Women, How About Eating Some Lunch On That Thali?

30/10/2015 8:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
NARINDER NANU via Getty Images
Indian woman Chanda poses with earthenware lamps on the eve of the Hindu festival of Karva Chauth (Husband's Day) in Amritsar on October 14, 2011. Karva Chauth is a fast undertaken by married Hindu women who offer prayers seeking the welfare, prosperity, well-being, and longevity of their husbands. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

Rainy days always make me crave samosas with hot tea. So, I fried some of those frozen potato-filled little zingers and sprawled out on the couch to read and eat, 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 again after moonrise, music, fun, dressing up and a party.

"The bedecked woman gazing up at the moon through a thali isn't a portrait of a good wife. She's a portrait of a fool who blindly and unquestioning does what custom dictates."

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.

"I don't do that. I don't believe in it," I informed them, ignoring their gasps, shocked expressions and sneaky glances at the samosa in my hand.

I feel the weight of their judgement. 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 ritual that enslaves women and chains them to a myth of them being docile, meek, sacrificial tokens to pacify an angry God who'll grant longer lives to husbands whose wives starve themselves for the better part of a day.

The bedecked woman gazing up at the moon through a thali isn't a portrait of a good wife. She's a portrait of a fool who blindly and unquestioning does what custom dictates.

Ladies, drink that cup of tea or coffee and wake up. It's 2015. There've been expeditions to Mars. And the moonwalk was years ago. These are physical bodies. They have no special power to grant your beloveds longer lives.

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

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, the 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.

"Understand this: Karva Chauth does not make you a better person. It does not make you morally superior."

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.

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 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. Just look at the incredible 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.

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