Marriage and Karwa Chauth are not knotted together anymore. The ceremony, that was once the signature of the married ones and meant to protect a woman's suhaag or her husband, is now being celebrated by unmarried women too.
20-year-old Rati Sharma, a professional, says that she finds a lot of 'satisfaction' when she prays for her boyfriend's long life. "It is the cutest festival in the world! It is definitely better than Holi or Diwali where you just throw balloons or burst crackers and waste money," says Rati. "When I fast for the man I love, it shows how much I care. Though the festival is supposed to be for married women, it makes me happy," she beams.
The occasion of Karwa Chauth calls for women to deck up in all their finery and wait for the moon to appear when they can stop fasting and be fed the first bite of food for the day by their husbands. The entire ritual is also being enacted by a lot of young women along with their boyfriends. Shruti Seth, a second year student, says, "I like to do it but also find it a tad embarrassing. I remember the last time I walked out in the night with all the married women to see the moon, I received so many disapproving stares from them! Fasting on Karwa Chauth makes me happy, but I don't like the baggage that it comes with."
Not all the young women think alike though! Priyanka Malhar, a mass comm student, feels that Karwa Chauth is a load of "hogwash" and has nothing to do with reality. She says, "I have seen women keeping the Karwa Chauth fast for their boyfriends. First of all, it is meant only for married women. The unmarried ones just want to show others that they are different or that their love is more 'pure' than those women who don't fast."
There are many like Priyanka who feel that fasting for anyone's long life and good health is 'stupid', whether it be it for a husband or a boyfriend. "With all due respects to those who fast, don't they think the ones they love will live long enough otherwise?" asks 18-year-old Nimi Kapoor, a first year college student.
Vivek Kapoor, an IT executive doesn't let his girlfriend fast even though she wants to, "because it doesn't mean anything," he says. "If a fasting woman will make a man live longer, then every dying man in this world would have lots of hungry women trying to save his life," he adds.
Not all are non-believers, however. Niharika Sethi, a postgraduate student, says, "It is just an expression of love. It is one of the ways of showing you care and it doesn't necessarily have to be for a man you are married to or will get married to. I am keeping it for my father and mother's long life," she says. "People like to conjure wrong meanings out of everything. But one actually has to put it in the context required and then believe in it," she adds.