Fasting – the Hindu Way

Update for week ended 8 April 2011

Monday was the start of the lunar cycle year for many Hindus. This marks the beginning of the Chaitra/Chitra/Chithira month and a very auspicious day. It is also the day, when many retailers await hordes of shoppers to throng their stores and augur a good beginning to the year. This is also the starting date of the Nine Day (or literally Night) Festival ,Navaratra or Navaratri which should not be confused with a similar named Festival held in October or November – though in concept is quite similar. To differentiate between the two Navaratras, some prefixes are added, the most common being – Vasant Navaratra to denote the Spring Nine Night Festival and Sharada Navaratri – the Autumn Nine Night Festival. Interestingly, both these homonym festivals are dedicated to the same two though unrelated Gods from the Indian Pantheon – the Sacred Goddess and the Warrior Prince. And customs during both these festivals are quite similar – including piety, prayers, following a vegetarian diet and for many – fasting. And fasts among Hindus can be quite far away from the dictionary meaning of the word as I describe below. Most fasts in Northern and Western India start on a basic concept – stay away from grains and pulses. So with carbohydrates and proteins deducted from an average diet, and also the fact that vegetarianism prevails, the rush towards alternate energy givers and body builders gets desperate. So little known grains like buckwheat , kuttu or water chestnut, singhaada or sago, sabudana become ideal carbs to introduce into the diet. And with Indian vegetarianism, which does not exclude dairy products, quickly takes in all the milk, butter, cream, clarified butter to supplement the proteins and the fat. And vegetables are replaced with fruits, especially the cheaper and more calorific among them. Bananas are the easiest to fill this gap. So during these 9 days or so, most fish markets or butchers will be chasing flies or hitting flies – as a Hindi, Tamil, Bengali or any other Indian phrase goes. And so if egg prices drop, and the butcher takes his bi-annual vacation, the banana farmers rakes in the bucks. The Eastern Indians have a simple rule, no meat, no fish nor poultry, no eggs – niraamish as they call it, is equal to fasting. The South Indian version of the fast is slightly different from those of the north, west or east – as it stays away from the staple cereal – rice, and tries to lighten the meal with snacks, Palahaarams. So any other cereal goes – cracked wheat, bulghur, semolina, are par for the course. And like an adorable uncle who once jokingly mocked the ardent “fast followers” in the household by commenting on the lunch table spread. “This is a feast, not a fast”, said he, “pala ahaaram not palaharaams” where pala translates to various while ahaaram translates to meals..

The D Boyz were also in the mood for the nine day or night festival, so they started the week with purchases as the vendors on D Street sold many stocks that were attractively priced – and with more Boyz buying, the prices of these stocks are started moving up, pushing up the SENSEX – and this sustained for the next 2 days. And then the pangs of fasts caught up with them, as bananas and other fruits started getting costlier and the Boyz had to shell out more than they did last week, causing drooping faces and dropping SENSEX. And as the nation fasted , at homes and even at public parks and near monuments, the starving Boyz had to let go of more of their money, letting the SENSEX settle lower at 19451 – so the euphoria of the new week were nearly erased as the SENSEX ended the week just 31 points above last week.

The fight against corruption has taken a different route that many Indians today may not relate to – that of public protest through fasts. This was quite rampant in the pre-independence era, as history books expound, but seeing it happen on television sets in drawing rooms, is something that has stirred the mood of many urbanites. Candle vigils, marches, sit ins are getting more common, as the main targets stay smugly in their place wishing that this just dies a natural death as many protests in Independent India have. I hope the jasmine wave from the Maghreb does flow through India, and I am confident it will bring in its sweet fragrance and uplift us all.

Have a nice weekend as the next season of cricket frenzy hits out across the country – this time with tuskers and warriors joining in the action. Have a safe and happy weekend….. Cheers

6 thoughts on “Fasting – the Hindu Way

  1. A nice turn from Navratra, to Palahaarams and down to SENSEX,as expected from a Finance Professional, not to miss aacha aaplya Anna Hazare and his mighty task ahead ..keep writing.

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