Fasting is a way of life in our country, people fast for religious, social and health reasons. My Mom also fasted on specific days , specially 'Karva Chauth', a fast meant for the long life of husband and it apparently worked as my father lived to the ripe age of 90!
On Karva Chauth a good Hindu wife fasts for her husband's long life and welfare , one is allowed to have light snacks or 'sehri' before dawn break , the rest of the day no food or water till the moon is sighted, a tough fast indeed! I remember that some sweets were kept apart for Mom's sehri , but the rest of the day she had to do her normal chores and prepare a tasty dinner as well as apply 'mehdi' or henna on her palms! Maybe all this helped her and other dutiful wives pass the time quickly.
Preparations for doing 'pooja' in the evening started in the evening as space was cleaned and ear-marked , a 'chowk' four-sided symbol was drawn on the floor with rice powder , a thali was made ready with necessary ingredient for pooja. Dinner was special with lots of dishes made for the occasion.We kids were generally unaware of the hardship Mom underwent doing all this on an empty stomach!
I remember Mom wearing a nice sari , getting ready to do pooja ,my father tried to look nonchalant as this particular festival was for husbands only. He himself did not believe in fasting, praying as he was non- religious but he never forbade my Mom from following her rituals.
The evening was spent trying to sight the rising moon , story said that if one prayed and did pooja when the moon was just rising then one got a young husband in the next birth. If a lady was lazy in sighting the moon then she was assured of getting married to an old man. We had a lot of fun joking about such stories and did our best looking in all directions to sight the rising moon!
A small pooja was done outside, water and sweets were offered to the moon and the hubby's face had to be seen through a sieve, yes a sieve! One had to look at the Moon through the sieve and slowly turn to see the hubby through it. This scene has been portrayed in many block-buster Hindi movies with great effect.
Another pooja had to be done inside and stories narrated about wives who suffered immensely as they forgot to follow the rituals, all sorts of bad things happened to the poor husband because of their tardiness.We knew the stories by heart as the same stories were narrated evey year, but there was a lot of joy and happiness around as the festival was celebrated.
Now 'Karva Chauth' has acquired a very materialistic tinge with advertisements exhorting husband's to buy expensive jewellery, dresses for dear wife.Modern wives now spend the day in beauty parlors instead of slogging at home in the kitchen on an empty stomach, generally people dine out .The mehdi walas make a killing ,charging exorbitantly to apply mendi .There are jokes where the wife threatened to break her fast during the day if the hubby did not gift her jewelry threatening his very existence!!