Note: I apologize in advance if this post offends those who believe in religious fasting. You may find yourself outraged, but please know, I am not attacking your belief system, simply stating my own.
There are several reasons why people fast: spiritual, political, therapeutic. In the three decades I’ve been on this planet, I’ve mostly observed orthodox Indian women engaging in said activity — for their children’s health, their husbands’ long life, or to appease one of their 330 million deities.
In India (and for Indians living abroad), karvachauth is a big thing — a festival now of sorts where an entire community of married women come together to support each other through the day. It creates a sense of sisterhood. They take pride in it. It’s something so pure. So selfless.
I am not a believer in fasting for something so logically disconnected. I mean, how in the world can my not ingesting any food or water for an entire day contribute to the length of my husband’s life? If anything, it’ll affect mine! My husband is the keeper of his own health. His exercise regime, his diet plan — he controls them. He’s an adult who can take care of himself for crying out loud. And if he wants to fast for a good, long life, more power to him! My fasting ain’t doing him no good.
To add to my angst, I see all these socially accepted “modifications” to this particular religious fast where now women have “agreed” to have tea, or a light fruit snack where 20 years ago you wouldn’t even *think* of taking a sip of water. They crib within. They post Facebook status messages about when is the moon going to finally come out!!??!! They wonder why their husbands won’t fast for them. But they do it anyways. And, they get gifts in return for their “sacrifice.” So much for selfless.
There’s nothing selfless about religious fasting. It’s all for something. Heard of the famous Monday fast that helps you find the perfect partner? Apparently, there’s someone up there who listens to your prayers when you say no to meals any given day of the week. But make sure you fast on the right day in honor of the right deity for the right thing!
Pardon my sarcasm, but it really irks me how in this day and age we continue to fool ourselves into doing things that were established eons ago when people didn’t know any better. A little Wikipedia search showed me that it’s not just Indian culture that sanctions this practice, it’s part and parcel of many faiths world-over. Did anyone think though that it might have been instituted as a means to cleanse your digestive system? And the only way it could be made popular was by associating it with religion? Mass hysteria. Mass acceptance. And then it takes the form of belief. If you believe it truly works, there’s no arguing against it.
Scientifically — logically — it makes sense to abstain from meat, cooked food, alcohol, and what have you once a week to give your inner machinery some rest. Also, it works if you want to test your will power.
But if you tell me that my fasting for a day will make my family life happier or get me that promotion at work, let me tell you I am “working” toward making those things happen.