Karva Chauth’s Done, Let’s Look at Ahoi Ashtami for More Sexism
Karva Chauth is kinda done to death now. Say hello to Ahoi Ashtami.
(This story was first published on 1 November 2015. It is being republished from The Quint's archives to mark Ahoi Ashtami.)
Damned if you are a woman. Damned if you are a wife. Damned if you are a daughter.
I guess females in India were born to fast. And beg for forgiveness, blessings, kindness and all things humane. After all, nothing comes easy if you are a girl.
The most intelligent of women are busy posting pictures of themselves on karva chauth and looking great in their ‘dulhan roop’. It looks like the ultimate kitty party without a catering budget; the ‘maa’ of all gossip sessions – aka, did the mom-in-law cough up that piece of jewellery yet?
But just as I am recovering from the pointlessness of it all, I am slapped with the impending necessity of Ahoi Ashtami. I swear it’s the first I ever heard of it and I am suddenly struck by the ominousness of the proceedings.
Let’s elaborate, shall we?
Apparently, in this one, there’s no kitchen strainer and no moon. It’s all about the stars. Good cultural variation. I see what you did there.
So here’s the legend:
A woman lost her seven sons (no mention of a daughter or if there even was one) because she accidentally killed a cub, while digging the soil outside her home in preparation for Diwali. (Ah! You see? Women’s equality of yore! She fasted whilst also doing her share of manual labour.)
Anyway, after all seven sons had ‘vanished’ – and were presumed to be dead – the distressed mother appealed for help. Again, the hoarse old ladies kicked in. The mother (nameless) was advised to fast and pray to a certain Goddess Ahoi, a ‘roop’ of Goddess Parvati. She was also asked to draw the face of a cub (or as one knowledgeable website now advises, “use wallpaper if a drawing isn’t possible”).
Need we say it? All seven sons reappeared, of course, once the pious mother had fasted. And the fast went down in history.
So how has the fast been appropriated today? Desperate women all across the country who are great believers of this legend fast till the stars come out – in the hope that they will be blessed with a male child.
Which makes me feel rather bad for the poor ladies of Delhi. With this quality of air, teri to fast kar karkey ‘daath’ hi ho jayegi. When was the last time we saw stars here???
Funny, I see no ‘fasts’ created for the return/birth of a girl child. Not in legend, anyway.
Let’s get this straight, I have no problems if someone wants to fast or observe any sort of ritual. It’s a personal choice. But to manufacture a comfortably sexist bubble which states that women aren’t relevant without their husbands or sons is simply unacceptable.
It makes me proud to say that I come from an all-female family. We haven’t had a son in the family for three generations, and we are doing just fine, thank you.
In fact, when I was born – the second grandchild after my older sister – my paternal grandmother was over the moon. She wasn’t the one to make a face and beat her chest and offer grumpy condolences. No sir. What she did instead was bless my mum and pronounce: “Now you have two arms”. (Teriyan do baavaan ho gayiyaan).
Now that’s a Goddess, if there ever was one. She was a staunch Krishna bhakt, tolerant of her Sikh daughter-in-law’s (my mother’s) disinterest in religion or ritual and said nothing more than a heartfelt blessing when her four granddaughters were born.
What gumption to want to terrorise your wife or daughter-in-law in the name of so-called culture! It’s an industry today – an industry of rampant regression, fuelled further by baba’s with their talk shows and ‘healing’ sessions for all women to revere.
If that’s Indian culture, I’d rather watch Bigg Boss, thank you very much.
Did someone fast on the show? No? Haw! It’s not too late… there’s a fast Ahoi on November 3. Let’s really propogate more female-subugating rituals on TV too. Karva Chauth is kinda done to death now.
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