The moon was late and when it did come up, it was faint and hazy above F-Block, like a semi-eaten peach left behind by a disinterested child.
I had kept Karva Chauth after eight years but it was only a half-fast, and I followed none of the rules besides that of my heart. I didn’t get up early morning to make fenia and eat a meal; I didn’t apply henna or buy new bangles; I didn’t even have a single bindi at home. In fact, I’d been so busy sending one of my magazines to press that I’d completely forgotten about the whole thing until the previous evening. I had no idea I’d want to keep it the next morning.
But I did, strangely. After last year’s vitriolic outburst against Karva Chauth, I worked on my negative emotions surrounding the fast, trying to heal the space where all the anger came from. Last month, I approved a story on this full-day fast for the wedding lifestyle magazine I edit, and in giving the brief to the reporter and in editing the final outcome, I think I somewhere purged myself of the sense of injustice and suppression that I’d come to associate with this annual ritual.
Even so I was rather surprised when I awoke with the thought: ‘I will keep some kind of fast today.’ I am just getting over a bad cold and cough, and am still weak in the back and head. Plus, I had a busy workday ahead of me. So I decided not to go into starvation mode and allowed myself tea, water and fruits all day. I was also at work and so could not go for the evening puja (and anyway, we are only half-married). But I did wear a bright fuchsia sari with the compulsory bangle and necklace; I did wait for moonrise, and I did feed the pink, blurry moon a piece of barfi, sweet matthi, and water, with my head covered. I looked at it through a chhanni (strainer) and then looked at my partner through it — he of the embarrassed grin and loving bow of the head — as my daughter watched with a teenager’s pretend indifference. Then, when the kids were out of sight, I touched his feet and demanded he bless me, and I blessed him right back. We then ‘broke bread’ together.
I haven’t been one for rituals for a very long time — in fact, the day I walked out of my marriage, I’d say I walked out of all ritualistic obligations in my life for good. But there was a special pleasure to be had in doing something out of my own choice, versus following tradition out of compulsion. Everything was coloured in a smiling shade of God — the same old tradition but Photoshopped with a special effect of fun. I could just imagine my Krishna beaming in indulgence. This wasn’t something I did for anyone else, not even my partner though that’s what the festival is about. I did it for myself and for my God peeking at me through the moon. The Beloved is Me.
I recalled my blog post from last year when I looked out the window at the Karva Chauth moon again at midnight, while the world was asleep. It was high up in the sky and brighter, still blushing pink with all the attention of the evening. ‘How you’ve changed this year,’ I said to it. ‘How different you seem. From a monster of hate and repression, you’ve become so kind now, so receptive and sweet. Such a darling.’
The moon turned a benevolent, rosy gaze on me. ‘Oh, it’s not I who has changed.’
As the inimitable Sting put it so succinctly years ago, it’s probably me.