So I kept the Karwa Chauth- my first ever, obviously.
And it led to this host of questions arising in my mind, and questions about why the questions came (sounds convoluted- believe me, it was even more confused in my mind).
Firstly, I wanted the questions not to come. I wanted to accept totally and with complete faith the institution of the Vrat, and the idea behind it. I wanted to be any one of those millions of Indian women who take it as their unquestioned duty (and privilege- after all, what higher privilege than being married and showing it) to do the Vrat. I wanted that mindlessness, that total faith, that complete acceptance.
In parts of North India (especially the Punjabi belt), the Karwa Chauth is no longer just about the vrat itself. It has been totally commercialized- look at the millions of advertisements in the national print media. It has become the occasion to flaunt your saree, wealth, status- or who got the bigger, better gift from their husbands (Dah-ling, a saree...you can wear it the next time I take you out in the car I got...)
But then- I think Punjabis have a penchant for turning every occasion into a reason to flaunt themselves (considering that I am one, I know ;)
I kept asking myself, why the vrat? Does giving up food and water for one day really make your husband live longer, make him richer and happier (In my case- he would probably be happy if I gave up food forever- considering my weight ;)
Or as the feminist junta is quick to point out- you don't see men doing the same for women (apart from, of course, the two most important men in my life- Shahrukh Khan and my husband (in that order). My better half offered to do the vrat with me- for my longevity and happiness, since he is as much of a feminist as I am. Maybe more- I just sit and crib about the state of Indian women, he says we should do something about it.
However, the presumption here is that most Indian men don't care about their wives living longer, or being happier. I am sure that they do-only they are not expected to keep a strict fast to prove the same.
And yet... I did it. Did I do it because I am Indian? Because I have internalized certain norms of behavior, which I will feel guilty about not following?
Maybe my reasons are the same as everybody else's. I do want to die a suhagan, but mostly because I know, living without him is a pain I cannot bear. Because I would willingly give up the last drop of water if it makes him live longer.
Because it makes me a part of this larger community of Indian women who kept the Karwa Chauth. I was imagining a globe, with Indians in scattered parts- from Kenya to Canada- women all over who did the vrat. Wherever an Indian woman is, the Karwa Chauth is an essential part of her being married. So I kept imagining random dots in sarees waiting for the moon rise. And I was one of those sprinkled dots.
And lastly- because of Kajol and Shahrukh Khan.
Because, to this day, this moment, I can never hear the following lines and not cry. Itne saalon se, isko sun ke aajtak aankhon me paani aata hai
"Tere haath se pee kar paani,
Daasi se ban jaaun Raani"
I just believe in this. Totally. Unquestioned. Completely. Kajol believes in it because she loves him- totally.
It is only love that matters.
"Har shaadi ki buniyaad sirf beinteha mohabbat honi chahiye"
(again, SRK in KANK)
Then, the Karwa Chauth becomes a true prayer. Not because you have to do it, but because you want to. Because its not a tradition, it is a choice.