As A Married Indian Woman, Are You Also Expected To ‘Look Married’, And A Compulsary Karwa Chauth?

With marriage come a lot of expectations, especially from a newly wed Indian bride. Dressing up and looking a certain way, as well as fasting for the 'long life' of a husband are some.

With marriage come a lot of expectations, especially from a newly wed Indian bride. Dressing up and looking a certain way, as well as fasting for the ‘long life’ of a husband are some.

There are lots of things that a newly wed Indian woman is expected to do, and most of it includes being dressed in a certain way, at least for a few days after the wedding. After all, she must “look married!”

I faced the same dilemma and be it as it may, a lot of people expected various things to change about me, especially the way I dressed and talked after being married.

“You don’t look married”

The most classic question that I have been unable to wrap my head around, and pretty much never found a suitable answer to, has always been “you are married? You don’t look married!

The typical me would say, “Why? Is there a stamp for being allowed to legally sleep with your husband, that is reflected once married, which you are unable to see on me?” But I have never wanted to be cheeky, and chose to never quip back rudely so I laugh it off.

Take the hair for example. After growing my hair a little bit more than usual for the wedding, I cut it really short after the functions ended. Mostly because I have curly hair and maintaining a length with curls is a task in itself.

This led to shock waves across the aunty populace. Almost as if short hair and that too curly (“how could she not straighten it permanently, how dare she have so much confidence?”) was a curse and was completely disallowed; after all “baal toh ladki ka gehnaa hain”.

Now this is an uncomfortable place to be in. I don’t know about other women, but for me it was a shock of sorts. All of a sudden, there was inevitable policing in what colour I could and couldn’t wear, where my chooda was, and how I would take it off and put it on at my whim, and of course me just not acting coy and sweet, seemed to be everybody’s problem.

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I continued to dress the way I did before marriage – basics and even in white (“oh my god, what a bad girl“) typically because I was required to be dressed in black or white as a lawyer.

Fortunately, I continued to sail through, unperturbed with the craziness that engulfed me, clocking in hours at work, trying to build my practice as a lawyer.

The Karwa Chauth problem

Amidst all of this came my first Karwa Chauth.

When I got married, the first thing that struck my imbecile Punjabi mind was the following:-

  1. Will I have to wear the chooda (the beautiful red bangles Punjabi newly wed women wear) to work?
  2. Will I have to keep the Karwa Chauth fast every year? What if I’m at work on Karwa Chauth? “Hey, I can’t function without carbs!”
  3. Will Karwa Chauth entail putting on mehndi? I am a bit stuck up about having mehndi on my hands at work.

Now I have seen women in my family including my mother keeping the Karwa Chauth fast all through their lives. I used to adore seeing my mother and father on the terrace of our home, breaking the fast, looking at the moon. It was indeed romantic and served my impressionable girlish mind well. My mother, oh my god, how pretty she looked all dressed up! I would wait for Karwa Chauth every year just to see her look this gorgeous, sindoor and all.

Honestly, as a young girl, I was very up and about about fasting on Karwa Chauth and I couldn’t wait to pull off a Dilwale Dulhaniya Le JayengeRaj Simran fast with my future husband (yeah, the 90’s do that to you).

However, when push came to shove, I got married at a ‘suitable’ age of 27, when fortunately or unfortunately so, things made sense to me (and not). To be fairly honest, I believe I had finally become a wee bit mature, to understand things and take decisions at my own behest.

The idea of Karwa Chauth stopped making sense to me. With due respect to everyone’s religious and cultural sentiments, something inside of me questioned the notion of staying hungry for your husband.

Debating my choice – or lack of it

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I have fasted for a whole day in order to lose some quick pounds and all, and not eating or drinking for my husband’s life is not a problem at all. But my question has always been simple – Why only me? And till date, no one, not even the lovely ladies in my family have been able to answer it. Usually it’s: “why can’t you keep a fast for your dear husband just one day in a year?”

This usually ends in a debate about the pros and cons of patriarchy etc. which is undoubtedly a no go zone in Indian households.

To be fair, I understand their reservations. They never questioned it, they believed in it, and so they followed it. Good for them. But this in no way takes away my right to question it. I might be wrong, even blasphemous according to many in doing so, but my argument has always been that my parents allowed curiosity to prosper all through my budding years. How and why does anyone expect this curiosity to question and find answers to anything and everything that does not resonate with me to die just because I am now married?

Also, I do not understand why one woman’s choice to perform the fast on Karwa Chauth out of her own free will or choosing not to fast is any different. After all, it’s about choice. The choice to comprehend, the choice to select and deselect and/or the choice to do or not do. How does a reasonable question, a curious inkling make any woman less ‘sanskaari’?

Luckily, my husband never had Karwa Chauth expectations and instead of succumbing to a fast himself to accompany  the ‘poor hungry me’, he simply stated he found no sense in keeping it at all, as it did not resonate with him either.

No, it’s not a ‘fad’ among ‘feminists’

A lot of women think that questioning this tradition of fasting on Karwa Chauth is the new fad amongst the crazy ‘feminists’.

A lot of people often say that we do so to ‘look cool’ and under the spell of advocating ‘women’s rights’. Many people even go so far as to say that “questioning cultural traditions is not feminism” and that the women of today have somewhat misinterpreted the notion. Some call our kind the “bra burning feminists”.

Indeed, questioning culture is not a definition of feminism. But neither is projecting your own definition of it on other women or men. To me, feminism is being myself, regardless of culture, religion, marital status, motherhood or success. If that entails being a curious woman with questions, I don’t see why that should stop me from joining the bandwagon.

I am personally all for Karwa Chauth as a choice, and I have no qualms with it (after all, you get to dress up too!) but if a lady chooses not to keep the fast, why are the women who fast judgemental towards the ones who choose not to?

I don’t think I can fast this year because I will be working for 12 hours straight on that day. How hard is that to grasp? Yes, I could have chosen to take a leave on that day and rested and fasted. I might even go ahead and do it with the work as well (trust you me, I really can survive that too!) but if I do not and I am open about the choice I make, why are there so many judgemental glances projected at me? And what’s with the uncomfortable silence that follows me when I say “no, I don’t fast”, that too from other ladies?

In all its glory, Karwa Chauth is a beautiful festival and I hope all you ladies who fast enjoy it and get to have a romantic dinner date with your dear husband to end it. As for me, I’ll still get dressed and get out for a dinner date with mine. You never know, I might choose to join the fasting bandwagon sometime soon too!

Image source: a still from the movie Ishq Vishq

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About the Author

Sanya Talwar

Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Consultant I Legal Journalist I Curious Cat read more...

4 Posts | 12,143 Views

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