Can We Blame Karan Johar For This Pan India Obsession With Karwa Chauth?

I get the faith part. But I haven’t figured out the celestial interdependence between my fasting and my husband’s well-being. In fact, if he fasted, it could do his stomach a world of good.

The bell rang bringing in the breathless beautician from the salon.

“Good you called me today. It is a busy season soon. Shortly, many will message me wanting to replicate a Karan Johar’s heroine look, be it a drape, nape or shape.”

Ahh, the long tentacles of a Bollywoodian Kitsch called K(aran)Drama have reached everywhere.

“Are you getting your face cleaned up for the upcoming fast, ma’am?” The ubtan chhap lady was curious, to say the least as she slathered many a magic potion to revive my so very dead skin.

“I fast between meals.” I thought I sounded clever and snappy.

The elixir-eve wasn’t impressed.

“Won’t you fast for your husband’s long life, as others will?” She continued unabated as she created whirls with her hands.

Hmmm, the big guns, already!

This! This is the pressure.

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The pressure to conform, to fall in, to prove your worth and the salt of your commitment to others and snag their approval.

via GIPHY

It is all-pervading and slow-suffocating.

I could have told her to get on with her job quietly but I took the bait.

“In the first year of my marriage, I asked my partner if he would fast for me. My life should be precious for him too. After all, I will toil alongside him to build our future. He said it’s an antiquated practice and there are better ways to prove love.”

Love apparently is for commercialization made!

Though the avalanche of marketing spiel, the flash discount sales, and the gift coupons baiting the poor gullible hadn’t flooded the market yet, the pressure to attest was already seeping in.

Looks like I was the early bird without any discounting.

“But ma’am, this is a fast for his wellbeing and longevity.”

Lying supine with my eyes closed shut isn’t an ideal state to spout wisdom.

But when did reality ever stop me?

Plus I had the advantage of an aged marriage to back me up if I faffed too much.

“And I don’t matter? I have thought about it much. I get the faith part. But I haven’t figured out the celestial interdependence between my fasting and my husband’s well-being. Heart-to-heart connect I decipher but gut-to-gut is nebulous. In fact, if he fasted, it could do his stomach a world of good.”

Her response made me hopeful… all was not lost

There was a definite pause now in the facial process. I could almost hear her cells creaking.

Oh, I hear a thousand mind-floggings lined up for the infidel me. Even hell will disown the heathen me. Everyone marking the ‘not-sanskaari’ enough woman!

I decided to take grab the reins of conversations from her creamy hands.

“Do you fast?” I asked her as gingerly as possible.

“I do, or else the husband might feel I don’t care enough to stay away from food for a day even. As a newlywed, I didn’t understand the rituals, but my elders pushed and now it has become an annual habit. I’m wary too, of breaking the norm. What if… You know? Plus one day in the year I get to dress up to the hilt and become the cynosure of his eyes, even if it is only for a few hours.” She sighed.

It was a thick enough silence.

“Will you expect the same of your daughter?” I said with all my sledgehammer grace.

“No, ma’am. She will grow up to be her own woman with a mind. She will decide her course!”

That sealed the deal.

Karan Johar’s glossily packaged karwa chauth

A few years back, before OTT became the level playing field, Bollywood was the religion that united Pan India with its multi ethnicities and cultures.

KJo with his pulsating, spangled, tinseled, BlingAatma, made the Over The Top boisterous weddings, rituals, and a robust Punjabiyat de rigueur. Plus his Cosmopolitan weds Femina couture and its Karol Bagh ripoffs redefined trousseau and the groom collection

South of Vindhyas, sedate people felt their 4 am weddings with rustling silks and Appalams were so blah so they made a song and dance of them. Red became the anthem and documented lifestyle, the rule. Societal subtexts got blurred and ‘Likes’ acquired an aphrodisiac halo.

Could the big fast be then left behind?

Shown through the Dharmatic soft focus lens, there is something so heady about Karva Chauth or the big fast, about a woman desisting food, decking up and eyeing the husband dreamily through a sieve as he gives her a sip while the crescent moon wore on.

The opulent Johar dramas made the big fast almost aspirational, an exercise imbuing different age groups with a tinge of approved romance, under the garb of must-follow tradition.

The templates of a simpering Simran from Dilwale Dulhaniya LeJayenge or an ardent Anjali from Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham fasting for their respective Rahuls have become the leitmotifs of an ideal spouse, the lingering (troubling?) effect of Bollywood’s penchant for plugging karwa chauth into family blockbusters.

The constant cultural bludgeoning of epic celebrations has finally got to the othered Down South which has begun assimilating the typical North Indian marital symbols like ‘ek chutki sindoor’ or flavours, and flaunting them even.

A regional festival became a pan-Indian phenomenon. So much so that my true blue Telugu mother seemed slightly disappointed with my not keeping the fast.

That is the power of persuasion for you. In your face and all around

Worked then scores of years ago, when the cultural ethos was far different.

Could work now, provided both partners get equally invested.

But that is a utopian dream.

Feminism and fasting don’t gel together.

Ultimately, it should be all about a woman’s choice.

The choice to fast or not to. Not thrust upon her nor forced upon.

If done under duress, dear sister, it is your call to take, to break one shackle, one chain at a time.

And walk free and the sisterhood will walk alongside you.

Author’s note: The snatches of conversation mentioned here are entirely true, and I hope my beautician’s daughter grows up unfettered, fiery and free!

Hope floats!

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About the Author

anupama_jain

Anupama Jain is the author of: * ’Kings Saviours & Scoundrels -Timeless Tales from Katha Sarita Sagara’, listed as one of the best books of 2022 by @Wordsopedia. Rooted in the traditional storytelling of Indian legends, warriors, read more...

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