So today is Hartalika or ‘Tay’ as we call it – the day before Ganesh Chaturti, the day of the once-a-year-fast in my house.
My mother, my aunts have been maintaining fast ever since I remember. It’s a custom in our community to observe it post marriage (unlike Maharashtrians girls who fast BEFORE marriage to procure good spouse, we seem to do it AFTER. I wonder why. Better luck in the next janam perhaps?)
Broadly I know it’s a Gauri puja which is equivalent to the North Indian ‘Teej’ but don’t really know the religious intricacies or symbolism of the festival.
In my family, the preparations used to start a week in advance. My ma has a VERY low tolerance for hunger, thus, we (Dad and me) were prepped with the Do’s and Don’ts
a)DO obey her implicitly
b)DO listen to her talk about food and hunger the whole day
c)DO NOT get on her nerves
d)DO NOT expect anything in the nature of work – exhausting or otherwise
e)DO NOT discuss the correlation between fasts and irritability
f)DO NOT talk about how It will have a good influence on her weight ( this one was specifically targeted at my dad)
When the day dawned, I would be ordered to go and get 2 Tender coconuts and some random fruits, Every time I protested at being summarily ordered around, I would be subjected to a quite un-maternal look, often accompanied by vivid descriptions of cruelty to a starving mother.
My dad, looking at the list of fruits would whisper (“Ekadashi- duppat khashi”. ‘Ekadashi’ is one of those fasting days, ‘duppat khashi’ would translate as twice as much food (though not the usual chapatti + rice)) and quietly ensure that he stayed out of the firing line for the rest of the day.
Ma spent most of the day in the kitchen preparing a variety of upwas khanas – viz. Boiled yams, sundry juices, some concoctions which didn’t have wheat in them and so on and so forth. The rest of the time was spent purportedly trying not to think about food, but actually obsessing and talking about it ad nauseam When we ate our meals, Ma would put on her most long-suffering face and sigh loudly and morosely.
By the end of the day, it was difficult to figure out which of us (fasters or non- fasters) were actually more relieved that the day was over
Let’s forward to last year – viz, the first year post marriage.
I never did any of the fasting for the husband thing. Partly because I was supremely uninterested in getting married. And partly because I would have found it pretty darn desperate if I had to starve to snare a chap.
Somehow I ended up getting married. And then the Dharam sankat started.
To fast or not to fast?
Quite a few of the younger aunts and cousins had happily dispensed with the custom AND the mother and MIL were quite against me taking it up ( I was on medication for jaundice at the time). Thus, I had quite decided I wouldn't take up the Hartalika fast.
As luck would have it, on that very day, we escaped unhurt from a potentially nasty accident Promptly I guilt tripped myself into a fasting.So there we are.
So today I have to starve again. Fortunately, I have a higher tolerance for hunger than Ma does ( as long as I can get tea I am quite cheerful, deprive me of tea and you will have a raging maniac on your hands). So am not suffering (yet). All I have done is look at husband very mournfully in the morning in full abla naari ishtyle and declare dramatically to him that ‘I will be starving for you’ (He, like my Ma has a very low tolerance for hunger so is feeling very sorry for me and vaguely guilty). I have also kept an appropriately woeful status message on IM while sending these pitiful messages to everyone about how hungry I am.
Nautanki is good fun.
P.S. I am finally behaving like a good Bharatiya Naari?
P.P.S.I am very hungry!