Sometime last week…
5am Am I all curled up in my bed dreaming of the good life? Am I rolling in from an infamous bollywood party or am I sitting in a salwar kameez trying to guzzle as much coffee and water as my stomach can stand?
No prizes for guessing this one. I am one of the many fortunate women who get to stay hungry and thirsty all day in order to magically lengthen my other half’s life.
In ancient times, I can appreciate why one would enthusiastically undertake such a task. If you know that as soon as your other half pops it, someone is going to make you jump into fire and commit sati, I can completely understand the motivation to try any means to prolong your patidev’s lifespan but in 2013, when the unfortunate circumstance of your spouse’s demise merely frees you up to place ads in the matrimonial column, go to online dating sites and feverishly attend bar nites, the zeal for such taxing endeavours seems a bit extreme.
11am I call up the man of the house to complain about my near starvation ordeal. He listens patiently and then explains that as he is hanging off a window on some 18th floor, holding his mobile with one hand and trying to shoo away crows that are pecking him with the other hand, it may be slightly difficult to chat at this moment. I ask him if he can see the moon from his unique vantage point. I hear an eerie shriek and then a crash. Hmm... hope that was just his phone he dropped!
Noon My mind really needs a diversion. I call up other sacrificial victims like me and decide that there is only one thing that can take our mind off this torture — shopping!
1pm I am looking in the mall for my girl friends, when suddenly some unrecognisable women in mangalsutras and sindoor accost me and I realise that they are none other than my girlies, who have dressed up like true TV serial characters to appease the actual gods of karva chauth — their mothers in law!
5pm I need a mocha frappuccino (all cold and frosty) but instead I have to do some puja where I get to hear some disastrously off key songs about a king, a queen and their maid... seems a bit x-rated but who am I to fight tradition.
By now in case anyone was wondering why the men don’t have to fast for us, I have many scientific answers for them...
1. Women outlive men by 10 years. Which means that even after your wife nags you to an early death, she will continue to have a long and fruitful life.
2. Women have 30 per cent less chances of heart attacks than men. We specialise in causing them apparently.
3. The most scientific reason — a hormone discovered in all mothers in law that causes not just menopause but blindness to everything but the sun shining out of their sons ‘you know what’ which leads them to invent such rituals.
7pm Waiting for the moon and the man of the house to both appear miraculously.
9pm The moon has decided not to show up. I try astro app where stars can be plotted but even they can’t find the moon.
I think the entire nation’s mothers in law’s collective prayers to Satan, to hide the moon, have been answered.
9.10 I am standing on my rooftop in traditional clothes with a strainer of all things in my hand and the man of the house is eating laddoos and chattering away happily.
I look up at the night sky filled with sparkling stars and as my eyes adjust to the darkness, I can now see dozens of rooftops with women just like me, holding a plate and a diya, laughing and waiting for the moon. I realise something... We don’t do this fast because we truly believe that it will lengthen anyone’s life (though god knows, man of the house needs it, as jumping off buildings seems to have become a hobby) or that we even remotely believe that women are not equal to men. We do it perhaps because we believe in keeping a bit of our history; a little fragment of our culture and a link to our past all bundled up within this quaint little ritual.