| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Oct 14 On Saturday, Kanika Syal will
wake up before dawn to begin a fast at sunrise, and not eat or
drink until she sees the moon at night -- all in the hope her
husband will have a long life.
Karva Chauth is a centuries-old tradition observed annually
in north India, where women dress up and fast for the day to
pray for their spouse's good health and success.
"Since a very long time ago, we have been looking at our
mothers celebrate," says the 25-year-old Syal, who is making her
Karva Chauth debut as a newlywed. "It is our turn now."
But it's different for the teacher-turned-homemaker, who,
as a member of India's rapidly growing middle class, will be
doing a lot more than her mother ever did for the festival.
While it is customary for women to apply henna on their
hands, buy clothes and expect gifts from relatives, the new
generation of fast-keepers, with money to spare, is exploring a
range of pampering options. They are spoilt for choice.
Syal will indulge in a 5,000 rupee ($102) diamond facial and
body spa treatment to make sure she looks her best.
Also on the must-have list for the urban elite are botox,
laser-hair reduction and chemical peel treatments at spas and
beauty parlours offering Karva Chauth packages.
"There is a 30 to 40 percent increase in the number of
patients who look for cosmetic procedures around this time,"
says Amit Bangia, head of the department of dermatology at the
Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.
The origins of the festival are shrouded in mystery, but one
tale tells of a queen being duped by her brothers into breaking
her fast before moonrise, leading to the king's immediate death.
She is given a second chance, fasts faithfully -- and he returns
A booming economy and wave of consumerism have given India's
middle-class more spending power, and malls and luxury stores
are wooing women with items such as Swarovski crystal-studded
channis, the sieve traditionally used to look at the moon before
breaking the day's fast.
For the tech-savvy, jewellery firm Tanishq has introduced a
Karva Chauth smartphone app to complement its festival line-up.
The app converts the phone into a sieve for the night.
Even mehendi-wallas, the artists who apply henna, make a
killing with their custom-made designs. Some charge 5,100 rupees
to do both hands.
But not everyone indulges.
Shalini Sood Bhaduri, a former marketing professional, finds
the festival "absolutely ridiculous" and "off-putting".
"I really don't believe that by observing the fast for one
day, it is going to add to his life," she said.
Some feminists, however, believe it may be too simplistic to
dismiss Karva Chauth as a patriarchal custom.
Madhu Kishwar, a senior fellow at the Centre for the Study
of Developing Societies in Delhi, sees it as an interesting
"game-play between men and women".
"There are so many rituals that women seem to have devised
to raise the testosterone level of men ... that is when men are
more likely to be indulgent partners," she said.
Bollywood hits such as "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" --
"Large-Hearted Person will Take the Bride Away", starring Shah
Rukh Khan -- have also made the festival more even-handed, with
the hero fasting for his beloved.
Rohan Vasudeva, a Delhi-based businessman, observed the fast
for his fiancée last year when they were engaged.
This time, Vasudeva will leave the fasting to his wife. But
he is still counting down to Saturday.
"I am looking forward to taking her out to dinner."
(Editing by Elaine Lies and Robert Birsel)