Only few days ago, I was at home and I happened to come across an interesting thought. My grandmother was visiting us, and it was the day of Karva Chauth. She was performing her prayers for the day, and in the process, she called me to read the Karva Chauth story to her.
As I began to read, I was expecting it to turn out to be at least a fable, a tale preaching some logical morale at the end so that this day finally starts making sense to me. But to my surprise, the story was quite without a plot and there was no good end to it. So, after I read the mythological background of our present day modern reality (the most fashionable way to prove yourself right in argument in India these days), I still wasn’t satisfied. Because if we question the crux of Karva Chauth, then why is the life expectancy of Indian men so much lower (less than 70 years) compared to other countries where such traditions are not followed? This is itself a litmus test, a way to analyse the success of this custom. There is nothing wrong with carrying forward old traditions, but at least we should have a good logical reason for doing so, or be able to mould that tradition according to the changing demands of society. And if this particular day has any validity today, at all, then those people with no such process should not reap the same benefits we are hoping for.
Japan and Monaco are the top two countries with the highest life expectancy in the world, close to 85-89 years, and they don’t follow traditions like Karva Chauth. Do any ardent follower of this tradition ever question this reality? Did anyone question why men, or the population in general of India, have such a low life expectancy? It is because of pollution, increased cases cardiovascular diseases, diminishing physical activity, and other complicated health issues. We need to work on these issues, rather than taking a day off for prayers. One day of a prayer won’t balance the faulty lifestyle of ours. Or will it?
Well, a few more questions jolted my mind as I thought about the Karva Chauth story. The most interesting of them was why this traditions still exists if we are talking about breaking the locks of patriarchal mindset. We are promoting the idea of a 21st century woman and her successes, and yet allowing her to be chained by insignificant rules of “Patni-Dharam“, or a wife’s duties. And why isn’t there a rule for husband in this regard? There should be equality, if orthodox people are so hell-bent on following such silly age-old processes. But apparently our orthodoxy is all about making a woman a slave of her master—her husband! And most importantly, why is there a need of such a thing? Is it a clever ploy to submit the supposed-to-be-equal-relationship of marriage to master-slave dynamics? Well, whatever it is, I just know that my mom is beating this system. She just dresses up in new clothes and stays away from fasting, which I think is such a cool move to get the feel of the festival and still remain grounded to the reality.
Moving on, there was another interesting thing about this day is fast (which seems to be the highlight of the day) that I wanted to inquire about it. For this, I happen to talk my father about the need for a fast, and he happen to give a wonderful explanation. He told that sporadic fasting, at regular intervals, clears out the digestive system, and helps metabolism. If this is the case, why is there a need for just a single day to do a good thing for your body? Why not observe fast without waiting for a day in year to make a fuss?
Why do we ignore the reality and get ready to live our lives in oblivion? We may never know. But the one thing we surely know is that people will do anything in the name of tradition without questioning it. That’s how I spent my Karva Chauth, turning these questions around in my mind. I really hope that with our girls set to lead the world, we as boys should also start questioning the very one-sided, biased equation of the institution of marriage because of such customs.