The other day at the supermarket I got talking to a beautiful Indian woman who was working on the checkout. I was drawn to her pure skin and eyes like black pearls but I couldn’t help notice her ornate gold earrings and slender hands graced with the elaborate teardrop and paisley patterns of a temporary henna tattoo.
Call me nosey but I’ve always been interested in traditions of the Indian Sub-continent and will rarely pass up an opportunity to ask questions when I see a fading henna tattoo. I know this practice is usually associated with traditional Indian celebrations and at weddings the bride’s feet and hands are painted to create the illusion of gloves and stockings. But on this occasion as it turns out, my friend had been celebrating not a wedding but a special event called the Karwa Chauth Festival.
The festival is observed by married Hindu women four days after the full moon each year around November. It is a day when they fast in commemoration of the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands. It’s a day when women adorn their bodies with things that reflect their marital status like jewelry, bangles, henna, and bindi and a day when they receive beautiful gifts from their husbands as a gesture of their love and care.
The day-long fast starts before sunrise and ends after prayers and water are offered to the moon. During the day they listen as ‘Pujarin’ narrate the legend and history of Karwa Chauth and they pray for their husband’s well-being and long life. Traditionally don’t take any food or water until the moon is sighted and fasting is broken only after they are able to see the moon’s reflection in water. Ordinarily the moon would appear at around 7:30pm at this time of year but the sky was overcast that day so fasting continued until around 11pm when the moon made a tenuous appearance through a narrow crack in the clouds just enough for them to declare it over, she added with great relief.
Last Friday marked a new beginning for our family as Chris left the workforce after 40 years and as I stood at the checkout, torn between the mesmerising story and the laser stares from the line of shoppers behind me, I thought about the blessing I would bestow on my husband as he enters into retirement.
It was only a few years ago, probably around the time the kids were finishing school that we really started to take stock of our lives. We lived chaotic and busy lives far from the existence we dreamt of. As a couple we wanted a less complicated and more considered life, filled with certainty and security rather than doubt and debt. We knew we had the inclination and definitely the underlying ability to make it happen but moving from that existence to the one we wanted was going to take some time.
It’s not as though we did nothing. We attended marches and rallies, read lots of books and listened to influential speakers. We bought eco products, shopped for fair trade and organic food and started to become more conscious of our choices. But inspite of our good work, we were doing little to reduce our footprint on the planet and were still living a life of reckless consumerism.
It was really only a couple of years ago that something happened for us. We visited a friend’s Permaculture garden one weekend which ignited something within. It was at that point that we were finally ready to make significant changes and I mean changes that would make a real difference to our lives. We looked seriously at our finances from a retirement perspective and immediately pulled back from all unnecessary spending. We sold stuff, got rid of a dud investment property, offloaded a disused 4WD and put our energies into us, the really important part of this story. We started to re-learn lost skills and our underlying interest in Permaculture influenced many of our decisions as a guide to move into a more sustainable and conscious life.
Initially we catapulted into a fast paced trajectory working tirelessly to achieve a lot in a short time but we have set up what we consider to be an ideal retirement platform. We don’t need a lot and have adopted simple living techniques which help us to achieve our desired way of life. We’ve developed a beautiful Permaculture garden and take delight in growing some of our own healthy food, we make compost, tend to chickens, make many of our own products and cook all of our own food from scratch. Slowing down and appreciating a more simple way of life has reduced our stress and our spending and all I can wonder is why one earth it took us so long to get there.
Yes it’s official, we have a retiree in the house and while I didn’t adorn my limbs with henna or wear gold chained ear-rings on the fourth day after the full moon in November, I will celebrate each of our days together knowing that we’re finally living the life we’ve dreamt of. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the man who is my husband, a man who has lived a great life, a man who has given so much to his work, a man who genuinely cares about the people in his life and the world around him, the man whom with I share my life and dreams and the one I will live a quiet, simple and meaningful life with. And I can’t help but think…how lucky am I!
For the last year and a half I’ve been working on refining many skills so stay tuned for my next post when I tell you how to make…..good easy compost.