Not once in my life have I fasted. You take a food lover like me, mix it with quasi-feministic traits and top it off with a midweek break after a hectic work routine, and the day of Teej adds up to a mere, but a much appreciated, Saturday for me.
Contrary to my seemingly banal routine, however, Teej is a big hype for the women in my family, as is for most of married and even unmarried Nepali women.
From one perspective, how can it not be? The religious significances of Teej lie in the stringent tapasya Parvati Mata endured for the love of her life (or lives), Shivaji.
I can easily understand how a woman can swoon over this better-than-fairytale version of love. Reaffirming their belief in this romance, women adorn themselves with all things beautiful and adopt a strict resolve to fast – some, even without a drop of water – for the long life of their respective husbands or husbands-to-be. Yes, the idea is romantic. But for someone like me, it’s an idea that’s better off left in the pages of legends than executed. This is how I’ve felt all my life and hence would explain the ‘I never fast,’ concept.
However, I’m reconsidering my neutral Teej stance for a one that embraces the joy of Teej. Albeit my acknowledgement and reconsideration of this festival doesn’t mean that I’ll be fasting, but at least I’ll learn to appreciate those who do fast.
Illustration: Sworup Nhasiju
While growing up, I’ve seen not only married women devote themselves to this belief but I have also seen girls my age adopting this strict practice, never understanding why or how.
I still marvel at how a married woman, let alone an unmarried one, can go to such heights without taking in so much as a drop of water all day long? How can she find so much dedication in herself?
But today, I must say that to be able to have so much belief in something and to carry it out with such high spirits for the sake of someone else is an admirable suit worth applauding. So all of you who fast during Teej – Salutes to you!
If I were asked just to imagine a day where I would have to refrain from food and water, I would quickly summon the Human Rights argument. And here exists an entire group of women which doesn’t see fasting as a violation of any rights, or as men exercising their dominance over women. For these selfless and kind women, Teej is a day that shouldn’t provoke heated debates about why it’s women who have to fast and not men, but rather should show to the coming generations the wondrous magic of believing in something they, too, can have. And I’m beginning to understand this argument.
What I’ve realized is that although I’m a staunch believer in not fasting (thanks mainly to the big foodie in me), I can’t judge Teej as being a festival against women. On the contrary, it’s one very much for women.
But let me clarify here again that in case a woman chooses not to fast – married or unmarried – that’s completely fine, too. My point is that those who are fasting must be conscious decision-makers of their action. Different women have different ways of expressing their emotions, so while some may choose to convey their sentiments by abiding by certain customs, others may have different, but still wonderful, approaches.
Now Teej may be a mere, but a much appreciated, Saturday for me but to millions of Nepali women all around the globe, it’s a celebration of the love they have that gets manifested as power as they pray to prolong the lives of their beloved husbands. And all the beloved husbands, I’m sure you realize how lucky you are to have a woman in your life who can be as modern as Madonna one minute and turn to your customized version of Parvati the next – you lucky man, indeed!
The writer is student of Political Science at Thammasat University who enjoys exploring life and all that it has to offer.