THIRTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD SHAKUNTALA Bai has no emotional hiccup in saying that her husband has ruined her life. “He takes my money, drowns it in alcohol and then beats me up. I wish he were dead,” she said candidly. But on Karvachouth, she dons completely different attire and performs his aarti in real filmy style.
“So what if he beats and abuses me. He is my husband after all. How can I ever leave him,” she said while going to a nearby beauty parlour to get her eyebrows plucked for the special day.
Shakuntala said she had saved Rs 400 to buy a new sari. “So what if my husband cannot buy one for me. I am financially independent.” Meet Rama Bai, another slum dweller, who makes ends meet for her family by working in seven houses. Her day begins before sunrise and ends well past midnight. She sleeps for not more than three hours a day.
After her family goes to sleep, she stitches clothes to meet the educational expenses of her four children. On the other hand, her husband is unemployed. He spends the entire day parroting about his hypothetical income or showing off his irascible behaviour.
Rama gives one fourth of her income to her husband, which he spends on daru. “My husband is a liability on me. I have to literally feed him. In return, he feeds me with filthy words. I have, however, accepted my fate,” she said adding, “I started observing Karvachouth since the last two years because my friends told me that this would bring him on the right track. Probably, my faith would help him get a job.”
These are just two of the umpteen slum dwellers and sole bread earners who are bruised and beaten but still observe the fast religiously.
Call it a fad, aping the others, superstition or simply faith but a large number of slum dwellers have started observing Karvachouth in a grandiose manner.
They curse their husbands for the wrongdoings all through the year but on this day they place him on a Godly pedestal. Some have even started mirroring the urban elite class and groom themselves assiduously for the day.
“I am planning to apply henna and if I can borrow money from somebody, I may also go to a beauty parlour for a facial,” said Sunita, who works as a cook. “I have asked my husband to purchase a red saree for me. My madam’s husband has got a gold chain for her so my husband should also buy something for me,” she adds.
A large number of bais even take a day off for the fast. “All my neighbours will come to my house in the evening. We will be dressed in our best and then sing and dance,” she said.
One day of Pati Parmeshwar adulations while tomorrow it will be back to work, rona dhona, abuses and bruises.