Tuesday, September 11, 2007

If you don’t fast, will your husband die?

On Friday evening, I had gone out for aperitif with few of my co-workers to a cozy roof-top place in the vicinity of my office. It was a clammy evening so the Mojitos tasted like the “Holy Grail”. Needless to say, it was a fine soirée with a fascinating bunch of people. Since I had friends coming over for dinner that evening, I had to bid adieu to my work friends early. As it was time for me to leave, one person suggested going out again on Friday, September 14th. Here starts the story -- I explained the reason for my unavailability—“I have to fast on Friday. It’s almost a 36-hour long fast for my husband’s long life”. As I said that, I realized the faux pas in the statement. It was then that I realized that I almost felt like a sorceress—almost omnipotent. Have we (as in all Hindu women who fast for their husband’s good health and long life) been bestowed upon with these divine powers which I thought only the almighty had—the ability to be the creator and the ruler of the universe?

My riveting explanation got a second jolt when one of my co-workers, with utmost homage, astonishment, bewilderment and intrigue asked me “will your husband die if you don’t fast for him?” There is one thing I can vouch for my self-- I am rarely at a loss of words. More often than not, I have the response to the most Herculean questions. That evening, I was tongue-tied.

I have been more than candid about my reservations with these patriarchal traditions in today’s ever-evolving day and age. I emphasize on “today’s day and age” because these customs made sense centuries ago when male and female species had defined roles—the former was the bread-winner; the latter the home-maker. In today’s world, their lifestyles are very similar—they both go to work; in most cases, a woman does more chores around the house; not to forget, at least in South Asian culture, she is the source of bond for families on both sides. Yet, she is expected to fast for her husband’s “long life” and then for some inexplicable reason, cook a delectable meal to commemorate the occasion? Nice going! Shouldn’t men give obeisance to us splendid women instead?

My other issues with it—I have seen and interacted with enough women who are complete control freaks and figuratively speaking, have a rope tied around their husband’s neck. They nag and croak like a toad, spurting out furious words, day after day but won’t indulge in a sip of water when they keep these fasts. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Call me a skeptic, but I willing to bet my next paycheck on their husband’s willingness to live. Not just that, I have met enough couples where the husband treats his wife with utmost disrespect and her life seems like a cul-de-sac. Do you really want to pray for this monster’s well-being who treats you macabrely? Well, I’d be thinking voodoo kits. Then you come across the third category where the woman is ailing and on medication yet insists on abstention. So, the health had been failing for years; the coup de grâce was the water deprivation?

Maybe my opinion makes me sound like agent provocateur, but neither am I superstitious nor am I the kind to say c'est la vie. I believe both tradition and religion are not above humanity. You need to have faith to truly follow either. If keeping a 36-hour long fast doesn’t fall in tune with your own belief system, you shouldn’t do it; if it is something that you believe in, then nobody shop stop you. Hypocrisy, superstition and societal pressure shouldn’t be the reason.

Copyright © 09.11.2007

“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals” - Oscar Wilde

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

you go girl!!!! this was awesome. my favorte so far.

e said...

bravo! i give you standing ovation.

Anonymous said...

well said. i do it to keep traditions going. if i don't my children won't know anything about indian customs.

d said...

i do karva chauth and my husbands fasts too but i don't believe in it.

Anonymous said...

Splendid... Swets. Wish Romir would let me write more... but will save it for later. :)

peacelover said...

what about aish yaar? Do you think aish is the type to fast shast for abhishek bachnan? I say he should pray and touch this beauty queens foot yaar.

Anonymous said...

too good. just too good.

BCS said...

A disjointed rebel- that is how I look at it.Ever since the human civilisation,religions have outgrown to make a weak soul weaker.Why single out and denounce Hindu customs because you know A PART OF IT. From whatever source one can derive strengthn is his/her faith.