I got married in 2004 , but started celebrating Karwachauth only two years later. I did attempt to observe the fast and indeed stayed hungry till the evening ( both the times ), but gave up on the idea after the evening. Both the times , I was away from home, in a strange setup, and couldn’t really follow it through. The third time, though, I could finally “complete” the fast as my husband insisted on us observing it! Serving in a field area, and perhaps feeling the pangs of separation, it was he who reminded me that Karwachauth was approaching. ( He, who had once forced me to eat when I attempted to fast on a Thursday) . I was expecting my first child and was at my parents’ place at that time. Fresh love, intensified by distance, made me declare valiantly to my mother “I will be fasting on Karwachauth this year!” Valiantly, because everyone in my family knew that hunger and I were not the best of friends. In fact, once, after being goaded by our family pandit for quite a few years, I gave in and started “fasting” on Thursdays; couldn’t last for more than a couple of months,though. Throughout the day, I would torture everyone around me , giving them “weakness” looks. After I had gorged on Besan laddoos, milk, sweetened paranthas at night, I would go through the food sections of various magazines and show my mother the delicacies that I wanted to eat the next day. Just dreaming about them made me survive the nights. So you get the drift? That I am not a “fasty” kind of a person.
Coming back to my first Karwachauth, the day saw me devouring milk and fruits through the hours. The circumstances helped, as I was an expectant mother and couldn’t possibly remain hungry. But my husband, he didn’t even have a drop of water the whole day! Surely, that’s the kind of love that inspires poetry ( He will kill me for writing this here). And now, after thirteen years of marriage; he comes back home from his office, eats his lunch, burps, and says “Hey, have you eaten? I didn’t see you eat.” Then, he looks at me innocently when I give him looks that could kill.
I am a garhwali, and garhwalis don’t celebrate Karwachauth. But my mother did, despite the fact that Dad hated her fasts as he believed that fasting had messed up with her health. Though even she would eat fruits and drink milk through the day. She would remind me every year to buy a Karwa, dress properly and perform the pooja in a proper manner. But for me, it was more a celebration than a ritual. I would dread her phone calls the entire day, because she would enquire whether I had read the katha and bought all the necessary items for the pooja. A confession here- I never read the katha , because once as a kid, when I had read it out to my mother, I had found it totally unbelievable.
So, my husband and I continued with our celebrations for a few more years as we were living together in a peace station. We either went to a restaurant or ordered in. Really, when I look back now, it seems to me that we were enjoying the special fasting food more than anything else. Then he went away on a field posting and my fasting became even more customized. I would quickly light a diya and pray, in t-shirt and pajamas; and would call out to my house help in a “weak” voice, to quickly provide some food and save me ( on the verge of dying of hunger). The hubby, bless him, would somehow manage to give a call from far flung mountains and together, we would “look” at the moon and eat. He was definitely better at fasting than me, no doubt about that.
Now, the Karwachauth of 2017 :-
Me: Karwachauth is approaching.
Hubby : But you have to take medicines. You are definitely not staying hungry.
Me : But it’s “our” celebration !
Hubby : We will definitely celebrate. We will eat poori, aloo and kheer at night.
Me : But how can we just stop fasting?
Hubby : “Fasting”, did you say? When did we do that? All I remember is the “Eating”.
Me : To tell you the truth, I was never convinced about the regressive idea behind the festival.
Hubby : But you have to touch my feet in reverence, you never did do that. That will make me believe that you look up to me.
Me : Only when you touch my feet too. I too, like being looked up to!
Husband : So, it’s decided then. We are not fasting. Bring on the Pooris!
And so, a chapter in our lives closed this year. We are officially “off” Karwachauth . But we still celebrated. We ate. We smiled and laughed. We pulled each other’s leg and teased each other. I know that he will fight the devil to bring me back from hell, if need be. And I will do the same for him. Hey! isn’t that the essence of the festival? Maybe we did observe the “fast” after all!
© April 2018 Sapna Dhyani