Every year, as Karwa Chauth approaches, countless Indian women gear up for one of the biggest celebrations of married life in India. What started out as a festival celebrated in North India, has spread like wildfire to other parts of the country thanks to Bollywood movies. Karwa Chauth on screen is portrayed as a day for women to dress up, splurge, and receive gifts. Women often spend their days in the company of each other and as the night draws closer, anticipation rises as they wait eagerly for moonrise, and also, their husbands.
In many parts of the country, women don't have a choice with regard to keeping a fast. The decision to fast on Karwa Chauth is imposed blindly, and women have to comply, no questions asked. By tradition, this fast is broken only in the presence of the woman's husband, after praying to the moon. Once he gives permission, the woman can eat and drink after an entire day's sacrifice.
Permission. How deeply ingrained it is in our culture. From the day we're born to the day we die, we've been conditioned to live every step of our lives only if we have permission.
"Can I work after marriage?"
"Can I use my money to buy x or y?"
"Can I stay out after 7?"
"Can I choose to not have a baby?"
"Can I continue my studies after marriage?"
"Can I go visit my parents?"
"Can I visit the doctor?"
How ordinary these questions seem! But why do we accept this culture of taking permission? Adult women — full-grown human beings, have to take permission to live their lives. Every little decision, every important decision, is taken by a man in their lives: women are completely stripped of their agency.
Due to this, women lose out on opportunities in every sphere of their lives – be it career development or even something as vital as better healthcare.
Nearly 80% women have to take permission even to visit the doctor!
Isn't it ironic, that the very reason a Karwa Chauth vrat is kept – for the health of a loved one – becomes a matter of seeking permission when the woman's health is in question?
This Karwa Chauth, let's begin by doing away with permission culture. What are the ways in which we can hold on to our traditions while actively letting go of the backward aspects embedded in them? How can we celebrate without being regressive?