2018 Relaunch 7-years-after-this-post edit: At this juncture in my life (& I have no crystal ball to tell you about the future), I have no desire to be dating/in a relationship/with a life partner/married or have kids. For the first time (& after 20+ years of caring so much about this as the “end-all-be-all” life goal), I don’t care at all and am fully engaged in a relationship with myself. I love my own company, feel no lack, and – accordingly – feel complete and whole on my own; it is an absolutely revolutionary feeling and I wish I could have known it in my 20’s. More on that later…
Fasting – to find a husband/for your husband…
Before anyone gets upset at me over this post, when it comes to religion, spirituality, politics, and everything in between, we all believe in different things and practice those beliefs differently. This post is about my beliefs with no disrespect intended towards anyone or any assertion that my beliefs are right and that anyone else’s is wrong, especially considering that every woman in my family believes in fasting and my mom is probably the most die-hard of them all. Having said that, I know this post will still run plenty of people the wrong way.
I’m writing this post in light of Karva Chauth yesterday. I wished my mom a “Happy Karva Chauth,” saw countless posts from friends about Karva Chauth – some about people celebrating their first, others wishing their friends/family a Happy KC, as well as a handful of posts from women (& the occasional guy) asking “why the Karva Chauth fast was for women & not men?” – and the latter made me think to myself if I get married one day, am I going to celebrate Karva Chauth…?
The thing is that even though I know that “life isn’t fair,” ever since I was a little girl I wanted everything to be fair (my moms says it is because I’m a Libra) and needed to know that there was a reason I was doing whatever it was that I being asked to do… For example, I was hyper-aware that it was “unfair” that I had a certain lifestyle and kids that I saw on the streets of India when I visited didn’t, that some teachers played favorites (even when I was one of them), and that my mom was always doing some kind of fast or another for either luck/the fruition of some request from God (“making deals with God” as I have always called it), the wellness/long life/prosperity of my dad/me & my brother or just because you were “supposed” and my dad never seemed to fast for her, anyone or anything.
From pretty much 7 years old to present, I have always annoyed my mom asking her questions like why she fasted on Karva Chauth and daddy didn’t? Did God really care that I went without food for some period of time and where was it in the Hindu handbook that said that women had to do all these things – or at least more of them and that men didn’t? Didn’t God have bigger fish to fry than worrying about whether I did or did not eat meat on any particular day of the week and wouldn’t it be of more importance to him that I focused on being a good person versus keeping track of the infinite number of rules and rituals that supposedly make a person a “good Hindu.” & why was it that so many of my then fellow teenage Hindu girlfriends did week-long fasts in hopes that they would get a “good husband” one day but none of my guy friends fasted in hope that they would get a “good wife? Oh & why do women in India wear white after marriage but men don’t stop wearing colour? & why way back in the day did women self-immolate by joining their deceased husbands in their funeral pyres?
Yep, that’s a lot of questions so you can only imagine the conversations that were had in my house growing up. Now don’t get me wrong… there are plenty of ritualistic things/”holidays” I do believe in; for example, the Hindu wedding ceremony (the mutual honouring of the husband-wife relationship), Raksha Bandhan (the mutual honouring of the brother-sister relationship), Diwali, Holi… hmm… Havans (I love havans because I grew up with them & the amazing Auntie who led them wouldn’t make us memorize mantras, but understand their meaning and relevance to our lives instead), any ritual/ceremony done for my nephew (because of how much it means to my parents & b/c it is about HIM), and I am obsessed with all of our scriptural stories (I own both the Vishnu Puran & Maharabarath DVD collections and watch them in lieu of regular TV) less because of the specific stories/characters in them but what the stories teach us. I also have pictures/murtis of various Gods in my apartment and am always rocking my Om (“) bling & Ganesh necklace; however, I believe/am interested in all of the above because of what they honour or the meaning behind them makes sense to me. For example, on the Ganesh necklace & murti that I have, I like the visual not because I believe that he is the remover of obstacles but as a reminder that I am the remover of my own, and when it comes to the Om symbol, I can’t deal with all the designs who wear Om paraphernalia or have Om tattoos but couldn’t reference one of its infinite meanings.
Anyway, this was supposed to be about fasting; I have done lots of things like given up eating meat or drinking alcohol for months at a time (earlier this year, I gave up alcohol for 7 months) to know that I can, but I have personally never fasted for religious/spiritual reasons and I’m not sure if I ever will; unfortunately, in spite of her best efforts, my mom who seems to fast every week could never get me enrolled into the “why” of fasting. Having said that though, if I get married one day to a North Indian guy and him, his mom, and/or my mom insist that I do Karva Chauth, I happily will; however, it will be because of what it means to them – there are lots of things we do for the happiness of others & I’m completely okay with that. Just like I’m not a fan of Hallmark holidays (whoever came up with a day for every relationship & especially Valentine’s Day is a genius), there will never be a day that I won’t be wishing for the safety, longevity & prosperity of my husband, so for me, no special day will be needed.
To the women who celebrate Karva Chauth, again, I respect your beliefs and practices so this was not intended negatively towards them as there is no right or wrong when it comes to these things – just opinions. & on that note, I’d like to end with the opinion of a married “pakka” (very) North Indian guy friend of mine that he shared on FB: “It is the 21st century, people… Karva Chauth should be observed by both sexes, if at all… Men out there, be a support to your wives!” I know lots of guys here and in India who fast with their wives on Karva Chauth and if that is what it was all about (read: fair because it mutually honoured both partners), I would totally support it.
Thanks always for reading & write soon,
One of the things about equality is not just that you be treated equally to a man, but that you treat yourself equally to the way you treat a man. ~ Marlo Thomas
When two people marry they become in the eyes of the law one person, and that one person is the husband. ~ Shana Alexander, State-by-State Guide to Women’s Legal Rights, 1975
quote: “Having said that though, if I get married one day to a North Indian guy and him, his mom, and/or my mom insist that I do Karva Chauth, I happily will; however, it will be because of what it means to them – there are lots of things we do for the happiness of others & I’m completely okay with that.”
You shouldn’t do Karva Chauth for anyone else even your husband or inlaws if you don’t believe in it. This is one of those rituals that should come from the heart. In my opinion it is actually worse to do this if you truely in your heart do not believe in it. As a guy I would fast with my wife too if she chose to do so…
Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I would imagine that my future husband (always funny to talk about considering I’m single :-P) wouldn’t ask me to do Karva Chauth knowing that I didn’t believe in it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom or his mom did. & there are tons of things that I do for my mom for her happiness because she believes in them; the simple act of me doing some ritual of importance to her means so much to her that I go through the motions of that ritual and she is completely okay knowing that I’m just doing it for her sake.
I can’t imagine being so “I don’t believe in what you’re asking me to do” with my mother in-law or actually, I would just never say that to her, so if she asked me to do Karva Chauth or some other ritual – whether it be at our wedding ceremony or the bazillion other opportunities for ceremonies after that – I would happily & quietly oblige.
Like I said, I respect everyone’s beliefs even if I don’t personally believe in them so I don’t think it is wrong to do something for the sake of someone else.
I understand what you’re saying SM. Some times in life you just have to do things to make others happy especially if you can do so without affecting you in anyway. This is especially true if family situations where things can get complicated often especially in large Indian families unfortunately. Since the main cultural significance of Karva Chauth has been historically to been to create greater bonding between a girl and her inlaws, this is even more especially true. You are gracious and very obliging to be willing to do Karva Chauth. You definitely deserve a guy who will be worth it! 🙂
Thanks Gaurav – that is very sweet of you 🙂
I am sick and tired of Indian patriarchal culture and customs and refuse to participate in karva chauth ever even if it is very important to my mother or in-laws. They can go to hell for all I care. It is totally against my feminist principles to even consider praying for husband’s life when there is no similar custom that honor/value my life/dreams/aspirations which are different from producing a male heir. I would rather divorce the guy who expects me to fast for karva chauth or change my last name, he is not the right guy for me. I saw my grandmother widowed at 36 continue living her life for next 50 years wearing white, giving up onion/garlic/non-veg and got absolutely disgusted by a culture that places such customs only on woman and not the man. I was born in India, came to US for my undergrad studies and continued working here for last 7-8 years, so definitely fall under the FOB category but I cannot bring myself to believe/follow such Indian customs.
Interesting blog post nevertheless, glad someone wrote about it. I too saw my ivy-league friends announcing their karva chauth plans on FB and was kind of shocked. Jeez, I am such a mis-fit for my skin/origin/religion.
Hey SM, this is such an interesting post and I’m starting to get addicted to your blog! Your blog post reminded me of the concept of Rakhi – sister’s tieing Rakhi to their brother’s hands – a symbol of the sister’s prayer for their brother’s well being. I’m Telugu and so we don’t practice this tradition in our culture. But my cousin’s husband is Punjabi – and while they are not religious by any means, my cousin’s Mother-in-law does like to continue the Rakhi tradition including with my cousin’s kids (my 8 year old nice and 5 year old nephew). My cousin told me a few months ago that she was happy to do this, but she makes sure that my 5 year old nephew also ties a Rakhi around my 8 year old nice’s wrist and prays for her well being too. I was so impressed that my cousin (an ultra feminist) is taking a tradition and molding it to what she believes in and is teaching this to her kids. This is the beauty of the freedom’s an opportunities we are given and this is a prime example of how we mold traditions to conform to societal progression.