It is that day of the year again when Hindu women, particularly the North Indian married ones, would dress up in all things traditional, sport mehendi in adventurous places and wait for the moon to emerge so that they can break their fast which they have kept to pray for the long lives of their respective husbands. It's Karva Chauth time, of course. It's a festival that, in the Bollywood-inflected imagination of the Indians world over, has come to represent the glory and sanctity, as also the love and the bonding, within marriage - of course, the heterosexual one.
Karva Chauth may be an annual feature but the debate over women fasting often leads to questions that are rather uncomfortable. It was understandable when we had a feudal society that was perpetually at war and women would naturally outnumber men by the sheer dint of staying alive. That women would be praying for the long, healthy lives of their menfolk was pretty much okay, because that was all they could do to prevent them from dying by hordes or losing a limb or two in battles in which they had no say.
But what about now, when India is the world's largest democracy, and where men and women are supposed to walk shoulder to shoulder, reach the goals together and share every burden of nation-building / family-making? Why should women fast as a matter of ritual, when men don't have to, even though no one is going off to wage a war (unless you're in the armed forces, of course)? Why shouldn't this aspect of our tradition be updated, much like many things else?
While feminists decry Karva Chauth as an inherently sexist and misogynist enterprise, which has little place in a modern society, what about those who want to straddle modernity with tradition, want to juggle the tug of lost laid down ritual with the pulls of the new age and the freedoms it promises?
Should men also fast alongside the women and make it a mutual, intrmarital affair, a solid occasion for some couple bonding, with some quick system cleanse thrown in to boot? Or, is Karva Chauth something that would lose its meaning (whatever that means) if it's messed with, if its mores undergo a radical reconfiguration, instead of total obliteration?
Can we have a Karva Chauth for the 21st century? By which we don't mean getting iPhone 7s as gifts from husbands, or wearing the latest offerings from Myntra or Jabong, but a festival that questions the very meaning and foundation of the institution of marriage, and leads to a renewal of vows as it were?
We opened out the debate to our readers. What they have to say would take you by surprise. Read on.
DailyO readers weigh in.
Ashwini Kamat: Why not? The fasting should be for life long harmonious company of each other rather than long life of the husband. So both should do it.
Valsalan Kanara: Stupidity, Bollywood films propagate this superstition for consumer market and pseudo morality.
Ekagra Priyadarshi: Is that even a question? If a person believes in the concept of praying and fasting for the long life of his or her spouse, he/she should without any gender barrier or compulsions. And men should keep it even if their wives don't.
Watch: Karan Mehra's wife Nisha Rawal will break her Karva Chauth fast while watching Bigg Boss 10