To someone brought up in a South India mileu, Karva Chauth has no meaning. For that matter, it had no significance even in Calcutta where I grew up. It was only when I went to Delhi for college that I came to know of such an event. It was a day when women broke their fast only after seeing the full moon via a colander/sieve/strainer, for whatever reason. A wag once told me that the vessel signified the tribulations the husband went through in life but I will let that pass.

The Barjatyas and their Rajshri Productions gave this whole event a kind of glam quotient after which it became big. In fact, if I am not mistaken, there was even a film by them with this title. A ghastly production it was, with Bharat Bhushan in the lead. He of course lent himself to such films. It also had Helen in it, the last person whom you would associate with such a title. In fact most women observed Karva Chauth to ensure their husbands did not run away with Helen, or at least aspire to.

Anyway, that is not the gist of my story. When I was studying in Delhi, Mikhail Gorbachev came on a State Visit, along with his wife Raisa. Rajiv Gandhi wanted all stops removed to make it a visit to remember. School children were asked to cheer the leader as he drove from the airport and when that did not make for an impressive number, Jats from Haryana were brought in truckloads to wave and hail Mikhail and Raisa. Rajiv Gandhi clearly wanted all world newspapers to report that “thousands lined the streets to welcome the USSR chief” or words to that effect.

The Times of India carried a report the next day. Clearly nobody had explained to the Jats what exactly was the name of the man whom they had cheered along it noted. Some called him Gobar Chor (stealer of cow dung). Others yelled out Ghar Bachao (save our homes). Several simply called him Karva Chouth. Fortunately for Gorbachev, he could only see them and not hear. But given that he and his wife were a happily married couple, I am sure she must have fasted and looked at the moon through a colander/sieve/strainer in some earlier birth.