Much like Trishanku

Trishanku. I see the word emblazoned on several pages in a diary where I took down notes during a lecture, drew doodles and wrote my name in different languages, a habit which is an unmistakable characterstic of self obsessed people, I hear. Well. Why does this word chug at my heart’s strings today? I bore down into the English and Hindi calligraphy shouting out the word aloud. I am Trishanku, I finally decide.

I am in a weird phase of my life when marriage proposals scare me. So does getting rishta-ed at social gatherings. And eventually, an irritation creeps up at times, when I’m not ready to accept the reality that the time has come, when the event you talked about as if it was too futuristic, is round the corner, peek a booing at you. And at times, I feel I am at that juncture, wherein I would love to share my life happily with a man I see capable of being my soulmate. But the very thought of leaving my parents, and settling in another house freaks me out too. For it’ll be a major change for a pampered only child like me. It is, for every woman, to be frank.

My Nani once talked of how, she was a rocking bride as she didn’t cry at all. But after what they call the ‘Pag Phera Rasam’, when the time to go to the “new nest” arrived, did the feeling sink in and needless to say, she was inconsolable. She still makes up for her not bauling like a baby at her wedding by doing so at family weddings or a movie scene, even the overtly dramatic ones, I tell you. She even cried at her son’s wedding, the daughter in law sobbing being the trigger. My mother and aunt had to pat her, consoling her with a lame “she’s coming to your place only, don’t you worry.” dialogue. Hilarious, right?

I guess that’ll be me. Totally mawkish at my wedding. But for now, It’s like I’m hanging nowhere, feeling incomprehensible and foolish. Why doesn’t any man fit into my list of an ideal mate, I ponder. Does that mean I have a list? Well, only in my mind; the contents of which I myself am a stranger to. For it seems hazy and so like a hideous elf straight from the stories of Enid Blyton, who pitter patters around. You can’t see it, but only hear it and feel it, looking at you being perplexed with a sly smile adorning the face, for everyone loves entertainment. Even if it’s your own mind and soul, which have been made to confuse you. Forever.

And on top of that, my Ipod playlist is mocking me too. I am listening to ‘Unse Mili Nazar’, the classic from the flick Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan. I love how the lyrics describe the myriad reactions and feelings of a woman when she stands mesmerized by a man whom she’s encountered briefly. It brings me into an “OMG I would love it if it happens to me soon” mode.

And then comes in Sona Mohapatra’s ‘Abhi Nahi Aana’. I must share some lines from the song that nail my mood-

“Mohe Thoda Marne De, Intezaar Karne De.”

“Thodi Door Rehke, Mohe Tarsaana,

Abhi Toh Main Chaahoon, Sari Sari Raat Jagna”

“Abhi Naa Jagao, Bane Raho Sapna,

Abhi Toh Main Chahoon, Aas Lagaye Rakhna…”

Another favourite for days when I feel I need more time for myself as a single woman. The song speaks of the joy of waiting for one’s beloved. Yes, I totally feel like that woman sitting at the jharoka of a splendid palace, sipping tea and reading a book, occasionally peeping out, smiling to myself and at my enigma. Haha! Also at the good luck of the man who’ll be mine. For he gets me, after all. 😉

Perhaps, In a few years, I’ll just laugh reading my own post, contemplating if or not, my husband deserves to be enlightened about the flimsy blogger that his wife was (and would still be at that point, rather.) Whatsay, folks?

The Game Of Last Names. Anyone?

This is a major vent out post. And on an issue which turns out to be, in several cases, a question on a woman’s rights, or let me term it as choice. It was yesterday during our evening walks that my mother was telling me the workplace gossip. One of her colleague’s daughter has got hitched recently. Now, the boy’s family was “encouraging” her to change her last name to that of her husband’s. I was dismayed. And I let out a loud and long “Whyyyyyyy on earth are they doing so?” immediately. My mother eye rolled and gave me a “Isn’t this obvious” look. And, I asked her, why did you change your surname, Maa? The answer to which was that “It was expected of me.” Being a teacher, she had an interesting tale to share.
She got married in February and right in March, joined back. March being the examination season in our country, she got busy in a round of examination duties. Now, as we all know, every teacher has to mark her presence in the attendance sheet. I’m talking about 1992, when they didn’t have the fancy electronic devices to do that by marking the finger impression. So, the peon arrived with the list and she got busy looking for her name. Since she has a fancy, though a ‘commonly popular’ name (that’s how I put it, Hah!), she had to search for her’s through the surname. Failing to do so, she sent the peon back to the incharge to edit the list. The peon, dillydallying, came back, announcing in a monotone that her name was there. She got irritated on checking it twice, and failing to locate it, was about to march to the incharge’s den, when the man in question appeared himself, and pointed out to her the name, which to her surprise had been changed. As in, they had already changed the last name. She had no say, and embarrassed (I didn’t understand why, though), she complied, for it had to happen anyway. Now, this was a classic example of the society forcibly putting into effect, it’s own rules down the woman’s throat. But my bone of contention was that why, in 2016, were we still in a dilemma when it came to the last name of a married woman? Why, oh why?
Isn’t it a woman’s choice entirely? If she wishes to keep her maiden name, good. If she wishes to keep the maiden name as the middle name or edit it out completely, that’s okay too (though, the latter decision could also be a desperate attempt just in case you have a hideous surname, man! Yeah? Heh). Some people choose not to have a surname at all, but that’s another debate altogether. My question is, does a mere changing of your last name indicate your love, happiness and feeling of togetherness to the new family you step into? Is that a marker of sorts? I am of the view that changing the surname is baseless. My mother considers it to be a hint of my adamancy and arrogance. Is it so? No! I have a sexy surname, and I have every right to keep it. Hehehe pardon my naive remark. Though I do have something against women who completely change their identity and merge it with that of their better halves, that is, adding their husband’s full name (name and last name) to their first name. How utterly claustrophobic does it look. And according to me it is a marker of dependency. For to me, it only sets out to cement your status as a commodity, which was transferred from one male to another. And to add to that, if a woman herself does that, joyfully, then, needless to say, patriarchy will have the last laugh.

So, ladies, take the reins of your life and identity in your hands. And do have a choice. And strength enough to voice it. And stand by it.

Periods. Ooolala!

“When she bleeds, the smells I know change color.
There is iron in her soul on those days.
She smells like a gun.”

Menstruation. Periods. Aunt Flo. Blood sister. One process. Many names.
Every woman quickly dons an excited avatar when asked to talk about her tryst with menstruation. I am no different from the lot. And today, I am inspired to open my pandora’s box and share my story. It was on my mind since many, many months. But I guess, it had to written today. So be it.
I’ve studied Literature for five long years and will continue to, for being a student of literature doesn’t end when the course ends. It’s a never ending process. You keep reading and growing. What the course has bestowed on me is a sense of immense pride on being a woman, albeit I’m still, in little ways, moving away from the patriarchal definition of a perfect woman, in cultivating myself to have a strong, independent mind and opinion, not to be easily suppressed or thwarted. Yet when it came to Periods, I was struggling. Thanks to the social set up around me.
It was in sixth standard when I got to know about the process. And how! All of us girls were secretly huddled into a hall, where these women representatives from an ngo, in tandem with our teachers, had their pincers ready, to grab and feed the till then withheld fruit of knowledge to us. They made it appear as something very secretive and dirty, with strict instructions not to tell any male about all that trespassed in that hall. We were told about the mood swings, headaches, food cravings, irritability, about pre menstrual symptoms, so to say. And it was meted out to us in a very confusing manner. I sat there, thinking, “Oh, Lord! I have been grunting for days at home, pestering mumma to prepare my favorite dish and I had a headache yesterday as well.” I was convinced I had periods. It sounded like a disease. I was worried. And then the ill informed ladies used the blue ink and the sanitary napkin to “help” us understand the process, which further confused and scared me. The short movie revolving around a young girl getting her first period showcased to us didn’t positivize things any further.
And suddenly, I was this girl on a mission. On returning back to class, we girls were concocting excuses that we were supposed to give when the boys would shoot us questioning glances. You see, patriarchy had already done the black magic.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to get back home and get hold of mumma. Just as my father got up from the dining table post lunch, I started with the tale in hushed voices. My mother listened patiently and to my horror, confirmed that all of it was indeed true and that no, I didn’t have periods. She, being a biology teacher, gave me a very detailed definition and clear idea of the process, which knocked some sense into my head. But at the same time, I felt betrayed because the gates to the secret kingdom had been veiled from my eyes till now, and I couldn’t wait to enter the golden gates into the new world.

One day, I was alone at home and opened my mumma’s cupboard to take something out, and Viola! There it lay. The sanitary napkin with a small booklet, which she must have got from some god damnit similar session in her school. And I read the booklet, only to understand that each woman’s menstrual cycle is different, which furthered me in my interest on the topic. Then when I held the sanitary napkin in my hands, it was the most queer moment. I felt so excluded and special, both at the same time, as if it was a prized possession I had caught my hands on, accidently. That summer, we went on a road trip to Pithoragarh and in the famous Kali Temple there, I wished that I get my periods soonest, because I wanted to experience the transformation, that of being a woman. Since both my besties had got their periods a few months back, I felt left out when they discussed the “P issues” in school. My mother was shocked beyond comprehension when she heard of my wish and commented bluntly that “they’ll come anyway. You’ve wasted your wish, girl!” And the wish stood fulfilled in one months time! Just as the school term started.

Nothing, and I mean nothing prepared me for periods. I suffered from terrible menstrual cramps the whole day at school, thinking of them as a stomach ache. The moment I reached back home, in tears, I told my mother about it and she shrugged simply, placating me that she’ll take me to the doctor, for I must have eaten something wrong. And when I looked at that red spot in the bathroom, all pain vanished and I rushed to inform my mother of the arrival of my blood sister, brandishing the undies like battle scars. She was horrified at my supposed unabashed display and nonchalance when it came to being a ‘proper woman’. I, on the other hand, was on cloud nine. I was gloating. I called my Granny to inform her of the new development and she laughingly congratulated me, sharing her list of do’s and don’ts, post that.
But in spite of all my happiness, I discovered to my horror, the painful menstrual cramps were there to stay. That made me dread my periods over the years. Then I went through the usual phase every woman does- of cursing periods, of hating men that entire time when the tummy felt like it was being pierced and burnt. I too, like other girls, wished we never had them or if at all we had to, even men should experience something as painful as that. My mother belonged to that lucky lot who didn’t experience the painful, painful menstrual cramps. She couldn’t share my pain. Also, those three-four days were a supreme test, an exercise to remain “normal” in spite of all the mess in front of my father, or any other male for that matter. His every word made me angry and he unknowingly got on my nerves, which still happens now.
I still view every male as worthy of being hunted and shot, if I am in pain. I value that ‘me time’ all the more during the first day, for luckily, unlike other women, who suffer in pain for all the days their periods are on and have to take pain killers to carry on with their work, I only suffer on the first day. With loss of appetite, runny stomach and weakness tugging at my sleeve. But, like other women, I was told to bear with it, for how would I bear pain during childbirth. Yes, that’s the silly logic society gives you. With some women throwing shady things like it’ll be cured after marriage, making me think if at all it had something to do with your sexual appetite/needs being satiated/taken care of suddenly. Hah!

When one day, after many years, I couldn’t take it, I called up my maternal aunt, who is a gynecologist, I asked her to do something about it. And she suggested I up my Vitamin B12 and calcium intake, for that might be a root cause of the pain. I did as she told, and trust me, it worked wonders, for the pain lessened to a great degree. So, ladies! Don’t suffer in silence, or pop pills unknowingly. Take care of your diet, exercise regularly and slow down while menstruating, for your body demands to be pampered. And don’t hesitate to take medical help in case you feel the need to offload your agony and pain and seek some sort of remedy.

Now now, coming to the menfolk. We’ve all heard stories of clueless males being enlightened about the process through courageous and sensible women in their families, at some point of time in their lives. Haha, right? It was still a biggie for me when I heard a guy in my post graduation, retorting to another girl when she was getting cranky at him, with shouts of “someone give her a Meftal Spas.” My eyes popped out in surprise and adulation. I had my own experience recently. My male bestie messaged me, blabbbering about how I needed to be pampered during ‘that time of the month’, for he got the information from the pictures I had liked on Instagram. I stared at that message for a minute. Shock, relief and gladness tiding over me, for he understood, and that I could prattle about my mood swings and pain to him, without feeling like a monster. All the more because I had described pmsing as “a girly problem” to him two days back, falling so deep in my own eyes for saying that. Me, an enlightened woman, of all things. Much like a stream of consciousness, it struck me how one thing is interlinked to the other when it comes to periods. If we educate our young girls to view periods as a normal biological process instead of a thing to be shy and silent about, then we cannot leave the men behind. That would change the status quo and ensure the society itself is period positive. We should enlighten girls about menstrual hygiene, to not give in to the superstitions that the society sets for us, only to break them and end the tyranny. To use red ink in advertisements to highlight the truth, to not change channels if an advertisement on pads arrives, to avoid period shaming by getting pads wrapped in black bags. For periods are to be celebrated. You’re fertile. You’re powerful. And unstoppable.

This blog post is written as an entry for the #PeriodPositive blogathon, organised by Women’s Web.

“This blogathon is supported by the Maya App, used by 6.5 million women worldwide to take charge of their periods and health.”