For Pati and Parmeshwar

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If there is one festival that I cannot help but question every year, and that too at a very fundamental level, it has to be Karva Chauth. Most festivals evoke a mixed reaction from me- I generally like the festive spirit and religious sanctity they carry but the mayhem and mad rush frustrates me. When it comes to Karva Chauth however, it is a different ball game altogether. The basic idea of “Pati Parmeshwar” (Husband as a form of god) I find difficult to swallow. Belonging to a generation that came after the militant Bra Burners, I don’t wear the badge of feminism on my sleeve so to speak. On the contrary, I often think that “feminism” per se has lost its steam, outlived its utility and should make way for a more egalitarian concept of humanism. But come Karva Chauth and the latent feminist in me rears her ugly head.

Ever since Bollywood popularised Karva Chauth with movies like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaynege and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, the festival needs no introduction. However for the uninitiated few, here it goes. Karva Chauth is an annual festival celebrated primarily in North India wherein married women fast, mostly without water, for the long life and prosperity of their husbands. From very humble beginnings when women celebrated it amongst family and friends, to a full-scale page 3 gala, Karva Chauth has never been more popular. Six years ago, it was Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s first Karva Chauth that drove the media and nation crazy; this year Kareena Kapoor Khan has joined the bandwagon. And so it continues. Every little park or community centre has its own rendition of “glamorising and modernising Karva Chauth”- from the best mehndi design competitions to best decorated thali competition to “Mrs Karva Chauth” herself!

Coming back to the basic premise of the festival, looking upon and worshipping the husband as a form of god, is in fact, intrinsic to the Hindu view of things. Legends that extol the wife’s devotion to her husband abound- from that of Savitri and a woman named Karva, both of whom reclaimed their dead husbands from Yama (god of death) by the sheer force of their devotion ; to the likes of Gandhari, who, married to a blind man, spent her entire life blindfolded as well though I cannot help but wonder what was she thinking blindfolding herself! Doesn’t her “devotion” give an entirely new meaning to the phrase “Blind leading the blind”?

How well such stories would sit with the modern emancipated woman is anyone’s guess. Yet, strangely, the popularity of the fast continues to grow with leaps and bounds. Whether it is just clever marketing that women fall prey to or are Indian women still deeply traditional and devoted, beguiles me.

While I can’t speak for anyone else, annually I have a round of serious introspection to examine my reasons for keeping the fast. Yeah, despite my feminist rant, I do observe the fast, have been doing so for 10 years now. Why do I do it when I’m not in agreement with the basic premise? Honestly, I don’t know. To begin with, it was the sheer excitement of a newlywed- not for “pati parmeshwar” per se but all the festivities that come with the festival- the mehndi, the shopping, the gifts, the dressing up. Believe me, it is a lot of fun for a newbie. As the years have gone by, the fun, novelty has waned, and the same set of activities are yet another set of chores to be accomplished. The festive spirit does catch up no doubt but nowhere near the excitement of the first timer. All that done, I sit down with my cup of coffee for my annual round of introspection to decide whether to keep the fast or not. Often this happens on the eve of Karva Chauth as I start the final countdown for the next day. Does my decision to fast stem from even a faint belief in the “pati parmeshwar” tradition? Not quite. On the contrary, I am more inclined to think of myself as the cool goddess in the marriage! The way I reason it out goes something like this- if the fast was for the welfare of any other family member, be it parents or sibling, would I be as conflicted about it still? In fact, four days down the line comes the Ahoi fast for the welfare of the children. I have never found myself wondering whether to observe that fast or not and neither have I ever heard any feminist rant from anyone about it.

Ignore the “Pati Parmeshwar” tradition and one realises that the problem lies in battered egos, in humbling oneself enough to be the bigger person and fast and pray for a family member’s welfare, a member who happens to be your husband. Do I think that my life depends on him or that I’m subservient to him? No. Yet, can I deny that despite all trials and tribulations of married life, there is an intrinsic affection and caring? The answer again is in the negative.

Marriage, no doubt, is the most challenging and complex of all human relationship. The most trying of all, it can either make you or break you. It’s not about one’s “success” as a “good” husband or wife, terms that carry a variety of connotations that I’m talking about but your own capacity to evolve and grow as a human being while allowing the other person to do so at his or her own pace. Or even accepting that the other is not capable of such growth.

It is in such spirit of acceptance, caring and growth that I keep the fast. Do I believe that fasting for hubby dear makes me any less of a human being, any less of a feminist or changes me into a door mat? Not anymore. At one point I had all these thoughts running through my mind. Today it’s a prayer for the welfare of close family member that’s the deciding factor. Do I expect him to reciprocate by way of fasting as well or by getting me lavish gifts? Not quite. There isn’t any quid pro quo going on here. Something straight from his heart is always welcome. If not, that is his journey. My fast, I know today comes from the heart, just like that for my son after four days does. Rest is all marketing. It’s the heart that matters.

So here’s wishing all the gorgeous ladies a very happy Karva Chauth- happy fasting and happier feasting!



The Chandigarh Cliques

I have a theory about City Beautiful. According to many, it may not be true or may be a bit over the edge but a theory it is. So here it goes.

Chandigarh, for all practical purposes, is a deeply traditional, even conservative city, no matter how modern its exterior. Yes, it was proclaimed as the “modern city” of new India and still is the heart of all that happens in North India. However, scratch the surface and what you find underneath the extremely cool, hep exterior is a closely-knit conservative society.

The “real residents” of Chandigarh, those who define the city and its character, are those who have been living in the city almost since its inception. They have been here since the beginning, and with their progeny, will be here ad infinitum. Given the size of Indian families ,with all the aunts, uncles and distant relatives thrown in, these families add up to a significant part of the total inhabitants, or those who matter anyways. These families more or less know each other and among themselves own most of the businesses and properties of the city. They all grew up together, in and around Chandigarh, in a handful of famous local schools and colleges- St John’s, Carmel Convent, Sacred Heart and colleges like MCM, GCG or DAV for Boys. Even after some excursions out in the wilderness, read Sanawar or Nainital, all the prodigal children came home calling to comfortably settle down in the laid-back life of Chandigarh. With the next generation, the horizons have expanded and the excursions out of the city generally mean a few years’ trip (educational or otherwise) to either Australia or Canada. Yet, at the end of the day, most come back to take over the family business or property and, armed with their expanded horizons, to take them to the next level. So, I guess, it will go on.

Is there something wrong with this kind of a societal up? Not per se except that, it gives the city its unique flavour, the underlying characteristic of which is snobbery. For all practical purposes, Chandigarh is a city functioning with a few coteries as the focal points. These are closely-knit, veritable centres of power, and entry in any of these is virtually impossible. There are few preordained schools where their children study, few restaurants they frequent and some social gatherings they grace- all  owned, run or managed by one of them. Of course, others, the public, too use and visit these schools or social places, but very clearly as outsiders. Stand outside any of these schools as the crowd gathers to pick up the children in the afternoon and the demarcation is obvious. No doubt, there is scandal, gossip, and all such ailments of modern socialising but within the hallowed circle of these cliques. An outsider is deemed to be so in all respects.

If you are a part of country’s elite bureaucracy, regardless of your “outsider, transferable”  status, you get a de facto admission, even though it is need based. However, make no mistake; it is purely owing to your IAS/IPS/IRS etc tag. Without these, you are a persona non grata. Even if you try to break into any of these cliques with money as your ticket, chances of success are not high for you are the nouveau riche wannabe. Owning fancy cars alone clearly is not good enough.

Having stated my theorem, let me clarify that this “old timers and old established family” characteristic is by no means unique to Chandigarh. Every city has them. What sets Chandigarh apart is the way this defines and rules the city’s ethos. I spent a considerable time in the city as a student and at that time, I was totally oblivious to this aspect of City Beautiful. Perhaps as hostel residents, we were all “outsiders” and had limited exposure to Chandigarh in its totality. However, when I came back to this city much later as a working woman with a family, the “outsider” status loomed large. Is it all in my mind? Maybe, maybe not. In any case it is worth some introspection by the denizens of City Beautiful- both the outsiders and the old timers.

Forest Essentials Luscious Lip Balm Sweet Narangi Juice

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The only one time I can remember buying a product solely because of its packaging is when I picked up the Sweet Narangi Juice Lip Balm from Forest Essentials a few months ago. The classy, chic packaging had me bowled over straight away despite the fact that I tend to stay away from these tub kind of packaging because of hygiene issues. Body Shop lip balms are the only other lip balm of this tub variety that I have used. Otherwise, it’s been the roll up, stick variety of Nivea or Neutrogena or even Body Shop all this while for me.

While it was the oh-so-sophisticated packaging that instigated me to buy the Sweet Narangi Juice Lip Balm, thankfully like most Forest Essential products, it did not disappoint either. What is in a lip balm that can really disappoint one may ask. Plenty- the waxy, Vaseline type feeling that just sits on your lips without actually moisturising them for one thing. This lip balm moisturises and moisturises well. How effective it really is I discovered about a month ago when I came down with a severe cold and that too in Shimla. While I ordinarily avoid medicines, especially for something like a cold, the dripping nose got the better of me and I somewhat overdid the medicine bit. Result was over dried lips ready to flake off and dry to the extent that made eating difficult. ( Yeah that happens! :-/ ) It was then that I discovered how great this lip balm truly was. One use and there was visible difference in the over parched lips and by the next day after a couple of applications I was good to go!

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Coming to what Forest Essentials says about its lip balms- “Moisturising Lip Balms made with Kokum butter which contains an abundance of healing ingredients including vitamins, minerals, proteins and a unique fatty acid profile. These fatty acids are indispensable for their emollient properties. Organic Beeswax deeply nourishes and restores elasticity to the skin Almond oil from sweet almonds is the most nutritious. Narangi is natural astringent, anti-oxidant, detoxifying. These lip balms seal in moisture, soothe dry lips, and leave them soft smooth and glossy.”

Product Benefits:

“Forest Essential Lip Balm (Sweet Narangi Juice) is uniquely designed to replenish and soften dry, chapped lips. Enriched with goodness of Natural Butters and Beeswax this balm gently heals and hydrate the lips. Free from synthetic chemicals and petroleum products this Lip Balm contains Narangi Juice and Almond oil to protect your lips. Due to its extraordinary moisturizing and hydrating properties it seals in moisture and soothes dry lips leaving them soft and glossy.”

Ingredient list reads something like – Kokum Butter, Organic Beeswax, Cold Pressed Organic Almond Oil, Cocoa Butter, Narangi Juice.

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After having used it for a couple of months, I can’t think of a single reason not to love it but for the price tag.

  1. It is god sent for dry, chapped lips and heals them as quickly as is humanly possible.
  2. It moisturises lips abundantly and keeps them that way for a good couple of hours.
  3. None of the waxy, sticky feeling that just coats your lips like varnish.
  4. Absolutely divine fragrance- a mild citrusy one which is to be expected given the ingredient, narangi ( orange).
  5. Despite the yellowish colour, it is a clear lip balm that just leaves a hint of a glossy shine on the lips.
  6. Adorable, classy packaging. Even if you are one of the very sane shoppers not to be swayed by packaging, this one is going to make you sit up and take notice. The compact case with a mirror for easy application is as fantastic a packaging as it can get.
  7. Natural ingredients.
  8. Cruelty free.

The only downside is the price tag (Rs 495/-) and the tub packaging may be unhygienic for some.

With winters around the corner, regular exfoliation and moisturising of lips is a must, at least for me. So it’s LUSH’s Bubblegum Lip Scrub (reviewed here) and Forest Essentials lip balm  all the way!

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