Karva Chauth 2014 came and went but for me, 30 years young, whose marriage is only two years old, the third fast was remarkable in many ways. Not because of the deprivation inflicted on my physical being, but for the mental turmoil I endured dealing with a flood of questions and conflicting answers that shook my beliefs before leading me to spiritual fulfilment. How?
Being a lawyer, I began my day of fasting in the office, while brainstorming the Vodafone judgment that the Bombay high court had delivered on October 7. I came home by 3pm. By 5pm, I was more thirsty than I was hungry. I could feel a slight numbness in my head, my stomach growling for food. My parched throat croaked off and on, and my hyperactive sweat glands, in overdrive because of the electricity outage, built a sauna effect around me.
The October heat and humidity of Mumbai pricked me like a dozen needles together. The moon appeared at 8.45pm as the newspapers had forecast but I could behold it only an hour later, under the glow of the Benjamin Franklin invention, when the electrician declared, finally: "Let there be light." Now that the power supply was restored, I bathed, set the puja thali, and went to the terrace with the man for whom I had lived a day without food, water, and electricity, like hundreds of BPL (below poverty line) families do every day in the country; like I had been hit by cyclone Hudhud.
The liberal, accomplished, scientific, and progressive self in me was questioning the very basis of this ritual. "Why keep hungry and thirsty all day? How will it ensure my husband's wellbeing or long life? Wasn't this a regressive way of expressing love? Isn't this reinforcing patriarchy?" my mind tortured me with these questions, while my illogical heart accused me of loving my stomach more than my husband.
The moment of truth came suddenly and dramatically, when I saw my husband's face and the moon through the sieve, when I had the first drop of water from his hands, when I had the first morsel of sweet in my mouth, when I closed my eyes and wished goodness and happiness for him and all our near and dear ones…that was when I found my answer. This is why you fast. I felt love and peace around me. You have to experience it to know.
The catharsis had come alive within me. It is because of the discomfort of the day that the final fruit tastes sweet. Far from being an outdated ritual, Karva Chauth is rather more relevant than ever. Our busy, self-indulgent lives replete with work targets and social commitments leave us with little time to celebrate and reinforce the respect, trust, love, and caring that husband and wife share.
For all women who wish their husbands joined them in the fast, they are justified. If a couple shares a happy and healthy relationship, the husband will have no qualms. At peace with self; mind and soul in sync, I bid farewell to Karva Chauth 2014 with a tired yet meaningful smile; and look forward to experiencing it again in 2015 in all its curious resplendence.