Fast and furious

My Karva Chauth was nothing like this  

In Ladakh, 12 hours somehow feels like 24 hours. And when you have been kept away from food for the better part of the day, it can feel timeless, in a bad way.

It all started when my Air Force friends began preparing for Karva Chauth. There were parcels flying in from Chandigarh — the karvas or little mud pots, wisps of red materials edged in gota, sweets and savouries, dry fruits…I just made a casual enquiry about the festivities and, before I knew it, I was firmly a part of the pativratas!

“What are you wearing?” Ummm, sari? “No, no not any sari, you have to wear your wedding sari”. My wedding sari was packed and lying at the bottom of a trunk 2,779 km away in Hyderabad, so I reluctantly decided on the sari I was saving up for the CO’s anniversary party.

Having never fasted before it was rather foolish of me to jump into the fray. But, at that time in my giddy youth, it sounded like a lark. And you must remember the atmosphere is rarefied in those parts and can mess with your reason and logic and so on.

I did try asking, “Why are we dressing up to stay hungry?” All I got was a withering glare and instructions to start packing the walnuts into small packets. I gave in. Everyone else I knew there was doing it. May be it was time I made a public declaration of my love for Raju and, who knows, I may lose weight.

2.30 a.m. I woke up to thumping sounds. My friend who lived next door was kneading flour to make parathas. I remember her telling me to eat before daybreak. She was eating mooli ke parathe to fuel up for the coming hours. I remember ridiculing her about the 2.00 a.m. feast. How I wished I hadn’t accepted her invitation to join her in that midnight snack!

The next day dawned and it was life as usual minus the food. Of course I cooked for the husband, son and daughter. But I could not taste it, take a bite, lick the spoon… nothing. There would be dire consequences if I did any of that, I was told. I gulped down some water and went out to knit in the sun.

All went well till about 4.00 p.m. when we got together in our red finery to hear the katha of Veerawati who brought her husband back from the dead by impressing the gods with her virtue and devotion.

Normally, the conclusion of the pujas I had been to always signified food. But not here! After some healthy gossip and half-hearted attempts at Antakshari, we just sat around listlessly drinking hot water. But duty called. We could not waste time sitting around and had to return home to cook the evening meal. The injustice of it all!

“Once you spot the moon, you can break your fast,” a senior lady told me sternly. My kids gave me a wide berth that evening, as I snarled my way around the house. The hunger pangs had transformed into a keen headache. It started in the small of my neck and bored right up to the crown. Someone was drilling holes into my temples and I was seeing double. When Raju returned from an afternoon of work (onion bajji and beer more likely, I thought malevolently), I hissed at him to find out when the moon was going to come up was. Raju besieged the Met department to tell him when the moonrise was.

Finally, the phone rang and a bewildered Met officer told my relieved husband that the moon had risen just that minute. I rushed out, looked wildly all around and rushed in wailing. Where was the blessed moon?

Raju stuck his neck out of the door and, keeping the bed safely between us, told me, “It is behind that mountain. I don’t think you will be able to see it anytime soon.”

That was the last Karva Chauth I observed.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 7:09:05 PM |

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