3 modern Indian women on why they celebrate Karva Chauth
Reasons have changed but the tradition remains
Karva Chauth — aside from heated debates, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham reruns, and a cranky mother — also means your Facebook feed exploding with posts cheesier than Domino’s pizza. Strident feminists might say that a ritual with regressive patriarchal origins shouldn’t exist in the digital age, but clearly Millenials and their mothers-in-law are still willing to carry on with the tradition.
Historically, married women would get together on Karva Chauth to pray for the safety and long lives of their warrior husbands. Today, fasting won’t help your husband live a long life, but the detox might just help you prolong yours.
The conversation around Karva Chauth dances between blurred lines — conforming to a patriarchal construct v/s making an informed choice. At Tweak India, we believe that women should have the autonomy to make their own decisions, so we spoke to three modern Indian women who explained why they still celebrate Karva Chauth.
Do it for the MIL
Manisha Sachdeva*, 41
My mother’s side of the family doesn’t celebrate Karva Chauth. So, it was only when I got married that I was introduced to the concept. Luckily, I got pregnant the year I got married and didn’t have to go through the ordeal, but have been following it ever since. Except for last year – my mother-in-law wasn’t in town so I got a cop-out.
My husband doesn’t really care, but it’s my mother-in-law I do it for. She doesn’t expect me to carry out any other ritual throughout the year – no unnecessary pujas or random vrats – so I happily comply. But she meets me halfway too. Ideally, as the tradition goes, women aren’t supposed to eat or drink anything, but I am a working woman and she understands that. “Office mein paani aur nimbu paani peete rehna.”
To be completely honest, I don’t believe in the rationale behind the custom. But I do it to carry on the tradition for my mother-in-law. I think I can fast for one day for the person who wakes up before me to cook and pack my lunch dabba. It isn’t that big an ask.
A glorified detox
Shilpa Lakhani, 33
I have been married for six months — this is going to be my first Karva Chauth — and like most Indians, I was introduced to the concept through Bollywood. My family follows another festival called Teej, wherein both married and unmarried women fast. The married women do it for their husbands, and the unmarried girls are supposed to do it to be able to find a suitable groom. I’d do it as a child because it was something all the cousins would do together, but when I grew up and understood the connotations attached to it, I stopped.
I’m married into a Marwari family and my mother-in-law casually mentioned that Karva Chauth is in a few weeks, and I picked up on the hint. She did ask me if I would want to fast, and I didn’t think it was a big deal, and I said yes.
My husband was a little concerned – I get hangry if not fed at regular intervals. I’m travelling for work, but I’m cutting the trip short and flying back early for Karva Chauth. This worked out well for my husband, he doesn’t have to be at the receiving end of my food-deprivation fury. In fact, the second my mother mentioned that Karva Chauth was approaching, he checked the calendar and was super relieved that it was on a working day.
As far as believing in the origins of the custom is concerned, if it’s important to them (my husband’s family), I don’t see it as a problem. I don’t believe in it, but I’m okay with carrying forward the tradition. I’m just going to think of it as an annual detox and that might just prolong my life, if not my husband’s.
The Karva Chauth bomb that dropped before he put a ring on it
Anamika Malhotra*, 39
I have been married for 17 years now. Ours was a high-school romance, and we dated for about seven years before tying the knot. His family knew about us dating and I would visit his house frequently. I was even quite close to his grandmother.
When I was still in college, my now-husband came to see me after classes bearing a package. “Dadi sent this for you,” he said rather sheepishly. She had sent sargi (an auspicious token given by the mother-in-law to her daughter-in-law) for me. I died laughing and later got super weirded out. The rasmalai and mathri were over in a flash thanks to my perpetually hungry college friends. The problem arose when we had to decide what to do with the tiny vial of sindoor, which is a customary part of this token.
I couldn’t take it home with me but I didn’t want to return it either because it would be rude, so I took it home and hid it. And just like a Dharma production, my father found it, was livid and questioned me endlessly about whether I had eloped. So, that was my rather eventful introduction to the custom.
My approach is pragmatic. I don’t turn up to work looking like a Christmas tree or parch myself. My work involves interacting with people, so giving up water is out of the question. What I do like about this ritual is that it’s the one day that both my husband and I put in extra effort to be appreciative towards each other. It’s romantic. He obviously has never wanted me to do it or forced me to follow it, but it’s now one of those special days I look forward to. It fuels the romantic in me.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the contributor upon their request.