I was reminded about the trials of divorce yet again when that great festival called Karva Chauth re surfaced last week. It’s actually quite a mystery to me why I felt that way, as I did not ‘indulge’ in this fast, even when I was married. I deliberately used the term ‘indulge’ as it is an indulgence to dress up and pamper yourself in every way, while depriving yourself of food and water, ostensibly for the long life and good health of your husband. While he, poor man, is perhaps shortening his life, his arteries hardening up and narrowing with every second of tension created by the guilt and stress of his wife depriving herself of sustenance for him. Pregnant, or feverish, superstitious women unable to withstand the bullying of their mothers in law resort to propitiating the gods with starvation.
Last week, as I drove past the neighbourhood temple, on my way back from the gym (empty of women, who were all delicately dolled up and ensuring the grim reaper stayed away from their husbands for the next year at least) I encountered a huge traffic jam. That’s because happily (or unhappily) married women in wedding finery were traipsing along prettily carrying thalis with diyas, making an absolute spectacle of themselves, simpering in a silly fashion.
Hummph. This Karva Chauth. One of my friends, whose husband blithely departed on the wings of an early heart attack (despite her devout fasting, might I add) is wracked anew with fresh waves of guilt, every time this festival limps past.
Divorced friends are equally tortured, if they used to fast, they wonder why their marriages didn’t last, and if they didn’t fast they wonder whether they would have lasted if they had subjected themselves to an annual day of deprivation.
What an unnecessarily huge responsibility. It like the advertisements for women to use heart healthy cooking oil to save their husband’s hearts. It’s always the woman’s responsibility – whether it’s the cooking medium, or keeping the fates happy. Men don’t need to look after themselves, after all their wives do this tamasha, so what have they got to worry about?
I’m not quite sure why this festival irritates me – as I generally enjoy very many mindless festivities, from praying to Saraswati for good grades, to painting Easter eggs, to eating unnecessarily large meals at all festivals of all religious denominations. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the man-woman equation at all, but because it is a festival about ‘not eating’. I find that outrageous. Although I have never minded fasting for Krishna’s birthday or on Ram Navami. Perhaps it’s the mindless dressing up – again, not really true, I love dressing up. Perhaps it’s the thought that a society that finds a day of not drinking water and eating nothing a cute little custom whereas to me it borders on the barbaric, and shows that Sati cannot be far behind in being seen as acceptable and desirable. It is a human rights violation and I would like to see it banned.