Karwa Chauth: A Day In The Life Of An Indian Woman

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Her eyelids flap open. The alarm is cruel and harsh, but somehow, it doesn’t bother her today, for her soul is enveloped in a peaceful bliss, her mind is calm and her body is relaxed. She has woken as if suddenly life has been breathed within her, and any form of sleepy drowsiness cease to bother her. She is alive. It was a trait that she possesses since her childhood, and as if a secret deciphered along the long roads of time that she has ventured, she realizes that this very trait, of waking up with a jolt of excitement, that eradicates sleep to the very hilt, is something that everyone harbors and experiences. Especially the people who dwell amidst the Indian culture, for this very culture calls for innumerable festivities and festivities call for infinitesimal celebrations. From her childhood to her youth, to being a married woman, she has always woken afresh, on days that mark the celebrations of a festivities. But she must have had slept only for a few hours. Midnight has just trespassed and the phenomenon of the dawn of the morning shall not arrive for nearly a few hours. Still, the household seems to be alive, as it always does, during afternoons. She can hear the rhythm of the kitchen utensils, clinging and clanging against one another, producing a soft notorious melody, that hits the right notes sometimes, but mostly irritates the living hell out of oneself. The floor is cold, and her feet instantly repel their very touch with the tilings, as she searched for the comfort of her slippers. As she stretches, rejuvenating herself with vigor, she notices a few packets, arranged in quite a disarranged manner, on the dressing tables. ‘Shringar’, the word that strikes her mind, nearly escaping her mouth. What an endeavor it was, as she and her girlfriends, all grown up, and married, swept across the town, like they did, during their youthful days, embarking on a shopping spree. Her mother in law had told her a few days back, that though one can always discover the elder of the family, frowning and complaining, about the fashion inclinations of girls (those funny orthodoxy rants), this was the very time, when going and buying fashion accessories, dresses, and make-up goodies, was an essential must. Yes, she was, of course, delighted and instantly formulated a plan with her other girlfriends, who were also married, thereby being regarded the crux of this very festivity. But she shall unwrap the packages that boast of her shopping ventures, after a while, for at the moment, she must pay a visit to the kitchen, to decipher what’s transpiring there.

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While the entire house is engulfed in darkness, she tip-toes towards the kitchen, making her way towards the source of light, that she wants to approach, that guides her, that leads her. She remembers her childhood days: Her mother used to wake up early on this very day, making preparations of the festivity that lay ahead. Once she had asked her, what it was all about? What was the big deal? What was the name of this very festival? ‘Karwa Chauth’, she had told her, in her signature tone, that was not more than a whisper. ‘Karwa Chauth’, it is what she is going to celebrate today, with her beloved, with her dear ones, with passion and love, with a hopeful wait lest not forget an assortment of Karwa Chauth gifts, that tend to make the occasion all the more special. She was a little girl then, she was a woman until last year, today she something more than being a woman, today she is a wife. As she enters the kitchen, enveloped by a chain of thoughts, she faces her Mother in law, as she stirs something in a pot that’s perched upon the pan stove.

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Sargi. That’s the name. With the relentless persuasion of her Mother in law, she has freshened up, her face flawless without the aid of any makeup. That shall come later. ‘With time’, her mother in law lovingly proclaims, as she makes her sit on the dining table, placing the bowl of Sargi before her. It was a delicacy. Vermicelli pudding. But her scanning glance catches the sight of the bowl in which the Sargi has been served. Pure silver. Beautiful. She needs to know no more. It is a gesture of love from a mother in law to her daughter in law, a token of care, a memory that she shall bind herself with through the rest of her life. What she harbors within her at the moment, ‘gratitude’, she believes.

Time being static is an impossibility. The Sargi was delicious. Her Mother in law possesses the very same charm that reflected in the cooking of her mother. Her husband has left for work. She is a curious being. Four days back, she went upstairs to witness the full of the moon crown the sky. She already knew, that four days later, that is, today, she will fast. Fast for the long life of the love of her life, fast for his prosperity, fast was his well-being, fast for him forever being her beloved, fast to test her own passion and love, fast because her mother fasted, fast for every woman she knew fasted, fast because all the women in India fast, fast because she wanted to fast.

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Her husband leaves for work. She watches him, casting a longing glance. Her fasting has already begun and she realizes that today, time shall cease to pass, it shall be more like stagnant. Having savored the Sargi in the morning, she doesn’t feel hungry at the moment. Her mother in law told her a few minutes back, that she will be more than famished when the evening arrives – she will be exhausted to the core and yes, she did also mention, that on this very day, when your beloved is not by your side, and with hunger and thirst building within her, like a cyclone churning up, time will definitely slow down, in order to test her, with a form of sweet old misery. But like everything, it shall pass, and that too on a happy note. But she knows that she has a day ahead of herself. A long day, so to say. To tackle time, would be nothing short of being an ordeal because today, she can’t lay her hands on any household work that require completion, for on the occasion of Karwa Chauth, a woman who is fasting, is prohibited from doing any form of work and this, she believes is a blessing in its own terms. To kill time, she has made plans with her friends who are married, to gather together and enjoy the festivity. A congregation of women who are fasting, gathering together to celebrate, to dance, to rejoice their married life, to provide words to their life of love, to be best friend forever, to listen to songs, to dive in the task of the application of Mehndi, with beautiful designs adorning their palms, waiting for the residue of it to dry, waiting to discover whose color has matured the most, and dissolving themselves into the celebrations once again, waiting the time to pass them by.

The evening is on the verge of arrival, and with the arrival of it, her fast shall conclude. Her husband hasn’t arrived as of yet and at the moment she sits, observing her bridal dress that is spread like the beautiful wings of a butterfly, before her, on the bed. Those nostalgic memories of her wedding. She has to don her bridal attire today. It is a ritual. a compulsory act. A thought occurs to her, that perhaps Karwa Chauth is also about accepting the love that she shares with her husband, all afresh and rejuvenated. Perhaps, Karwa Chauth is the rebirth of one’s married life. She is famished. She believes she won’t be able to groom herself properly. Something within her is spiraling down, something that possesses a comic effect because once she thinks of her beloved arriving and the rituals ensuing, with he making her relish the first bite of the day, with his very own hands – that feeling that was once spiralling down, spirals up again and she is flushed to her cheeks with life. Now, she believes, she can groom herself well.

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Her mother in law has bestowed her with a beautiful offering. Now since she is all groomed up, beautifully dressed in her bridal attire, she comes forth a Puja Thali that her dear mother in law has prepared for her. It is a beauty, all hand crafted and decorated to the hilt. It is adorned by an aarti, the flame of it burns, as if hope and a holy booklet. Mantras, so to say. Traditional Indian sweets also bestow her Puja thali with their presence and accompanying it is a ‘sieve’, that’s right – a sieve, beautifully decorated and finally crafted. Since childhood, she has deciphered a fact, that states that the festival of Karwa Chauth is somehow synonymous to two entities. One is the sieve and the other is the moon. And though her husband is en route to home, she very well believes, that the moon shall not bless her with its presence like it always does, making women crave for it – that egoistic being – it is the master of its own will – it shall arrive when it pleases, while women shall stand on the terrace and in fields, with a sieve and Puja thali in their hands, awaiting its pending arrival, with their beloved by their side.

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The water from her Kalash pours down. The aarti sits stagnant on the base of her sieve and through the net of it, moments ago she had just witnessed the sphere of the moon that had finally bestowed her with its presence, along with the face of her husband, who stands looking hither and tither as if shying away from her. She has recited the necessary mantras, she believes she has done justice to the rituals of this very festival, and within moments she knows, she very well realizes, that her husband shall come forth and let her savor a bite of a sweet from his own hand, make her drink water, and then he – like he always does – on occasion such as this- surprise her with a piece of jewellery, but his love his all, and even a singular flower from him shall mean the world to her, and lastly they shall embrace, for which she has prayed for, hoping that it will last a lifetime.