Why I Think Indian Women Should Not Fast On Karvachauth
Yesterday, my neighbour came to me, enquiring if I knew some good parlour near the colony, and I told her of one. She asked me curiously if I was going too for Mehndi, when it struck me that we have reached the day of most significant festival of women. I had completely forgotten that the big jazz festive reminder of patriarchy Karvachauth has arrived. Well, continuing with the neighbour thing, I refused elucidating my choices and the sundries of patriarchy which Karva bears. Fortunately enough, she didn’t push me into anything, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
But, I think, for a great majority of Indian women, there is no need to push them into it since they themselves are very exhilarated about it. The shopping, tangling bangles, gifts, stories, puja, saree, and often, gold, make this festival extremely jocose for Indian women. Also, it is a refreshment for their boring love lives, and of course husbands, some argue.
Personally, Karvachauth sends me chills. It horrifies me. The idea of fasting an entire day, for somebody who is supposedly my master, and I, his slave, torments me, even in dreams. The belief that my fasting would add certain years to my pati-parmeshwar’s life, makes me feel hysterical. When I look at my facebook account, or any site in general, I find pictures, glossy images of women wearing really heavy sarees, clad in jewellery, holding a sieve and looking at her husband, blushing. All the glamour and blushing literally brings my mind to a standstill. Not for its magnificence, but for its acceptance. This Karvachauth, I want every Indian women to realise that, Karvachauth is not about love, it is about subjugation. Let me explain, why:
- You were born as a female child, with the same hands, legs, face, as the male one. You differed only hormonally, mark my words. But, your birth was mourned at, and his celebrated. You were considered as a burden, a thing of trash, an object of pity by society, even your parents. The doctors said ‘Sorry’ to your family when you were born.
- As you grew, you learnt the art of capitulating, to the desires of your brother, to the commands of your father. You learnt that biologically you may belong to homo-sapiens, but socially you are a non-living entity. You are an object, and society is its owner. You attended school, where you were taught lessons of life, err patriarchy. You were bestowed with the entire human knowledge of accepting the second position in society. You could not play cricket, football or chess, since you had no brains assumingly. You were given barbies, doctor sets, and kitchen sets to play with, if you got one ever. Even worse, if there was only one glass of milk in the home, your brother had birth right over it, since you didn’t need to be strong. You needed to be protected, saved, and treasured just like a crockery set in showcase. Your brother was your guard, and each year on Rakhsha Bandhan you were reminded so.
- The most difficult time came when you reached the tender adolescent age. You were given numerous lectures about how not to laugh loudly, how not to sit with legs stretched, and how not to look at boys! The most awkward question of this age was when somebody asked you why you were carrying bag to the washroom, and you had no reply. The reply came from the boys of your class, who smiled at your embarrassment. The only tension was how not to get a single red spot on your white uniform. The most humiliating situation was when your male science teacher looked at your legs while teaching reproduction. Yet, you bore it all, with a number of sleepless nights
- Now, the young you, who is outwardly confident, yet shattered from inside, reach college. Here, you learn how to avoid, ignore all the comments passed at you. You ignore that someone was raped or molested in your college. You concentrate on your studies, make some friends, but not a boyfriend. Good girls don’t do that. Your father regularly harks back that you are his honour and you have to uphold it by marrying somebody of his choice. You learn the skills of being a woman who handles both office, and home. Here, you are in first step of becoming a modern woman.
- As you come out of college, a lot of proposals come for you. Buyers come, scan you from head to toe, classify your qualities like cooking, washing, obeying and one of them approves you, at a price, of course. Then, comes the grand wedding day, whereby you are sold to the next owner, from your father to your husband. You accept, get married, and try your best to be the perfect Indian daughter-in-law and wife, still your in-laws keep nitpicking about one or the other thing. Your husband adores you, your body, and asks you to leave your job because he earns enough. He cares for you and you love him enough to agree. You accept, move on, have kids, and spend your entire life with them. Your husband often attends parties, go for trips with friends, but you confine yourself to your kitty party for your family, forever.
A happy married family, isn’t it?
In these five stages of every woman’s life, what is common is acceptance. Acceptance, that you are an object of pleasure, pity, devotion, sacrifice, greed, hunger, and everything they please. But, you are an object. You give yourself completely to a society which makes you pity yourself. You surrender to a society which makes your child hates herself for being a girl. I ask thee, sacrificial, altruistic idol of worship, why doesn’t your patience break?
A great revolutionary poet said, “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” Many women claim that they are contented with their lives because they need safety from this misogynist, sexist environment, which their male counterparts ensure for them. It is from this modus operandi that a festival like Karvachauth is so overwhelmingly celebrated in our nation. The resounding belief that safety of Indian wives can only be ensured if their husbands are alive!
But, women fail to notice that it is because of sickening psychology of men, including their husbands, that they need safety in the first place. It is the ideology at hand, which subjugates women to the position of a sexual toy, that creates such an insensitive, unsafe atmosphere, where women certainly need safety. But, they seem to ignore the point that the world can only be safe if a lot of women come out of their kitchens and offices in large numbers to occupy streets, all day and all night.
Women, who have been considered the weaker sex, from thousands of years, need to destroy everything that makes them so. They must attack every form of oppression they are subjected to, including the sacred customs and laws of the great Indian culture. The rituals, like Karvachauth which intensify patriarchy must be kicked aside by women.
Karvachauth and the buzz surrounding it, make men, supermen. It reinforces in them the feeling of a spirited guard, who must enslave his wife to make her an ideal wife. The custom, instead of making dutiful, obedient, good Indian wives, makes pitiable, superstitious, foolish women. It is also far from scientific temperament, which proves that one’s life cannot be increased by fasting for a few hours. What kind of a God that would be which bestows some years upon a fragile human, just because his wife was hungry for a few hours! If that is the case, nobody should die until his wife has died, but data shows that men die earlier than women! Is there any explanation for it, the God of Karvachauth?
Ladies, break the fetters of patriarchy and see the world from a different lens. Let us innovate new ways of rejuvenating love, something more democratic, more lovable, and more egalitarian than Karvachauth. The society which said ‘Sorry’ at your birth, which failed you when you were trying to achieve your ambition, which treated you like a domestic animal, Fail it. Fail that society by not becoming docile, demure and obedient Indian wives, and win yourselves by being rational, confident, and political Indian women.
Nikita Azad is a student activist, gender rights activist from Patiala, Punjab.