The Navratre- or the chotu Navratre as I call it are going on. Chotu, because, I have seen that the Navratres leading up to Dussera are celebrated on a bigger scale as compared to these ones which come in April. As a kid, I use to fast sometimes on the last day of Navratri or Navami, or on some other occasion like Janamashthami, Shivaratri etc. However, as I grew older I stopped fasting altogether. I could not stay without food for a single day, knowing that I am barred from eating anything. Though there are many other days when I end up having something only by late noon or evening. But if I know I cannot eat- I just cannot not eat…:)
In our home a fast means, consumption of only milk and fruits, that too in limited quantity. There is no “Fast”- Food which is prepared for the fastees. My mother, who is the only person who fasts religiously on almost all so called pious days including Hartalika Teej, Poornima etc, stays without any kind of food the whole day. Milk may be, but no food. However, I have seen a different trend altogether in certain families.
People have something called “fast” food or “vrat” ka khana. So every regular food item is replaced by another supposedly “satvik” version. Regular sea salt is replaced by “Sendha” namak (Rock Salt). There are many goodies and savouries made especially to cater to the Fastees. People keep gobbling them throughout the day and proudly claim that they are fasting. Yesterday, a colleague took out her lunch. She was fasting. It had some yumm aloo sabzi (potatao) and kuttu ki poori (buckwheat pancakes).
The whole point of keeping a fast as per our old rituals is to give our stomachs rest from its daily grind. We eat three meals every day for most of the days. Fasts is a way of giving rest to the digestive system and our body as a whole for a day by abstaining from food intake. I am not sure what the exact purpose is, but in my view fasting means abstinence from the pleasure of eating. I choose to keep away from food the day I fast. It’s a way of self-control, which in a way tests and builds up the will power. I have seen the old ladies and my mom in the family fasting. They restrict their food intake and keep it minimal.
However, these days I see a whole new market of “Fast” food. There are special chips- which can be consumed on such days. Then I see people having special namkeen (a savory) during fasts. I think they just replace the regular salt with rock salt, and the fasting items are ready. There is a whole list of main course items and snacks which are either available ready made in shops, or people prepare at home to consume at various times during a day. Like today morning- I saw a colleague having “makhane” ki nameek for breakfast. Then at around 12 noon she dig out a “Chaulayi” ka laddoo from her bag. Later for lunch she said that she is off to Haldiram to have their Navratri Thaali. She said I should have it too its yum!
I wondered, what was the point of fasting, if I cannot control my taste buds and refrain from having any of my favourite foods while I am fasting? If I am giving in to my cravings for good food, then in principle I am not fasting. I am just replacing my regular favourite food, with another favourite of mine, with just the different kind of salt.
Infact today on insistence of that colleague I asked husband to go to Haldiram, as I thought let us taste the Navratri thaali- I am not fasting, but I am a big fan of Haldiram’s preparations. So after office we went to Haldiram with great expectations. Did I like the Thaali? NO. I had thought that the food would be simple but tasty. What I got instead was a plate of very spicy and oily food, which had all the ingredients of “fast” food, but was devoid of any simplicity. It was such a disappointment. The rice (vrat ke chaawal ofcourse), had so many black pepper in it, that I had to pick them and separate. The arbi ki sabzi was so oily, I never even make such oily arbi even on regular days. Even the raita was spicy! I would have been happier ordering regular idly dosa, which is one of my favourites at Haldiram.
I felt that it is better to eat and not cheat God and self, than by fasting and consuming equal if not more sumptuous food during the day.
I could not take a picture of the thaali today at Haldiram. Here is an image from Google. Our thaali was the same. Can you see the oil floating on “Arbi” and “Aaloo Sabzi”? and btw, it had shaahi paneer too..:)