Last week at a salon I was wallowing in the luxury of a 'deluxe' pedicure, when the pedicurist whispered that they had a Karva Chauth special.
[I get very irritated by this hard selling of their packages. Go for a head massage and they will say "Ma'am you feet NEEDs a pedicure. Go for a haircut, they will say ma'am you are going bald and need an ultra-ozone-olive oil-steam-hair-scalp treatment. So on and so forth].
I snapped (a trifle harshly), "I am a BONG. We donot have karva chauth. We never fast and never have to. Thank God. They poor pedicurist crumbled into hurt silence (but thankfully continued with the pedicure with as much care as before).
On my way to office yesterday, I saw makeshift mehendi stalls dotting the roadside. And office WAS different yesterday. It WAS full of beautifully dressed women. In sarees, mehendi on their hands, all a-tinkle with bangles and earrings. All joyously observing Karva Chauth. Which in effect meant they were fasting for the long life of their husbands, and dressed in their best. And so happy about it. Not even a drop of water. Till moon rise. When they will (here there is a variation. Some do and some don't), look at the moon through a sieve and then at their husband. And break their fast.
I remember, from way back, when I was in school, one morning, the ferocious Mrs. G, our hindi teacher, swished into class in a dark violet silk saree with silver zari border, large earrings, 2 pinks spots of rouge on her cheeks. Zapped, we burst into "happy birthday to you..." and sang it with great gusto, if not tune. She beamed at us through it all and then said it wasn't her birthday. Oh. Happy Anniversary. No, not even that. Then?????
She coyly (very coyly) announced it was for Karva Chauth! The first I had ever heard (well maybe I had heard it before) but came to know that it meant something special. But then being a bong, it was not in the Bengali scheme of things where any thing special meant food, food and more food.
I had always found KC rituals a bit strange. What is this fasting for husbands,who were hale and hearty anyhow? And then what is this looking at the moon through a sieve etc. This probably stemmed from the numerous hindi movies where there was (and continues to be), along with the mandatory Cut to Switzerland for a song, a karva chauth scene.
Quite unintentionally, I was well dressed yesterday with (I sometimes get that right), matching accessory. I was asked quite a few times if I was fasting. I repeated the entire thing about being a Bengali and not having to fast except on one's wedding day, when the groom and the bride and the person giving the bride away fast till the wedding is over.
But that changed on seeing my colleagues obvious pleasure at it all. Some even said that their husbands too were fasting (to give moral support to their wives)! Couple of years back, on another KC, back in Calcutta, I was standing on the landing in the evening when Mrs K and her short, podgy Mr. K came down the stairs from the terrace (after the sieve and moon thingie), Mrs K smiling coyly and Mr. K looking sheepish when I smiled at them. They were so sweet - that podgy pair!!
No, it doesn't inspire me to keep a KC. But generally, not be dismissive of it. I didn't think it correct to mention that not only was I not fasting, I had infact, the previous night, cooked 2 kilos of meat ahead of a small gathering of friends, on the following day.