It was well past nine at night but the local sector market was buzzing with activity and bustling with crowd. Bangle shops had sprung up all over the market and were doing brisk business. But, the most sought after were mehendiwalas, dozens of them lined up on foot-path applying henna on the hands of women, young and old. It was the eve of Karva Chauth when a teenager in the crowd approached me with a weird request. I was taken aback when she asked me to take out her purse from the back- pocket of’ her jeans to make payment to the mehendiwala. For a moment, I was dazed. But then I noticed henna, freshly applied on both her hands, which could be smudged and hence the request. I took the purse hesitatingly from her pocket, dug out a five hundred rupee note and placed the balance hundred rupees carefully in the wallet and slipped it back into her pocket.
As I mused over the henna mania, my mind wondered to the days when henna was not such a craze. Though Mehndi has always been considered auspicious but in our times it was meant for weddings and special occasions, applied in privacy of homes but not in the open, certainly not in public glare. But the times have changed now. Women today are comfortable getting henna applied on their hands and feet in the market place. With their trousers rolled up, young girls can be seen getting intricate henna designs made on their legs. Evidently, henna has become a fashion statement these days and girls flaunt it with all outfits, traditional and modern. Undoubtedly, this is the younger generation which has rekindled love for henna and also revived interest in the tradition of Karva chauth.
Not many years ago, the Karva chauth festival was a low key, personal affair; festivity was there but was muted .On this day married women would dress up, observe certain rituals and keep fast for the long life of their husbands .Unlike today there was hardly any craze for henna, no maddening crowd in markets and also schools and colleges did not declare holiday on Karva chauth which has now become a practice. Indeed, the festival has undergone transformation, from a small family affair to a mega, ostentatious public celebration.
If the traditional festival of Karva Chauth has been resurrected and turned into a gala event, yet another day which celebrates romance has emerged from nowhere to become a day of grand festivity. I had never heard about Valentine Day during my college days but today fourteenth February is the much awaited day for the youngsters , courtesy the media and smart companies which create hype to make a fast buck. Today we have a Chocolate Day, Teddy Day and imagine, also a Kiss Day. Attempt is to rub in the message that love is incomplete without a gift-be these flowers, cards or precious diamonds. Does all this hoopla in the name of love and romance, not indicate commodification of romance and commercialization of love?
(Published in Chandigarh Tribune on Oct. 12, 2017)