O Re Manwa Tu to Baavara Hai, …….
Goonja sa Hai koi Ektara Ektara, Goonja Sa hai koi Ektara……
Humming to the melody of this tune being aired on the radio, driving my Stunner through the well lit streets of Shipra Sun City, I was caught by a culture shock yesterday. The scene before my eyes was colorful yet bizarre, orthodox yet beautiful. It was the night before “Karva Chauth”, a Hindu cultural festival in which the ladies fast for the entire length of the day, without food and water, for the well-being and long life of their husbands. Interestingly enough, the fast is broken by worshipping the husband in basking moonlight, a tradition which has roots in the ancient paternal society of India.
Coming back to the scene, well, it was around 10 in the night, and to my utter surprise, the markets were still open, and the streets were crowded with scores of women dressed in the most vibrant and colorful outfits, rushing towards the sacred “Mehandi Waala”. They were everywhere, on the streets, at the shops, trying to make maximum profit.
Coming from the heart of India, i.e. from Madhya Pradesh, I had only heard of the custom of Karwa Chauth and yesterday was a blissful surprise for me. What surprised me the most, is the fact that maximum people of my locality are working professionals, and the so called modern Indians, following the age old traditions, whether as a fashion or belief, in the name of religion or romance, with tremendous enthusiasm.
A liberal will slam this festival as a symbol of the age old superiority of the male over the female, so much prevalent in the medieval Indian society, an educated woman may have reservations about the age old belief in this tradition and intellectuals across the globe may find it impossible to comprehend the idea of the lady worshipping his man in the space age.
The Indian women deserve reverence as well as credit for keeping this illogical custom alive and vibrant, for it is they who hold our family and society knit together in the bond of love.
As for travelers like me, instead of debating the relevance of this colorful tradition, we should mark it as a festival celebrating the institution of marriage as a whole, acknowledging the role of both the man and the wife, irrespective of who is fasting or not, the celebrations should be there.
India seems to be echoing this transition and hopefully, will find a way, through festivals like these, to celebrate the marriage of progress with tradition, the very essence of its culture.