It was the intentions that counted

Discussion in 'Jokes' started by Ashna, Oct 26, 2005.

  1. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    It was the intentions that counted


    This is a true story i read in magazine yesterday.

    I was sure I was entering some secret of womanhood that had long eluded me. My husband merely smiled.Karva Chauth, an Indian fasting custom, has always fascinated me. It takes place in October or November (Oct. 20 this year). Each year, as I was growing up, I would wait for it, to watch my mother perform all the rituals. <!-- -->
    As a child, I would hide behind the door and observe her as she got ready for the occasion. Each year on Karva Chauth, she would get up early. I could hear her and my father cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
    Around 4:30 in the morning, she would eat puri (fried bread) and aloo (potatoes), and drink a cup of tea. While he went off to work, she began her fast. The fast would last all day and required complete abstinence from eating or drinking. It was a day in the Hindu religion for her to pray for her husband's long life.
    I loved the evenings, when it was time for her to break her fast. She would dress in all her finery and then ready her prayer plate. We would all generally head over to a friend's home for the prayers. There, all the married women - in their gold and diamonds - would sing prayers and exchange plates. All the little girls, like me, would look on in reverence and respect.
    To my childhood eyes, the women resembled movie stars. How romantic it was that they prayed for their husbands in this way. Once the prayer was over, we would head home for the final ritual. First my mother would observe the (almost always hidden) moon through a sieve and then touch my father's feet in respect. He would then feed her freshly squeezed orange juice to break her fast. Afterward, we would all sit down to dinner.
    Ah, true love, I thought.
    As I grew older, I began to notice the custom's prevalence in north Indian movies. I dreamed of the day I would be able to practice this with my husband. It seemed to be one of those things that would complete my transition into true womanhood.
    I began planning weeks in advance. Since both my in-laws and parents lived in a different country, I knew there would be no one to help me decipher the customs here in the US. I was determined not to let that be an impediment in my perfect day, though. I researched as much as I could and called my mother many times to ensure that I had all the things that I needed.
    The night before the big day. I prepared the puri dough. It was ready to be rolled out and fried the next morning. Ghee scented with cumin became my base for making the aloo.
    Finally the morning arrived. I awoke at 4 a.m. Before my husband could say good morning, all four burners were going on the stove. Tea was simmering on one, aloo on the other, hot fried puries on another and warm kheer (rice pudding) on the last one.
    I sat down at 4:30 and ate my meal with great pride. I was sure I was entering some secret of womanhood that had long eluded me. My husband merely smiled as he drank his tea.
    Off to work he went.
    I had taken the day off, as I had heard one was supposed to do. In the morning, I got my hair and nails done. The afternoon was spent meticulously applying henna to my hands and feet. As I waited for the henna to dry, I remembered the days my mother would do the same.
    Around 5 p.m., I decided to get "properly" dressed. I had researched and found that on festive days women should wear solah singar or 16 adornments on their body, and I now had all 16 of them. I wore my wedding lehnga (gown) to mark the occasion.
    Since we were new to the area, I did not know other Indian families nearby and so had decided to do the prayer at home. I began with reading Sanskrit scriptures.
    Then the wait began for the moon. It hid until almost 9. Finally, I caught sight of it. I ran inside and got my prayer plate along with the sieve and orange juice. It was time. I looked at the wondrous moon through the sieve, dipped my hand in the glass of water on the plate, just as my mother had, and sprinkled the water at the moon. I closed my eyes in prayer and then bowed to my husband in a scene reminiscent of an Indian movie.
    Then, as if to mark a milestone, I took a sip of the orange juice. Ah, I thought, this is what a true married woman feels like. I had done it. I had fasted on this very auspicious day to pray for my husband's long life. I was truly a devoted wife at age 24.
    Just then, as if on cue, the phone rang. My husband answered. As he talked, his expressions changed from a smile to giggles and then to laughter. "It's your mother," he said turning to me. "She wants to know if you are all set for the Karva Chauth fast tomorrow."
     
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    It Set Me Thinking, Ashna

    What you have posted is a wonderful piece of writing. I don’t know whether it is my idiosyncracy or it is the general feeling, once I finished reading the post, I had a bitter after-taste in my mouth. When you eat fresh cucumbers on a hot summer day, one of the pieces, would taste very bitter and the bitterness would stay in the mouth all day. I had a similar feeling.

    On the surface I see there’s good humour. The lady in her enthusiasm had fasted on the wrong day which the husband casually mocks. A very lively couple. You do smile of course.

    But at a deeper level one could see the typical Indian woman, with the world’s richest cultural heritage behind her and about 10000 years of civlisation and history within her, brutally torn between the desire to make good money working abroad and adhere to the traditions of this country. It is a conflict between her roots and wings.

    When you contrast between what happened to her mother and what happened to her, your heart immediately goes out to the lady who had written that wonderful piece.

    I quote:

    “I loved the evenings, when it was time for her to break her fast. She would dress in all her finery and then ready her prayer plate. We would all generally head over to a friend's home for the prayers. There, all the married women - in their gold and diamonds - would sing prayers and exchange plates. All the little girls, like me, would look on in reverence and respect.
    To my childhood eyes, the women resembled movie stars. How romantic it was that they prayed for their husbands in this way. Once the prayer was over, we would head home for the final ritual.”


    The lady’s mother was not alone in observing Karva Chauth. They go to the friend’s place where all ladies gather – all dressed in their finery and looking like film stars. All the women would join in prayer. They even exchanged the prayer plates. Once the prayer was over “we would head home” – mark the pronoun “we”.

    Look at the lady now. She is all alone. Karva Chauth is observed at home. There is no elders at home. No community to belong to. At times I shudder to think how frightfully alone is the modern woman – especially the Indian woman who lives abroad. Of course there are communities here and there. There are Indian Associations, Tamil Associations, Kannada Sabhas, Telugu Sanghas etc. These gatherings are poor substitutes for the natural community we had back in India in those days.

    I am not saying that India is the best place to have all those things. A working woman in Mumbai or Bangalore is no better. She has very little time at her disposal. By the time she returns home wading through the city traffic she is zapped of all energy. We now have better and better televisions, but less and less of socialising, have developed faster modes of communicatoin but are very slow in building and nurturing relationships.

    By the process of industrialisation and urbanisation we have lost something very precious. There is no community per se.

    What affected me most was that the lady was alone almost through out the day. She did not have any company when she ate pooris and aalu at 4 AM. She was alone throughout the day without food or a drink. She could not go to a friend’s place dressed in all finery; she could not exchange notes with her near and dear nor could she exchange prayer plates as her mother did.

    And when she broke fast in the evening, even then she was alone. May be her husband had come home by that time.

    In those days even within the house there would be 3 or 4 ladies – mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, co-sisters etc. All the relatives – cousins, aunts and nieces would be nearby. When these people gather in a house there would be a real community and there would be a real festive mood, though everyone would be fasting. In such a setting no one could miss the day of observance.

    Many might think that the lady who narrated the incident had just missed the date. I am afraid she has missed a lot more than that.

    Let me have your views, please.
    Sridhar
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2005
  3. Sharada

    Sharada Senior IL'ite

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    True life incident

    South Indians (we are more practical and don't believe in fasting for our husbands!) don't have Karva Chauth. All that I know and have seen is in highly romanticised Hindi movies. On a ship I had sailed on there was a newly wed Punjabi couple and she had got everything organised for her first Karva Chauth. Carried away by her enthusiasm I agreed to fast with her. "Aren't you having breakfast?" asked hubby. When I told him that I was fasting for his health and longevity he was taken aback. Then I got a brainwave and said "you also better fast." He agreed to be on a partial fast and had liquids and fruit. But Meena and myself didn't take even a sip of water. We made rajma and rice and her husband hovered around very lovingly. She was glowing when she decked up - but I had no interest or energy to even change my clothes and I looked dehydrated! My husband was laughing and said "who asked you to fast?" Four of us went to the deck and I was waiting impatiently for the moon to appear. It was a cloudy, stormy night and there was no sign of the moon! After 9 pm I announced that I couldn't wait any longer. Just then the moon peeped out from behind the clouds. Meena's husband started singing, while I glared at all of them and thought "never again! no guy is worth it!"
    Next day the Captain (he used to call me Hema Malini as I was the only South Indian lady on board and reasonably attractive in my youth!) hosted a party and requested me to sing. I retorted that I was feeling weak after Karva Chauth and could barely speak! The Captain gave me a tin of almonds and cashew - and my fasting for Karva Chauth became quite a joke on the ship!
    These customs and rituals have significance when there is a feeling of community/togetherness. And it becomes a social event when ladies can get together and spend time - somewhat like an ancient kitty party (no offence meant!). And the husband-wife bond is strengthened as he appreciates what she's doing for him and brings her gifts. But in the incident narrated by Ashna the lady is all alone, still she observes the customs - so it's sad when she learns that Karva Chauth is on the next day. On the surface one can smile, but deep down it is tinged with sadness and loneliness.
    For those who follow this tradition I have admiration. Personally I only like the dressing up part and receiving gifts - certainly not the fasting!
    Sharada
     
  4. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    Festivals are no more same here

    Its some where true what both of you have said.....but many young women like me who have migrated to different countries after marriage would identify with the main protagonist..... Festivals are community and family events which no longer remain same as they are back home....I too observed fast....got up early in the morning at 4:00 am all alone to do traditional punjabi sargi that in my case i got from my husband a day before.... could hardly eat any thing as was missing my family so much. I opted to go to work so that day would go quickly with out making me realise......in th evening i was so tired and there wasnt that enthu so didnt change dress for the puja. The only happiness was that my husband cooked dinner for both of us and waited for me till 11:00pm when i could finally have a glimpse hidden moon due to bad weather.
     
  5. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    A Nice Post, Ashna

    I am perfectly aware that for people like you who are thousands of miles away from friends and family, festivals and celebrations would not be the same. More importantly it is not the same for those who now live in India. Here also now everybody is in a hurry. Thanks to the work pressure, the ever-increasing traffic, the omnipresent TV, we in India do not have time to visit friends or socialise. So the story is the same here also.
    I am very very happy to learn that in spite of all odds being against you, you made the most of karva chauth. It was really touching to read that your husband cooked for both of you. Great soul, indeed. It's these small pleasures that make our lives nowadays.
    Reading your post and your response - there is an unusual feeling of warmth which made me to give such a long reply.
    sridhar
     

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