I don’t do Karva Chauth, It never made sense to me. Today, if my daughter were to ask me questions like “how is one parent’s life more important than the other?”, “how can my fasting prolong someone’s life?”, “why should a married woman’s ambition be to NOT outlive her husband, but why the husband need not labour under any such obligations?” – Would I take the same stance that my mother did and respond with “because I said so”, everyone does it “, or “are you too clever to question centuries old traditions?” I would lose my daughter’s respect for sure – a mighty precious thing to lose. I would only be perpetuating the myth of the supremacy of the masculine gender.
Oh sure, no one forces me into anything, I have every right to choose whether or not I want to prolong my husband’s life! I decided it’s time to do away with all that is regressive and patriarchal. There are other festivals like Jamai Shashti in Bengal, Pehli Lohri after marriage in Punjab (loads of goodies sent from the bride’s to the groom’s house), Raksha Bandhan ( though I have indeed seen Rakhi to be changing with the times in many households with siblings tying each other the Rakhi instead of only sisters seeking protection from brothers). Yes, festivals can be celebrated and enjoyed, only the message needs change. We can proudly proclaim that we treat our daughters equal to the sons, but with these massive contradictions in our preaching and practices, how could we?
Many of my friends argue that women are physically weaker, hence the unequal treatment. But don’t we know of the fact that there are in fact men who are physically weak? Yes, physical strength was a yardstick for success when we were hunter-gatherers – not anymore!
Information and technology are what drive the world today. Success of an individual or a society depends not only on whether it can change with the times, but how fast it can change. Each year that goes by, I see no substantial change in our ways of thinking. We watch approvingly the same regressive portrayals of women, minorities, LGTBs, the disabled, in movies, serials, literature. We laugh at sexist jokes, we keep our women indoors or in groups (“never move alone”, “public parks are only for thugs and the police!). We want to educate our daughters; and at the same time we tell them they will forever be children, requiring male guardianship. What we achieve is obvious- we create more bullies. If we do want change in the society, we have to first believe that it’s possible. In this democracy that is my country, I believe we have a fighting chance – To step out of the shackles of patriarchal customs, to teach our daughters that they are as valid and important as the sons, to change!