by Nidhi Thakur, Ph.D.
OK, so this is what someone tells you about a particular festival celebrated in a far-flung corner of the world. The married women fast (waterless) from dawn to moon-rise, and get to eat their first morsels for the day only after having seen the moon, and after having taken their husbands’ blessings. That night’s food, like most other meals in the house is prepared by the (fasting) woman. Needless to say, during the entire day, it was business as usual for everybody else in the family, and for her too, in most ways. She cooked, cleaned, fed, ironed, watched TV, chatted on whatsapp, and went to work as a doctor, teacher, lawyer, astronaut or nurse…yes you heard it right….astronaut too (there has been a woman astronaut who, if she had chosen to so do, would have identified with this festival.)
What, you might ask, is the name and purpose of the festival? The name is Karva Chauth, and it is celebrated by many Hindu married women, to pray for the long lives of their husbands.
Understandably, the way the facts above have been presented, you are more than likely to assert that this festival appears completely rigged against women, with zero inconvenience being shared by the main ‘hero’ of this festival-the men!
Activists from both sides of the argument have displayed ample passion and expertise to defend their points. Therefore, it is NOT the premise of the article to take sides on the rationale and observance of the festival.
Except, I do wish to question and provoke a thought about the dehydration involved in the festival. Fasting, and intermittent fasting, has emphatically been proven as the best detox mechanism, particularly for majority of us in modern lifestyles surrounded by abundance of food, and of opportunities to consume food. Yet, no detox science requires giving up consumption of water. Water, that universal solvent, that ultimate elixir which comprises approximately 71% of earth and about similar amount of human body by weight! Water in, correct quantities, is required for the proper functioning of kidneys, liver, blood pressure, etc. In fact, even in the Muslim fasting during Ramadan pregnant women are exempt from waterless fasting, primarily because the significance of water can never be overstated. In the light of all the data pointing to the need for healthy hydration, is it not fair then to repackage the festivals ---that involve waterless fasting, to simply fasting? Yes, I know, nobody dies (we hope) in the absence of water for around ten plus hours? However, why, I ask, even do something so unscientific? Who are we trying to prove, and what, and why? Why should we create celebrations for someone’s longevity, at the cost of the other person’s basic convenience? If this is how many mothers did it in the past, it is only right to ask to modulate it now for the daughters.
(That astronaut you ask? Was the late Kalpana Chawla)
Nidhi Thakur is an economist, with specialization in labor and health economics. Her interest in Gender issues, is an on-going evolution of her resistance to the many systemic biases that are perpetuated through political, social and unfortunately even religious institutions, in order to preserve a power hegemony which perversely favors a small section of society. She believes in empowerment through education, skills, financial independence and political voice. She has published in academic and non-academic journals, and is currently a Lecturer in Kean University, Union, NJ, where she hopes to interact and hopefully influence, and be influenced by, the lives of many a first-generation college goers from minority backgrounds. She has an M.A. in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, a Ph.D. in Economics from University of Arizona, and a Post-Doc from University of Chicago.