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Women take a stand, stop Karva Chauth

It's nothing but a personification of a foolish woman who blindly does what custom dictates.

 |  4-minute read |   29-10-2015
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Rainy days always make me crave samosas with hot tea. So, I fried some of those frozen, small potatoes filled little zingers and I sprawled out on the couch reading and eating. I do enjoy my two most favourite hobbies.

I was revelling in the moment when the doorbell rang shrilly and insistently. I reluctantly went to answer it.

On the doorstep, were a few of the Indian women from my neighbourhood.

I was still holding my half-eaten samosa in my hand when they barged in and started talking at the same time.

Something about eating before sunrise, then later again after moonrise, music, fun, dressing up and a party.

It slowly dawned on me what they were talking about: the primitive yearly ritual of Karva Chauth. I think Punjabis do it best and Bollywood has immortalised it.

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"I don't do that. I don't believe in it," I inform them. I ignore the gasps, the expressions on their faces and the sneaky glances at the samosa in my hand.

I feel the weight of their judgment. I feel their self-righteousness.

I don't budge. I never have been persuaded by any argument that has been presented to me throughout the 25 years of my marriage.

I believe that you need to be sane, balanced and functioning to take care of your family. Starving yourself to show your mother-in-law that you are a dutiful caring wife is ludicrous. There are many other ways of being a devoted wife.

It's a backward, regressive custom, steeped in superstition and showmanship. Who has the better sari? Better thalis? Better food? Better music for the celebration?

It's a meaningless traditional ritual that enslaves women and chains them to a myth of them being docile, meek, sacrificial tokens to pacify the angry God, who will grant longer lives to those husbands whose wives do not eat for a few hours.

This isn't what a portrait of a good wife. It's a personification of a foolish woman who blindly and unquestioning does what custom dictates.

How is this different from stringing up a few lemons on a thread with a few chillies? That stops bad luck in its tracks?

Ladies, drink that cup of tea or coffee and wake up. It's 2016. People have gone to Mars. And the moonwalk was years ago. These are planets. They have no special power to grant your beloveds longer lives.

This Karva Chauth is a tool to suppress you. It's old-fashioned nonsense like walkng three paces behind your husband. Like not going to the kitchen when you have your periods.

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Indian men love weak women. It makes them feel powerful. They love saving damsels in distress and that light-headed feeling that you get while you are starving, makes them want to protect you and they feel positively heroic. Bollywood heroic. That's just silly.

And don't be naïve about the economic realities of Karva Chauth. It's a big marketing day for the food stuff, the saris and the big ticket items like gold jewellery.

No one cares about you, you're just the pawn in the high drama. All that jazz with the pujas, the thalis, the sisterhood and the stories of devout wives, you actually buy the stuff?

I am all about choices for all women and I am totally supportive of yours if you really believe that being hungry will add years to your darling's life.

But I ask that if you really want to want to fast for your cause, then do it honestly. Do it with positivity and happiness.

Don't whine and moan. It's just unattractive and annoying. Cut out the drama, don't lie on the bed like a beached whale and complain. Don't snap at people. Don't be frustrated. Because all that makes it an exercise in futility.

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If you do it, mean it.

Understand this: Karva Chauth does not make you a better person. It does not make you morally superior. It was a tradition in the old days best captured in Amar Chitra Katha comics when husbands went to war and the wives stayed home and some haggard witch thought up a plan to make the beautiful young women suffer.

Today, we are fighting for equality and we are holding high positions in every field. We are working 70-hour-weeks and doing ground breaking work, we are travelling, we are in meetings and making presentations. It's unrealistic to starve. Are the men doing that for you?

Everyone is standing up for their rights. Everyone is speaking out against injustice and supporting causes. They are believing in issues. Just look at the incredulous movement happening in India with writers, journalists and scientists returning their awards to the government in protest.

Take a cue from them and return that thali to your mother-in-law, ladies. Now.

Writer

Sonia Chopra Sonia Chopra @soniachopra28

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Ohio. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Newsday, The Orlando Sentinel, Salon.com, Rediff,com, India Abroad, Indian Express, Firstpost.com, and The Quint.

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