It’s the day of Karva Chauth and I too have my own private ritual. This ritual is not a one day affair but starts a week before the festival and ends when everyone finally satiates their aching and grumbling stomachs and peacefully goes to sleep. If you haven’t already cracked my cryptic clues and guessed my ritual, here it is: every year, without fail, I question the importance and relevance of this festival!
I can almost hear you saying, “Bah!, what’s new? This has become an annual past time of an increasing number of women.” Well, in that case I am happy to join the bandwagon.
I remember the times when in my younger days, my need to question and argue about this issue was so unbearably uncontrollable, that the opinions would come flying out of my mouth like several Ussain Bolts simultaneously running a hundred meter sprint. These conversations (to put it extremely mildly) were held with my female friends who had been religiously celebrating this festival for several years. It used to be quite an engaging match of ping-pong, which often momentarily ended up with several physical manifestations such as tremors all over the body and increased pulse rates. Of course, as mature adults (this time not putting it mildly), we would quickly change the topic and move on to discussing other mundane issues where all of us were one hundred percent on the same side.
If I were to gather and concretize all my opinions and viewpoints about Karva Chauth into one single concern it would be this:
Consciously and subconsciously, this festival symbolizes and emphasizes the deeply engrained belief that it’s the man of the house, and only him, who is important, deserving, superior and worthy enough to be put up on a pedestal.
Many of us choose to ignore or deny this fact and justify these rituals as harmless traditions reminiscent of our rich cultural heritage. I beg to differ (to again put it mildly).
Many justify that their husbands too keep a fast on Karva Chauth. Well, that’s a great gesture. But then it’s just that…a gesture in order to give their wives company and to morally support them to perform their religious duty as a wife. Fair enough, but personally I won’t count this as a reciprocating act of camaraderie unless the husbands too do the whole nine yards.
A number of women in urban India celebrate Karva Chauth mainly because of the fun and enjoyment of once again dressing up like a bride and the importance and the attention that they are showered upon by everyone in the family. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate, but do we really have to put our husbands on a podium for experiencing the euphoria?
If you ask me, just the fact that a woman gives birth to a baby qualifies her to take the place on a pedestal…and if it’s a natural delivery, atleast once every month.
On a more serious note, many of us are aware of Subliminal Advertising. It’s a trick advertisers use to promote their products by putting hidden messages or figures in their ads and flashing it for less than a second, thereby targeting the subconscious minds of consumers without their knowledge. Regular exposure to these subliminal messages eventually drives the consumers to buy that product. I consider it as unethical, manipulative and deceptive, as it’s done intentionally, with an ulterior motive and by keeping the person in the dark.
My worry is that by carrying out and celebrating rituals that project men as the superior species and putting them on pedestals, we unknowingly spread biased and derogatory subliminal messages to our kids that would subtly but unmistakably form firm impressions on their young minds.
Imagine a young boy who has grown up thinking that he is superior like his father, grandfather and uncles, stands up and proclaims that only he and not his sister should get the best and the gooiest part of the chocolava cake, because he believes with all sincerity that as a boy he is more deserving than his sister. That’s a scary picture. But what is scarier is that the sister doesn’t stand up and objects, because obviously the subliminal messaging has worked on her too.
Am I being too melodramatic? May be, maybe not. But for the sake of a better, equitable and tolerant society, isn’t it our duty as thinking citizens to seriously question the relevance of some of these customs and traditions and discard them or improvise upon them.
Why can’t we start new festivals that are more meaningful and relevant to our times, that can strengthen social bonding by bringing together people across religion, caste, gender and marital status?
It’s a noble gesture to fast and pray for someone’s safety and longevity. But if this gesture is done for the right reasons and for the right persons, irrespective of their gender, it would be more meaningful and satisfying. If there’s someone who definitely needs our prayers for safety and longevity, it’s without doubt, our soldiers, who put their lives on the line on a daily basis. It will be a humble gesture to the sacrifices they make so that we can enjoy the freedom of our mundane chores without any fear.
Breaking News: Karva Chauth is being celebrated throughout our country by men and women alike for the safety and well-being of our soldier.
How’s that for a change!