband's longevity, well-being and prosperity; and that's what she really wants.. Then so be it! Who am I to question it?

That's my view. What's yours? Leave a comment to let me know..

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18 comments:

  1. Very fascinating! I agree with you, that if a woman cares enough about her husband to forgo eating for a day to pray for him, that shows her devotion for him and he is a blessed fella!

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    1. Blessed indeed! Thanks for stopping by. Nischala

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  2. Today I read Shobaa De's column on Karwa Chauth. and she says that the ladies of her neighborhood were aghast that she had not adorned her hands with 'mehndi', wore colourful(read jazzy) sarees and not observing a fast. She further defends (rightly so) that there is no need to observe a fast and other rituals to 'prove' her love for her hubby. When she told the ladies that her hubby too doesn't observe fast for her, the ladies exchanged 'looks' meaning that the menfolk need not do it but its their duty to lavish their wives with gifts after 'breaking' the fast. I think this is the scenario in each neighborhood. I personally feel that if this ritual is to be observed the couple should observe fast together and spend that day with each other.

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    1. Kalpana - A lot is to do with the social conditioning and upbringing. Sometimes we send such subtle messages based on our actions.. And many women cannot really understand how you will not fast. They know it no other way! Well. what can I say.. To each his / her own.. As long as peace and health prevail, all's well.... Right?

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  3. Hello there.

    This is interesting. But I am so grateful my husband does not expect me to fast for his longevity, well-being and prosperity.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Lisa

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  4. Honestly, I am not much into all these rituals. I mean, if for some reason I have to practice any of them and it does not make a big difference to me, I follow them else NOT! Luckily, My hubby is also very cool about all this. I also believe that maybe one more reason for these rituals were the ladies could get together and have a little fun too along with the fasting and still be able to say, "they were doing it all for the hubbies ; - )". Those days the entertainment for them would not be as today as they were within 4 walls of the house?

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    1. You were spot on Poornima on the fact that the husband's are key influencer's to the wife's choices - Be it of fasting or anything else in life. Yes! May be that's true, but knowing the women of the previous generation I know - Trust me, they could find their ways to do what they want even otherwise ;).. for a vast majority - the way to the husband's heart was through his stomach.. and at that there was no match :).. Thanks for stopping by. Nischala

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  5. Nischala...We have a little joke in our family. When women fast on karva chauth, and god forbid the husband gets late by five minutes after the moon has appeared, or is on a call when she is ready, the fight and tension will surely reduce some one month from his life.
    Frankly, I do not understand the concept too. But being in India, if it is just about a fast, it shouldnt be a big deal.

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    1. :).. Being in India - the BIG deal is about the "FAST"! Tx for stopping by

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  6. HI Nischala,

    Karwa Chauth is a day when women not only fast but also abstain from lot of household work, which in those days were done by the women of the house like washing clothes, stitching, sewing, cleaning and yes even cooking or waking up a family member so that he or she can have their meals. These days though lot of things are either taken care of by machines (washing) and maids -- the wives still abstain from picking up a needle to mend a broken button or ironing or any other household work and give their minds and bodies a complete rest. Yes, since they could not do it for the sake of it they say that it is for the well-being of their husbands. This is one of the reasons.

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    1. Dear Swati - from what I know.. In olden days, women used to wake up early, cook, clean and do the essential household chores and also eat before sunrise on Karwa Chauth. Its not that they got away from these everyday domestic chores. They surely did get away from doing them right through the day - which was the "way it was done" on other days! One day in a year is too less don't you think? Is that all "rest" a wife deserves / gets .. The Math does not work to my mind :( Tx for stopping by. Nischala

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  7. Let me explain how husbands' lives get longer and more prosperous if wives fast. Take an example of Mrs Gupta. She eats so much and spends so much money on McDonalds' French Fries, KFC, Pizza Hut and Dominos on a daily basis that the one day of fasting spares Mr Gupta of approximately INR 4000. Now assume Mr Gupta invests this in Post Office Savings Certificates of the Govt of India for 10 yrs, he gets handsome returns on the same and that too Tax Free. Now, tell me doesn't Mrs Gupta fasting help Mr Gupta live longer, wealthier and happier.

    Jokes apart, I complete condone the criticism of meaningless rituals which simply make no sense in today's world. Lovely post.

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    1. Hmmmm. What do I say? Please show me the Mrs. Sharma who eats for 4000 Rs INR in 1 day at McDonalds' French Fries, KFC, Pizza Hut and Dominos.. Some woman she must be :).. And if indeed she is such a woman, trust me - she will spend 10000 rs the next day :).. She has to make up right.. So where is the scope for Mr Gupta's savings, eh?

      And yes, apart from your day job & writing - do you want to consider financially planning for the Gupta's as a side business? ;)

      Mr Gupta would love to hear a positive response from you

      Nischala

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  8. If my husband would have read this post he would have come and given you a hug, literally. This is a huge bone of contention between us. I of course want to keep the fast and he feels its too much of nonsense. As much as I agree with every bit of what you are saying, somewhere I feel for me its my only chance at not being the 24 x 7 intellectual rebel (which I am always) and perhaps just enjoy the day like any other wife. I know sounds lame and also escapist but I have not been able to wriggle out of this fast. But Nischala what you have written is very true and needs to be shared around more . Because why don;t the men want their wives to live longer!

    Richa

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    1. Richa - Thanks for stopping by! Hmm.. Well I guess to each couple, their own ways.. There's no right or wrong.. It's what you're fine with. The "husband" is indeed a key influencer / decision maker in the practice of Karwa Chauth. Please do share in your network. That's how the thoughts / words will be shared right? Nischala

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  9. Like you, I think the devotion should be returned. The husband should fast too. You also raised an excellent point about the quality of life. How great is life if you are bed ridden or don't have the freedoms or capabilities to do as you want? Isn't it better to have a great, productive life of 60 years, than 30 more years having health problems? Great thought provoking post.

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    1. Tx Kathy. I think all relationships should be based on trust, love, mutual respect and devotion.. Else it loses its meaning. Tx for stopping by! Appreciate it.. Nischala

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