Friday, November 2, 2012

All Love; No Food!! Karwa Chauth


This is totally an unplanned post- just a few ramblings for today. 

This morning, I told Anya that she should take a bath and dress up in her Indian clothes after coming back from school. 'So what are we celebrating? Diwali? And I realized she has no idea of what today marks. So here I am, just trying to relive my memories for her.

My excitement at home for Karwa Chawth would begin the evening before; when my mom (with me in tow, of course) went out and bought a big bagful of sweet and savory mathris and fenni (thin vermicelli thats slightly toasted and sweetened). Where we lived, these goodies were very seasonal- you saw them for maybe 2-3 days around Karwa Chauth.  Then we'd trek all the way down to the local kumhar (potter) and pick out a karwa (clay pot) for her pooja the next day.  Third step, invariably, some place where she could buy new chooris (glass bangles) - always red, and always with a big splash of gold in them. I got my share of these too. Finally, we stocked up on some big red bindis and a new bottle of vermillion sindoor.  All spent, we'd stop at last for a treat of some gol-gappe and chaat in preparation for the extensive fasting the next day .
My 2 little pairs of hands with Mehndi on them-
sometime earlier this year. 
But that wasn't the end of it. Back home, my mom would soak up some henna/ mehndi to put on our hands after dinner.  The next step- packing up all her work. For as long as I can remember, I never saw my mom without yarn and needles or her stitching/embroidery/ crochet projects. For this one day, it was imperative that she not touch any needles - that is what the old tales told her, and that is what she did.  She had her work strewn about in every room, and I was responsible for finding each and every one of those needles and shutting them up inside her sewing machine.  

The day of Karwa Chauth, unlike every other day of the year, my dad stepped in our kitchen and made tea for my mom very early in the morning. That would be her only meal till after moon-rise on this day. Around 3pm, my mom had us huddled around her again, while she said her 'katha"- her new karwa filled with water, and a few grains of wheat in her hands.  The real excitement began right after sunset though.  She'd send all three of us up on the roof top to watch for moon to come out, while she decked up.  My dad always brought her a saree to mark this day, and she would wear that.  She topped it up with her Peeliya - a brightly colored, bejeweled garment dating back to her wedding- all her jewelry, the new glass bangles and a bigger-than-usual bindi, sindoor in her hair....everything.  As soon as we sighted the moon, we'd race down to tell her and escort her upstairs so she could look at the moon and end her fast.

As usual, the day ended in a huge celebratory family meal.  Halwa, poori, chole, some sort of a paneer preparation and always- malpua.  I don't know how she prepared this elaborate meal while fasting; but she always did. 

My two cents: Karwa Chauth- a tradition observed in most homes up in North India- is touted as the Indian Valentines Day by some.  In a broad sense, women forego  food and water and pray for the long lives of the men they love. More subtly, this is one day where women actually spent some time on  and for themselves.  They take a break from every day chores, get dressed up, get together and just bond with each other. I loved how my mom looked on this day. Some where, deep down, I wanted to look like her. This was my "princess" look for when I grew up. And I hope that one day, my daughters look back at time spent with me with some of that giddy-happy-nostalgia that I shared with my mom.....

And as I get ready to end my fast...in the spirit of Valentine's Day.....here's wishing you all a very blessed Karwa Chauth. Thanks for listening to me and my thoughts today :-))