Friday, 28 June 2013

Man, Woman and Religion - Part II

When it comes to fasting, nobody can beat Eastern UPites and Biharis. As it is dates on a Hindu calender look and sound like something sacred, as if there is some event/fast/festival everyday. Sample this: Parva (i.e 1st ), Dooj (2nd), Teej (3rd), Chauth (4th) etc.  For our folks, there are dozens of fasts each year, nearly all of them meant for husband and/or sons. It is also quite interesting that almost all of them require women to fast for 24 hours straight, some even longer without even drinking water.

When Karvachauth is in the air and someone expresses her worries about how she is going to cope up with fasting whole day, I laugh heartily (and secretly). For she does not know she is blessed to not have to cope up with Haritalika Teej,  a 24 hour-without water fast in a hot and humid August-September, as opposed to Karvachauth which falls close to Diwali, at the doorstep of winter, and you get to eat in the evening. I have grown up watching my mom do Teej every year with ease. (I admit that I liked it, so much that I secretly wished to get married soon and do it. And I do it!)

Fasts are actually meant to cleanse one's system physically as well as spiritually. Only if you do them properly. But some women take them so seriously that they would ignore health issues, doctor's advise or worse, their own babies. I have heard my mom often telling me how she used to put wet cloth over the bellies of her many 'Bhabhis' who would be either carrying or would have small babies who needed to be breastfed. Imagine not eating or drinking anything in that condition for 36 straight hours.

Though my mom-in-law is strict stickler to 'husband-and-son' fasting, I have heard her complaining about how all our fasts are without water while the more glamorous Punjabis and some others have fasts where they eat more than they would on a normal diet.

And I have never come across a man asking a woman to fast for him. It is the doing of women themselves. How did it all begin? I would love to know.