Thursday, December 22, 2016

SNAKE






memories now like
half-eaten corn on the cob
too many blanks

the fancy terms
amnesia,dementia
treatments and stages
causes and refuges

this refuses to be
classified
just like me

not fond of naming
or defining
a free flowing drop
of love

I can hear the carols
from years ago
or witness 
the conversation
between Sartre and Simone
about life

"we have liabilities"
and bodies
and souls

that vast barren expanse
that hangs
unalive,undead
unloved

spotlights
kill sparks in the eyes
like a game of "snake"
Time eats its tail

lets see
if I will
forget you 
or forget myself.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In The Quest Of Liberation

This story was first published at women's web here
How she wished to evade this journey, this last journey that was taking her away from her home and family forever.
The train had halted at a junction at dawn; all kinds of vendors were hawking their goods. Kusum lay huddled like a lifeless object. Her son had gone out to buy bidi and chai.
A few minutes later he shook her and handed over half-a kulhar of limp watery tea. Adjusting himself with three other men on the edge of the seat near her he said, “Amma! In three hours we will be at Varanasi junction. You are soon going to be at the city of liberation. Jai Bholenath!”
Kusum did not what to say about that. The storytellers back in her village sung songs about Kashi, also known now as Varanasi or Benares- the city that shined the city of light, the city of Moksha.
But she also knew that for widows like her it was a pilgrimage till death. Though her sons had assured her that they would regularly visit her, pay her some maintenance and ensure that she remained safe and healthy in some Widhwa Ashram, she could see the deception in their eyes.
The fact that her three sons whom she had raised and educated by working hard as household help for decades in cities now did not want her in their homes had broken her heart as a mother. Her shaking hands fumbled the edge of the pallu of her Sari; there inside the firm knot were four tablets of Sulphas- a pesticide her sons used in the fields.
Kusum knew she could not live away from her home and her children now, so she had resigned to her fate. Death it would be for her at the Ghats of Varanasi.
Two days later after depositing her like an abandoned antique at an ashram near the famous Sankatmochan temple her son had returned home.
The older residents had told her all the rules of widowhood again- no meat, onion, garlic in food, never let your hair grow more than a close-crop, always keep your head covered, no colourful possessions ever, live a life of penance.
They were 10 of them in a small room with a single barred window. They had to sleep in a long row across the floor on a single threadbare rug. Dull white saris, hanged on a tattered washing line, only two bare meals a day consisted of dry, coarse rice often served without any curry or gravy.
Kusum fumbled with the Sulphas tablets and the idea of suicide every day, but never could generate courage enough to end her own life. Also even worse tales of other widows around her of abandonment, humiliation, disease and sometimes even forced prostitution made her question her own pride as a mother of three sons in this society.
Men were the masters of their destinies and their bodies, as fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. A widow needed to be punished for her misfortune of outliving her husband. They were ostracised in homes and villages, considered inauspicious and deprived of all inheritance.
In her first two weeks in the holy city she had heard numerous gruesome tales of torture and inhuman sexual exploitation of younger widows at the hands of ashram officials, shopkeepers, landlords, politicians and the police.
The older ones sang bhajans for paltry money and begged when pressed for survival. She was told death of a widow was even worse than this life as ‘living Sati’, she was told the staff of the ashram did not want to spend any money on their cremation and last rites and often discreetly discarded off dead bodies in gunny bags in the river itself. So much respect for dead mothers in a country that worshipped ‘Devi’, the hypocrisy made her cringe.
On a warm sunny afternoon as she sat at the stairs of the famous Manikarnika Ghat seeking alms for sustenance, Kusum thought she saw a familiar face, leading a group of young people and setting up a kiosk. Her roommates told her that they were the NGO people who ran health check-ups etc. for the destitute and widows.
She looked again, peeping from the corner of her white sari; the lady indeed looked like Reema jiji. The eldest daughter-in-law of the Pathak family for whom she had worked in Delhi for more than a decade before moving back to her village with her ailing husband.
But this was also now almost twelve years ago she wondered. Reema jiji’s son would be almost 25 now, she estimated. Kusum looked again for any visible signs of Reema’s marital status; she wasn’t wearing any sindoor in the parting of her hair, or any red bangles, mandatory for all married women. She wondered, so had her husband Mahendra bhai passed away too and just like all other widows she had come to spend the rest of her life at Varanasi.
Meanwhile the kiosk had been set up and they had started distributing free medicines. She too was tugged along by her roommate to the queue. Timidly she moved closer. Reema jiji’s grey head was bent on a register as she asked, “Name, Age?”
As she muttered her name, Reema looked up and after staring into her wrinkled and freckled face for a few seconds, immediately enclosed her in a warmest hug she had experienced now in a long-long time.
She asked about her whereabouts and promised to come to meet her the next day at noon at the Panchganga Ghat.
When they met, Kusum was shocked to hear that Reema’s husband was very much alive, but had brought another woman to live in the house years ago, and that her son chose his profligate father over her. He had chosen his inheritance from the family over his mother’s honour.
She was even more shocked to know that like her Reema too had moved to Varanasi to kill herself, but realised her death would mean nothing to anyone, but her life could be made useful for other women. She could use her pain and her education to help others and also seek solace.
Mrs. Reema Pathak- was no longer just a wife or the mother of a son, or an abandoned woman. She had reinvented herself, had made this city her new home and the widows here her new selfless family. She was part of a social organisation that provided vocational training to younger widows and offered support and assistance to older and sick ones in their last years.
Kusum opened the knot at the edge of her sari and threw the Sulphas tablets into the Ganga. A few months later she was training other widows to stitch costumes for deities and earn a respectable living.
She now lived with dignity with Reema and joined hands with so many others to take their destinies in their own hands.
In a few days it was the festival of colours, Holi, and after centuries of colourless life, all the widows along with Reema and Kusum were preparing herbal colours to break another taboo that chained them. They would play in colours like everyone else and reclaim their identities as living beings even after their husbands had passed away.
They now knew that if they were free in their minds, anywhere could be home, and Varanasi could actually be the city of liberation for widows too, as it was deemed to be.

Monday, December 19, 2016

how much does your soul weigh?

soul weighs 21 grams
so says the research

how much
does grief weigh?
or loss
or the lump
in my throat

how much is 
the weight
of that moment
when 
one belle' ame  
meets another

how much
is that nakedness
in grams that aches
and loves
remembers
and understands?

how much
does your soul weigh?



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ZENTANGLE





Somewhere an earthquake 
has rocked the earth
somewhere a volcano sizzles
surfaces and masks
deceptive always

As the core liquifies
and keeps simmering
the pretense of calm
to befool the world

trapped in a Zentangle
you try to exhibit
your talent and greatness
and I barely hold my pencil right

you write peace, composure
celebration
I draw confusion, conflict,pain


feeling "Toska"
trapped in a Zentangle
called Love
called Life





Thursday, November 17, 2016

LET IT GO

The alarm clocks have died
the mobile rings
the world is fogged out
objects have blurred
into each other

a lone sandal
abandoned near a drain
some things are useful
only in pairs

thick tiles stolen
off a pavement
arranged like some
ancient Shamanic ritual
the flower-seller
is dreaming of
a warmth called home
shivering in a thin quilt

an abandoned house
like an enlightened mind
leaves all its windows open
waiting for some dreams

TVs and remotes
people-remotely connected
word play
who plays with whom?

pour,scrub,chant
chop,grate,grind,chant
alrms,alarms,alarms
microwave
washing machine
eat,drink,type
like,comment,tweet
read,write,mark
BREATHE
mechanical motions

cohesion and coherence
go first
comprehension is
not a virtue

little fights and victories
red bicycle,Joyce
crayons,Hugh Prather
words,conversations
monosyllables

hug yourself
I tell a friend

to let go
of letting go

the last dimension

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Somewhere in the outback



In the shadow 
of the Uluru*
or somewhere in the
desolate outback
among the waterholes,
the rock engravings
in the Dreamtime**

lie buried
a child's clapping sticks
and the echoes of
their careless gammon
till the gubba man***
arrived
and stole generations 

the abandoned fish hooks
and the broken boomerang
long for the 
Rainbow Serpent
now long gone 

the coroborees#
seeking the old spirits
in the sand and the snow
the desert red with love
not blood

where all stories begin !




* The Ayers Rock
** The Dreamtime (or Dreaming) is a term used to describe the period before living memory when Spirits emerged from beneath the earth and from the sky to create the land forms and all living things.
*** government

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The #PeriodPride Warrior’s Rhyme


Image Courtesy: Google



Grandma tradition
Spoke to little P
When you get your period
Listen to me:

“Pickles could rot
And plants could die
If you touch cattle
Their udders may dry

Don’t say prayers
Or touch any holy book
Don’t enter the kitchen
And don’t you dare cook

Why do you need to
wash your filthy hair?
Do not touch your husband
If you really care


Your dirty, unclean cycle
Can make men and children ill
If you go swimming
You’ll drown for sure
or be a shark’s kill

If you go dancing
Or play out in the field
You will stain your skirt
and your family honor indeed.”

But P knew her body
So she wasn’t really afraid
She laughed at the don’ts
and a new song, she made

“My dear dear granny
Granny full of traditions
I will not follow your taboos
Not any of these conditions

Across borders and cultures
Women of the world unite
In feeling no shame
For blood that makes life

So listen my dear
I will do as I please
I am a #PeriodPride warrior
your taboos I shall defeat.”




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


Other posts for this blogathon :




Friday, October 28, 2016

The Curse of a Taboo #PeriodPride



This is a semi-fictional account of how women find strength to fight against taboos that have jeopardized their lives and strive for a better and equal existence for their next generataion by de-stigmatizing menstruation #PeriodPride.


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




Pavna was sitting in an aeroplane for the first time in her life. She was anxious because of her broken English, the speech she had to give in the conference in faraway London and for her two daughters whom she had left behind for a few days with her mother.

It had been such a long journey, 37 years, from Baraara, her tiny village in Himachal to London. Her companion Ms.Mehra had told her that her speech would be seen the world over, she was now a “global icon.”

Just a few minutes after take-off Pavna had asked Ms Mehra to guide her to the washroom of the plane, she needed to change her sanitary napkin. She was scared of very little in life now, but confined spaces still made her uncomfortable. In that small washroom thousands of feet above the earth, in that confined space as she pulled out a fresh napkin from her handbag, she became the 11 years old back in the village, blood running down her thighs for the first time.

She thought she was about to die, in all her school books many people bled and died in wars. She asked herself she wasn’t injured, was this then a curse from the village Devta? She had stolen two apples from the neighbor’s orchard the other day.

As she rushed to her mother, who was working in the cow shed and told her. Her mother inspected her stained salwar and began crying. Asking her to stay back in the Obra, she rushed in to the house and came back with some rags, she twisted those into a kind of flat thick towel and asked her to insert into her panties to soak the blood.

Pavna asked, “Amma am I going to die?”
He mother sighed and said, “ No, you will not die, this will happen every month for a few days, you are now going to get these dirty days like me and all other women and stay in the Obra till you are pure again.”
The list of instructions was long, though she knew most of them; it was she who would be sent to leave food for her mother at the door of the Obra by her grandmother every month when she was unclean.

·         No going out during the day, not even to school.
·         No going out to the fields even for toilet.
·         No playing with her siblings.
·         No touching any family member or cows.
·         No sleeping during day time.
·         No food except once during every 24 hours.

She was ready to follow all these because she knew those evil girls and women who didn’t could invite the wrath of the elders and even the ‘devta’. But she was only scared about the night; there was no electricity in that room.
Her mother was also worried for her, after all she was just an 11 years old child, and even she felt scared in there at night alone, what if a leopard attacked or a snake entered through the hay stack.

As she passed the meal to Pavna just after sunset over the threshold, she passed a homemade kerosene lamp made of a small glass bottle with a wick piercing through its lid. She knew the lamp wouldn’t last all night and was dangerous in a room full of hay but still hoped Pavna would fall asleep before it went out.

Pavna didn’t eat much on the first night. Her stomach was aching; the bleeding had already soaked the towel quite a bit. She lay down in the grass trough and covered herself with a rug made of old cattle feed bags. She longed for a hot cup of tea and wanted to cuddle with her mother. Outside the locked door she could hear the rest of the family going about their chores as normal.
It was for the first time today she realized why her grandmother said being born a girl was a curse.

Her mother tried to keep up her spirits as much as she could, and for the first time Pavna felt a strange association and empathy with all women who went through the same as her, including her mother.By the third day the bleeding was less and erratic but by now she was numb to this humiliation, this fear, this trauma.On the fifth day she was allowed to bathe and was clean again. She could eat and play with her brothers, walk in all rooms of her house and most importantly cuddle with her mother.

She prayed and prayed to the “devta” to stop her curse and not send it back ever again, but it kept recurring at regular intervals. By the time she was sixteen she was used to the routine of “those days” which were not even mentioned to anyone.

She was in class 10 when the ladies from the city came to the school, taught them several new words including one for the curse – MENSTRUATION.
They said things contrary to what her mother had told her and what she and her friends gossiped about it, that it wasn’t a curse, that they must bathe and keep themselves clean on those days, that they must use ‘napkin’ and not dirty cloth.
Pavna went home and told her mother, showed her the free packet of napkins that was given to her at school. Her mother stared at her blankly as if she was talking some foreign language. Neither Pavna, nor her mother could muster courage enough to change status quo.

Soon she was married off to a man chosen by her father and brothers. At 18 she understood that the curse of being a woman didn’t end in the cowshed, it extended to the bedroom. Her mother had told her she must do whatever her husband asked her to, even if it hurt her, otherwise she would be a bad wife.
Now she was mother to a little girl herself. She knew if she had a son, her husband and his family would be happier. A year later she had another girl. The taboo and the restrictions continued.

Image Courtesy: Google

Pavna’s fate was indeed grim, as she struggled to parent her girls her husband who was a soldier in the army was killed in Kashmir.She and her girls became even lesser than cattle in that house after that, though they were kind enough to not send her back to her parents’. She slogged in the fields, suffered all insults from his family but kept herself focused on raising her girls.

When her older girl was 10, the taboo hit again. This time Pavna garnered all the strength and stepped out of that house, her girls would not spend even a single night as an untouchable, cursed being. Pavna never looked back. It was not easy; she lived in NGOs, charity homes but started a movement against menstruation taboos.

Image Courtesy : Google

The knocking on the door was now very loud, it was Ms Mehra, “Pavna, are you alright.”
Pavna smiled and said, “Yes, now I am alright.”

The scared girl had finally gained undying self-esteem for herself and many others like her. She was now mom to two confident young girls, who unlike her were not only pursuing higher education but helped her regain her confidence whenever she faltered.

Just after her speech the next day, she received a text message from her daughters;along with was a photo of all the girls from her NGO.

We are proud of you Amma. 

Pavna had finally overcome her fear of confined spaces, cow sheds, pedestals, podiums. She had found #PeriodPride for herself and her girls.

 Other posts for the Blogathon :



Monday, October 24, 2016

Not Just a Woman’s Problem #PeriodPride

This is a fictional account of how damaging can menstrual taboos and silence about reproductive health be for both men and women, and how men can support and encourage women and families to understand menstruation better and join hands to empower #PeriodPride.


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




In the small village Rohera near Rohtak, Manveer was the youngest of his five older sisters, well technically one of them- Mamta, his twin just two minutes older than him. She was the only daughter of the house his father and grandmother were kind too, because she had brought along a brother, an heir of the family.

While they were very young, all the older girls were married hurriedly, one after the other. Manveer was not very close to any of them and spent some time with them only on Rakshabandhan.

By the time Manveer and Mamta were ten years old, they were the only kids left around the house. The older sisters, three of them now had kids of their own and visited occasionally during the festivals.

The youngest of the four – Asha, however came more often, beaten and thrown out by her in-laws, as even after two years of marriage she had no kids. Manveer felt bad for her, he wanted to ‘protect’ her as he promised on Rakshabandhan every year. He wished he knew where babies could be brought from and he could bring her one.

Just days before their eleventh birthday, they were told Asha had died; she had jumped into the village well. He went with his father and uncles for her last rites and thought finally she was free of the humiliation and pain of not having children. Every one said women must have children; those who didn’t were useless to their families and society.

A few days later, his mother prohibited Mamta to play with him in the fields or go out alone for toilet. He argued a lot as to why he could and she couldn’t but his usually condescending mother only told him, “She is a big girl now and will soon be married off, so he should learn to stay away from her.”

Mamta stopped going to school also and would now work more around the house all the time, wear ‘chunni’ all the time and often complain of stomach aches. He could see her in pain sitting in a corner of the courtyard but during the ‘secret’ pains he was not allowed to sit near her and was told to avoid talking to her.

Soon Manveer found new friends in High School and just as the case was with all his other sisters grew distant from Mamta. It was their 15th birthday and now just like big cities and films, he used to cut a cake and have a cold drinks and burger party for his friends, all boys of course.

Mamta was not allowed to come out and interact with any outside boys and men. As he sat flaunting his new mobile phone to his friends, he noticed her quickly slip into the newly made toilet in the house.

Minutes later, there was blood in the drain that ran out of the toilet at the edge of the courtyard. Manveer rushed to the toilet and asked Mamta if she was alright, he presumed she had fallen and hurt herself badly.
All his friends were sniggering meanwhile and the oldest of them Dinesh, pulled him away and told him she was okay, maybe having her ‘monthly woman problem’.
Image Courtesy : Google


Manveer knew a little about sex and how women had genitals (breasts and vagina) different than his own but he didn’t know anything about a ‘woman problem’. Dinesh was there expert on all issue related to women and sex. He even had videos of village girls bathing, or using the fields to defecate and proudly shared them around.

Dinesh told him that girls were ‘dirty’ every month for a few days and bled from ‘down there’ for a few days, only after they started bleeding every month, they could be ‘impregnated’ by a man.Dinesh was also constantly making fun of him and his sister’s stupidity and ignorance. He even made some crude jokes about Mamta’s body, Manveer didn’t like it but Dinesh was older and stronger and was kind of leader of the pack so he couldn’t retaliate.

Later as he returned home ‘ashamed’ and angry he told his mother how Mamta had made a spectacle of him in front of his friends, didn’t she know that the drain was open and didn’t she have any shame exposing her ‘dirtiness’ to boys.
His mother was very angered and as he sat outside with a glass of milk he was happy as she hit Mamta repeatedly with an iron tong. Ever since that day Mamta never looked at him directly, she would try to avoid him and stay out of his way at all times.

Soon after his Matriculation, he was sent to a hostel in the city and now he only rarely saw her. Family members were trying to get a good match for her is all he heard about her.

Then one day in winters the same year, his warden hurriedly sent him home citing an emergency. As he reached home he knew someone had died, maybe his old grandmother. The dead body was kept on the brick floor, it was Mamta’s.
He was told she died of typhoid. It had been ten days; he was eagerly awaiting his return to the hostel after the thirteenth day rituals when he found Mamta’s mobile phone in one of the drawers of his room in the house. It was one of his old phones that he had given to her, so that at times he could call on that to speak to his mother.

He switched it on out of curiosity. No messages, no call details. No photos. Only one video, he opened it. It was dark and shaky, some girl inside a dimly lit toilet, half-naked, it was Mamta removing a blood soaked rag from her underwear and replacing it with a clean one.

The video was only a minute long, he played it again and again and couldn’t understand why or what of it, but it filled him with anger and disgust. The angle was definitely from a hole in the roof across the outer wall.
So someone had made this and had sent it to Mamta? Why? He tried calling the number from which had been received but it was switched off. There were no answers for the curious questions in his mind, he could not tell such a shameful thing to his parents. He felt humiliated and violated, just like his sister.
Could it be Dinesh? But he had died due to a drug overdose months ago. After worrying about it for a couple of weeks though he went back to his hectic routine and forgot all about it.

Years later, just a week before his marriage as he was arranging his personals in his cupboard in that ancestral house, he stumbled on a tin box full of childhood stuff. In there he also found a faded big foam and glitter flower-shaped golden Rakhi, the last Mamta had tied to him. He held it tightly remembering her and there it was a small strip of paper taped under it. Mamta’s suicide note – it had brief broken sentences about her wishes for his long life, her agony, the blackmail, the shame, the frustration of silence, there were no names but a lot of claustrophobia between the lines.

Manveer quit his job with an MNC immediately after, he had found his life’s purpose. He initiated a start-up that made low cost sanitary napkins for village girls and was dedicated to menstruation awareness. He named the two programs ASHA and MAMTA.

Image Courtesy : Google

Every time a young village girl spoke confidently about periods, without shame, he felt his sister lived again. His enterprise was committed to ensure awareness that during menstruation women and girls must not be excluded from using water and sanitation facilities safely and without shame, must be able to participate fully in social, educational, productive, and religious activities and never be ‘ashamed’ about their bodies.

His workshops included young boys too as he believed that often in their lack of awareness it was boys like he himself once was made girls feel ashamed. Even if they wanted to talk about menstruation, they were prohibited to discuss menstrual issues with their mothers or sisters or their fathers and older men. As a result they had half-baked knowledge and used crude terms for it, teased girls and often acted insensitively or completely indifferent.

Now he was married and had a little girl and a little boy of his own. He was far better informed now and knew that they will be better siblings to each other than he was to his sisters. He knew and always said in all his workshops –

“Periods are not a woman’s problem; they are man and woman pride, the symbol of birth, the sign of the human ability to reproduce.”


He was one of the strongest voices now in the field of menstruation awareness and wanted more and more men and boys to join him in facilitating women and girls to exercise their reproductive health rights with joy, without any apprehension, stigma or taboo.

ASHA and MAMTA were flourishing, without fear, without shame.




Other posts for the same Blogathon





Saturday, October 22, 2016

An Intimate Untouchability - #PeriodPride

Image Courtesy : Google Images


“Hi! I am writing an article about menstruation awareness. Please share any personal memories regarding it, particularly about seclusion/confinement/restrictions, or the other names used for it. Your privacy will be protected. Thanks!”


I sent this text to about a 100 random women in my phone book, before I wrote this piece. Most of these women are urban, educated and seemingly liberal. Only 4 of them replied, surprisingly only those whose families were not silent about periods but despite awareness and understanding the issue had applied ‘minimal’ restrictions like not entering sacred spaces on them.

The silence and shame associated with talking about it to even a fellow woman is quite evident. Such taboos are passed on from one generation of women to another conveniently because women/girls are socialized into a state of ‘learned helplessness’ as suggested by Lenore Walker though in the context of domestic violence victims/survivors, where the victims/survivors begin to think of themselves, their anatomy and their sexuality as subordinate and dirty.

In fact body shaming, sexual shaming is sometimes more covert but aggressive in urban spaces. I can say this from personal experience that ironically the talk about periods began much earlier for most rural girls in my home state Himachal Pradesh than it does for most of our little girls in cities even now.

Little girls there know that every few days women in their homes and families are secluded because they are dirty and must remain separated from the rest of the family for those few days.

Periods in some local Pahari dialects are referred to as “Zudke”  ,literally meaning ‘clothes’, so it is not even referred to as anything related to the female anatomy, but to the clothes or rags the women traditionally used to soak the flow and how they had to wash everything clean once the dirty period was over. Even the popular Hindi words – Maasik, Maheena, and Mahavaari refer to its monthly occurrence, indicating no connection directly to the female body.
Image Courtesy: Google Images


Little girls by default in hilly villages become the carriers of food and messages to and fro between the ‘Obra’/’Khudh’ (cow/cattle shed) and the house as their mothers, aunts, female cousins and older sisters are confined/secluded during their ‘unclean’ period. They mustn’t touch the ‘dirty woman’ they are told, if they do they would have to bathe again, so they are instructed to leave the eatables at a distance and speak from a distance if they have to. It is believed and enforced by deep cultural conditioning that contamination from menstruating women can bring the worst curses from local deities and even lead to drying up of crops or secret diseases.

The irony is that they are confined to a corner of the cattle sheds traditionally and yet is believed that if a menstruating girl/woman touches a cow, the cow will become infertile – leading these girls furthermore to regard their own bodily functions as curse and impurity and be restricted to a corner even in that confined space.

The culture not only associates a routine female body function as unclean and impure but imposes seclusion on women in connivance with ‘god men’ and local deities, as women and families are often scared with curses and diseases so that they adhere silently to the seclusion and do not speak up against this humiliation month after month.
It is also important to understand the generic architecture of homes in the hills to realize how traumatic and humiliating this seclusion can be for most women especially young girls.

Traditionally the homes were wooden structures with two floors, while the upper floor was family quarters, the ground floor roomed the cattle and the sheep, so women were confined there during their periods. With changing times cattle sheds are now constructed as a single hut slightly away from the main house and the seclusion thus becomes even more evident and in some cases unsafe too. The door is locked from outside and in case of an emergency even her loudest cries may not reach the house.

To add to this turmoil is the fact that toilets if there are any are also constructed closer to the main house and the woman is often denied access to it during this time. If she uses cloth, she must wash and dry it to reuse in complete secrecy and if she uses napkins then these must be disposed secretly.

Social and economic upward mobility and some work by social initiatives and NGOs have probably increased awareness about menstrual hygiene and girls are increasingly using modern sanitary products but the discrimination at ground level hasn’t changed much. Women in some families might not be sent to cowsheds but even in their semi-urban or urban homes are confined to one room, have to sleep on the floor, can’t go to the kitchen or prayer room, can’t touch some eatables like pickles and can’t touch other family members etc.

While women slog equally in fields and kitchens all year through, only men participate in most religious rituals in villages and cook the sacred feasts and only they are allowed to offer the yields to a deity. Lots of rural girls drop out from school still around puberty due to lack of support and awareness. Hundreds succumb to infections due to unhygienic methods of managing menstruation. The fear and shame associated with a menstrual stain is so overwhelming that they give up their opportunity of an education for it.

The religious notions of purity and pollution are rules that deny women basic human rights of caring about their health and bodies. All women, regardless of their caste are considered unclean during menstruation. Sometimes they are not allowed to even take a bath especially for first few days of their menstrual period as it is believed that they can contaminate the water source permanently.




The argument often propounded in the favor of seclusion is that the confinement frees the woman of all her household duties during those days and she can rest. Even if a logical benefit of doubt is granted to that logic, what kind of rest does a woman experience if she is psychologically stressed by separating her from her children and family and the physical comforts of her kitchen and bedroom are denied to her?

Untouchability based on caste and religion was long back ended legally by our constitution, but this untoucahability of a more personal and intimate kind is still practiced in many homes and families, and the worse is it is taken for granted too, both by the perpetrators and the victims.

There is no open discourse about it within families, TV channels still get changed whenever there is a sanitary napkin advertisement playing and women though are not tied with physical ropes to restrain their movements and daily routine, the stronger but invisible ties bind them securely to the margins, make them silently experience the “shame” and discrimination associated with menstruation.

Silence about it strengthens the shame and the shame shrouding it strengthens the silence. Generations of women suffer in shame and in silence.
Its time our girls are freed of this burden and can love their body and menstruation as a privilege and not a curse.

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

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To Kill a Mockingbird
The Catcher in the Rye
Animal Farm
The Alchemist
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
Frankenstein
The Odyssey
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Count of Monte Cristo
Eat, Pray, Love
Lolita
The Da Vinci Code
The Kite Runner
The Silence of the Lambs
The Diary of a Young Girl
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Notebook
Gone With the Wind
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The Human Bean Cafe, Ontario

The Human Bean Cafe, Ontario
my work on display there !!!!!