Category Archives: Issues

the fear of fear

When I was young, I proclaimed that my biggest fear is fear itself.

fear of stepping out of my comfort zone, fear of the unknown, fear of acknowledging my unhappiness, fear of turning more unhappy, fear of failure. fear of not trying out of the fear of failure – these were things I loathed and was sure I wasn’t the kind of person to fall into that trap.

But not very long after living a sort of grown-up life, I can already feel fear of the unknown grow upon me. It feels like creepers crawling up my legs, coiling around my heart, pretending to embrace me but really choking me. On some days I thank nightfall to have arrived so that it is finally time for me to sleep, or atleast try. Some mornings bring dread with them and despair at what the day would bring.

I am sure it is just this phase and it is going to be all good very soon.
Basically I have to present my synopsis on May 1st. There is some annoying politics and favouritism going on in my Department and I don’t have the energy or time to deal with it. But as life would have it I have been flung right in the middle of it all and I do hope we all get away unscathed.
Also at work this is the exact time when I am most most busy because of a big ass big money event coming up on May 18th that I am incharge of. Also the two people who are sort of above me at work will not be here in the intermediary 2 weeks before the event so its going to be some very sweaty business. I hate that any of this has anything to do with money.

On some days I can realize that I have been very privileged with such a good comfortable birth, nice family, lovely friends, good education and the possibility to dream as I do. Its even a privilege to be able to think about what I really want to do as many in this country don’t  have such a luxury or option.

But but..c’est difficile! Growing up is certainly not easy. My dreams are blurred, I believe in much lesser- in myself as well as in the world, I am lost in what I want to do or why at all. If the purpose of life is to leave a legacy, change it for the better, or just live comfortably and die smoking a joint whether or not the next person has food to eat – I do not know.

I wonder what I wanr. I am afraid to know what I want.

 

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Filed under Don't want to talk about it, Issues, La vie, Thoughts/ Ideas

Discovering the Mooncup!

Despite being an extremely scatologocally obsessed person, I try to keep my blog outside that zone and never crack any potty jokes or talk about how good/bad my excretory functions have been each morning.
But after so long, there has been an amazing breakthrough in life and its only fair to humanity to share it here.
Before I start, here is a DISCLAIMER: If you are disgusted by talk about menstruation and blood, stop reading now. If you are a woman looking for a happy period or a human who wants to gift a woman a happy period, read on!

Before I go on about what I have just discovered, I am going to birefly go over my prior experience with periods.

BEFORE
Inspite of having dealt with menstruation or periods for 10 years, I don’t remember a single time when I have not cursed the ordeals a woman has to go through because of this monthly occurence. My periods have spoilt many situations, such as school picnics, swimming competitions, days out on the beach, train journeys, trekking expeditions, comfortable nights of sleep, nights with boys I might fancy and have even spoilt nice skirts because of leaks and stains. (Need I complain about the extra laundry that a leak makes us do?)
Unlike most other women, I have had to suffer from only occassional cramps in my back and have not had to go through whole days of debilitating pain that reconciles me to the bed as I know many friends have to. Ofcourse I have also had bouts of PMS (yes, this is a real thing) where I am sulky and make it a point to let everyone know.

Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

I had been using Sanitary napkins to handle the menstrual flow and thought it was great that I had managed to find a brand that made wide, thin and absorbent napkins that guarantee 90% chances of no leak. and yet , I have some friends who have acute menstrual conditions and have to change 11 of those very same pads in a single day.

This whole ordeal of a monthly occurrence (I must say it is an ordeal even if its not monthly because then one might fret about pregnancy) causes great physical and mental anxiety and pain, and also causes a whole in our pockets. I would spend about Rs120 every month on sanitary napkins and I know that for many women, it is much more.

NOW

But now! with the advent of January 2014, during my first period of the year, I looked something like this.

Happy free woman typically shown in advertisements for sanitary napkins. She is lying, just like the santary napkins!T

The main reason behind this was…
Drumroll….da dum da dum!!

….The main reason behind this was that I used a MOONCUP!!

What is a Mooncup?
A Mooncup is a silicone menstrual cup that is a safer, convinient and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary napkins. As mooncup.co.uk claims rightfully, the Mooncup menstrual cup offers an end to the waste, discomfort and expense of disposable sanitary protection.

What does it look like?

the Mooncup, also known as femmecup

the Mooncup, also known as femmecup

WHY Mooncup?

As the product already claims and has been testified to be true by many many women around the world, the mooncup is caring for the woman’s vagina. Tampons often cause dryness and sanitary napkins can cause rashes. But the Mooncup is safer as it is made from soft medical grade silicone, is latex-free, contains no dyes, bleaches or toxins.
It is an Environment-friendly option. It is reusable.One mooncup can be used for every day of the period, for every period, for even upto 10 years. It is extremely easy to clean and sterilise , and hence will not cause any infection. While sanitary napkins and tampons fill up landfills all over the world, the mooncup is sensitive to Mother Nature.
Since it is reusable, it is obviously a cheaper option. I paid Rs1800 for the mooncup (I din’t have to pay for shipping as I asked someone to bring it for me from London), and this means that in a little more than a year I will make up the cost.

HOW it is used?
This video can explain better.

It might sound disgusting to you, but trust me , it is actually beautiful.
Why I LOVE the Mooncup?
I have never ever before been so happy about my period. I AM ACTUALLY HAPPY DURING MY PERIOD.
I must give a little bit too much information here, but it is necessary. I have actually gotten to know my body better and appreciate it more now. I am in awe of nature for having creating such beautifully complicated biological systems. I have even gotten to understand my period better, knowing better than ever before, the exact state of my flow as the period progresses. I din’t remember at any point during my period, that I actually had ’em because I felt none of the usual discomfort.
Physical activity, Exercise and dancing wearing a mooncup: Absolutely safe. Absolutely comfortable. I could even dance freely and do multiple somersaults during dance class while wearing a mooncup during my period.
[Addition on Oct 25th , 2014: So this year I also went open water diving in the Andaman and Nicobar islands and got my period on the last day. I did not use the mooncup because scientifically we figured that if there is an air pocket that cannot be equalized (My friend rightly pointed out that this would requiure me to equalize my vagina, hahaha), it was safe to not use the mooncup without consultation or advice about whether it is safe to use while diving where pressure imbalance can be created at even a few meters underwater. So I just used a tampon for the first time in my life. If you know about how diving and mooncups go together, please let me know!]
Cramps: Though I don’t have much experience with this problem, my friend who got the mooncup for me from the UK and has been using the mooncup for 7 years now, says that even her cramps and body pain reduced ever since she started using the mooncup. However, I can’t really figure out any scientific reason this should happen and it may just be a coincidence.
I am a cheap-master. So I am a big time kanjoos (Terminology: Miser). Towards the end of the period, say the 5th day, when I think that it is probably over and wouldn’t want t waste a sanitary pad (Rs12 ish) on it and just go to class/work like its a normal day. Then I get like a 3 ml flow and its annoying. Now there is laundry to be done and I wear fresh knickers and decide to use a pad. Thats when there is no flow! Great, Waste of money. Hmmph!
But a Mooncup can be used till the end of the period, for all days! This makes it even more economical and a sensible option for women who have longer menstrual cycles.

The Difficulty and Challenge of using the Mooncup
This was only initially when I was nervous about putting such a large thing up my vajajay. I postponed using it for four months after buying it. Once I finally tired, I failed and chickened out. The next month, I actually got through and had to immediately ride my scooter. I felt it prick under me and realized I had gotten it wrong as you are not even supposed to feel it there! The next attempt I got it right but din’t know how to get it out! Then I remembered that you just have to “breathe,relax and push down.”  One day I even missed my dance class as I was afraid that if I did somersaults, the menstrual blood woudl flow back to my falopian tubes or something. None of that happened and I was absolutely comfortable during the next period when I went for super active dance and yoga classes.
It has certainly been a challenging and learning experience. But boy am I glad about this one!

For all the above reasons and many more I may soon discover, I am sure that I will never ever go back to any other form of sanitary protection for menstruation after using the Mooncup.

If you want testimonials from more women , this is one of the many I like.

Finally, a pretty neat rap battle between the tampon and the mooncup!

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March 11, 2014 · 12:38 am

A question of atrocities

Ashis Nandy’s recent allegedly anti-Dalit remark during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which led to legal procedures against him, has begun an array of exchanges in his support as well as against him, in the media, academic and political circles. It is this attention given to this social psychologist writer’s remark due to his ‘eminent’ position in certain spheres that has escalated this incident to a controversy. To understand the various commentaries and to be able to take a stance on the issue, it is necessary to understand the order of events and excavate the meaning of all that has been said.

It was on 26th January, during a panel discussion at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013, titled ‘Republic of Ideas’ where five men from various fields were exchanging ideas about India, its present and future. The conversation soon turned towards the topic of corruption when Ashis Nandy pitched the idea of nepotism also being a form of corruption, but not being recognized as such. This allowed the powerful and rich to hide their corruption, while incriminating the poor who indulge in corruption. He also said that corruption made our society more humane. In response to this, Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka and one of the panellists, deemed corruption to be an equaliser since it is a means for the underprivileged to subvert the structure of society and improve their condition. At this point, with a prior warning that he was about to utter something “vulgar” and “undignified”, Ashis Nandy said, “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the scheduled castes and now increasingly scheduled tribes and as long as this is the case, Indian republic will survive”. Nandy followed up these words citing West Bengal as an example where nobody from the SC/ST or OBC community has reached any position of power in the last 100 years. At the same time, it is also one of the least corrupt states in the country. By this he implied that since they don’t indulge in monetary corruption, people from these backward communities have not arrived at powerful positions although nepotism among the privileged allowed them to continue holding zenithal statuses.

Ashis Nandy making a point

Despite his seemingly pro-Dalit example about West Bengal, Nandy’s previous and now oft-quoted words had already sparked the ire of his co-panellist Ashutosh Srivastava, Managing Editor of IBN7. He protested saying that this was the most bizarre statement he had heard and that this was the typical perception about Dalits held by the elite. Ashutosh’s objection was met by some supportive applause from the audience after which there was a question-answer round before the session ended and the audience dispersed. In a few hours, a group of people led by Rajpal Meena, Chairperson of the SC/ST Rajasthan Manch, began a protest outside the venue demanding Nandy’s arrest for slurring the Dalit community. Soon, TV channels were displaying a clip only of him making the particular statement that the protestors claimed was proof of his anti-Dalit attitude, in a loop and out of context. This escalated the issue and soon a police complaint under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) Section 3 (x) was filed against Ashis Nandy. Although such a complaint demands immediate arrest, Nandy left the Jaipur Literature Festival premises from a back route and drove to Delhi. While no arrest was made despite four FIRs being filed against him in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the arrest of the accused writer on 1st February 2013.

In the meantime, Ashis Nandy produced a statement clarifying what he meant by his statement at the festival and that it was, infact, not anti-Dalit. This was reiterated by a still-growing number of his supporters from the media, academic and intellectual circles, via articles, petitions and even an Ashis Nandy solidarity blog. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Karan Thapar and many others raised the argument of the freedom of speech and expression being a constitutional right for all Indians and that we have become an intolerant people to not respect this right and listen to someone’s opinion. Many others like Lawrence Liang and Ritu Bhatia felt that ‘Ashis da’ deserved better and that all his past writing is proof that his heart is in the right place and that he has infact always been a supporter of Dalit upliftment. Others like Ali Khan Mahmudabad attributed this anti-Nandy protest to be a result of manipulation by politicians who have twisted the meaning of his words for identity based vote-bank politics. Many also agreed that Ashis Nandy’s words and manner of phrasing his thoughts was too obtuse and thus, easily misunderstood his idea of associating corruption with caste in India, which haven’t been linked before. These are largely true and strong arguments brought up by his supporters, however, I find reason in the arguments put forward by those disapproving of his action. In an open letter to Ashis Nandy, Kancha Ilaiah, Director for the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, pointed out that labelling SC/ST/OBCs as corrupt to equalise them with the upper castes is not justified because the latter indulge in corruption as well as exploitation. Another argument pitched by S. Anand of Navayana Publications is that Nandy has dismissed the agency of Dalits by implying that even in corruption they are ‘emulating’ the Upper caste people. Urvashi Butalia, who was chairing the panel discussion where the controversial incident occurred, ends her article supporting Nandy, by posing a question. She asks if something derogatory against women is spoken by anyone in public, will anyone protest about it? She speaks too soon when she says there will only be a few feminists protesting, while still abstaining from judicial procedure. In my opinion, if there were adequate laws, the long-oppressed women would have raised their voices in protest and invoked the law.  Dr.K. Satyanarayana also pointed out that all this hype about the issue and the raising of the ‘freedom of speech’ argument is making the Dalits appear as if they are an intolerant community and foreclosing any discussion on their corruption levels by simply stating that they are the more corrupt.

There is indeed no empirical data about the levels of corruption related to castes and communities. In a space like a popular literature festival, Ashis Nandy ought to have weighed his language and articulated his idea in a responsible manner. Throughout this controversy, one can recognize the problem of using words and interpreting their meanings. Ever since Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement, the vehement abhorrence for this vice has increased and by accusing a people of being corrupt, Ashis Nandy has stepped on fragile nerves. One also needs to examine the Prevention of Atrocities Act that has been filed against him. The word ‘Atrocity’ is quite a harsh word and one needs to question if by saying something that can be potentially misunderstood and can hurt a Dalit, infront of a large public gathering, he has committed an atrocity. It is apparent in the context of the conversation that the sociologist was not making an anti-Dalit statement, and needn’t hurt or offend anyone, except those on whom he is blowing the whistle. However, I believe that in terms of the law, and in the light of the way that single sentence was used, Ashis Nandy has committed what could be an atrocity towards their life in this country. Someone, who doesn’t understand his meaning and buys into the sentiment that that statement proliferates, could be biased against Dalits which could possibly cost a member of this community job opportunities, food and a humane life. I think the court trial ought to go ahead and the fact that his was not a casteist statement can be proved and established via the judiciary and constitution, thereby maintaining the faith of the people in an Act and a law that has been a tool for their redemption.

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Filed under Issues, People, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?

My obsession with potty

I am obsessed with shit. Yessir, you read right. I am scatologically obsessed and my friends know that I usually have atleast one conversation about shit everyday.

My theory is that this is a hereditary behaviour which I picked up from my grandfather over the years. He is 86 now, but even when he was much younger he would be quite tensed about (a)time and (b)shit. So when we are to leave on trips or a journey, he would insist that we reach the train station 2 hours before the train actually leaves. We wake up at 4am to catch a train that leaves at 11am from the train station that is only one hour away. He was always nervous like that. But when coupled with potty, its a whole new level of absurdity. In a recent journey, when I had gone to get my grandparents to Bombay from our village,  he refused to get started on the journey because he hadn’t been able to shit since that morning.  He did coem with us finally, but that was only after he and my grandma fought World War III.

Anyway, I have taken it up from this amazing grandpa of mine and worry like hell if If can’t go, especially before a journey. I drink two glasses of hot water every morning to flush all ‘toxins’ out of my body. When we got the University internet student ids, I discovered that the Admin had put various filters on the University internet connection. How did I find out? It was because I Google-ed the word ‘SHIT’.

The first word I google-ed when I got my personal internet connection on campus was the ‘shit’.

Fortunately, I have good enough bunch of friends are used to me now and are not so disgusted if I talk about stuff related to this. Infact, they know that I will definitely know the solution if they are having a bad stomach. 😛

Incidentally, I also have friends who are as scatologically-obsessed as I am. One of them in my university even made an art exhibit revolving around this subject and made stencil paintings associating shit with political, scoial, sexual, popular, comic, anthropological conventions. It was really cool!

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I think Ivan is presently even using this for his Mphil thesis so you so how pre-occupied some of us about this subject.  Across most societies it is treated as something profane and talking about it is considered impolite, uncivilized, a taboo, indecent and a lot more. But I really don’t see why its so disgusting.

Everyone shits! Even the king and queen.

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people getting married

My grandparents are my favourite people in the world. They are also quite deaf and I suspect its my grandma’s habit of watching TV real loud that made him hard of hearing too. When they are around, conversations are funny and repeated four times. We all talk really loudly and the TV volume is further increased and so we all talk more loudly. Even if they want to talk about something secretly, they go to the other room and talk loud enough for us to hear. haha! I love them. Blindly and more than anyone.

Last year, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. It was on 2nd April, 1951 , a day after April Fool’s  Day ,(my grandfather often jokes about it) that they got married. So 60 years on, we arranged a great party and even had their friends from old times over. Watching them that night, and even now, it struck me that even after so many years of being together, they still have things to say to eachother. They even spend all their time together, so its not as if they are informing eachother about what they did that day. They look out for eachother and truly care. They still fight and crack jokes about eachother to us.  But I know, they would crack without eachother.

 

My grandparents’ wedding photograph, 1951

Their marriage was arranged by their parents and they hadn’t even met before they got married.  And this is how it turned out. On that one day, I felt may be marriages can work. But may be it was just them. May be they wouldn’t have separated even they hated the guts of eachother simply because of societal stigma.  One never knows.

My grandparents of Grandpa’s 80th birthday ceremony

Yet, I am somehow, never lay my hands around the idea of spending the rest of your life with one person. Though I understand the value of companionship, the idea of spending the rest of your life with one person, really scares me. You might say you are in love with him. But I wonder if it won’t fizzle out, won’t you begin to doubt, get bored, get scared or fall in love with someone else? I know that divorce is fairly common and accepted now. However, why would anyone enter a relationship, already anticipating an end and knowing that they have a way out of it?

I read in the news today that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are splitting after 5 years of marriage. Can you beleive it, after he clowned around so much on Oprah. I don’t care about them at all but didn’t they have time earlier to figure out that they don’t get along? Arnold Schwarzernegger and his wife split up after 25 years of marriage because of some illegitimate child he fathered many years back. I know I can in no capacity understand her situation, but I suppose I could forgive some mistake like that. Especially if I have discovered that for 25 years  this person has kept me happy and we can be in the same room, without shattering plates or having the silence shatter us.

Marriage is something I haven’t understood even with the countless movies, famous couples or even with my own family and parents. I don’t know why its necessary to put that tag on your relationship just because society is comfortable with it and thinks it appropriate for you to want it. Even live-in relationships can have everything a marriage has. and have equal chances of failing, ofcourse. Why does an acknowledgement by a governments civil laws or by a religion, make a relationship sacred or more important? I am sure the breaking of any other relationship should be just as painful and important or unimportant.

In India, parents think its their duty to get their children married by the mid-twenties and pay for it too. The whole event or the not timely occurrence of it is a stigma and becomes an over-riding question in the lives of the parents, grandparents, uncles,aunts, neighbours and colleagues. It becomes everyone’s business really.

As my understanding of it stands now, love usually fizzles out. and after that its just habit and fear of the lack of this person, or of loneliness that keeps one going. Marriage usually adds other wheels like children and property to this.  I am not really sure of all these things about relationships are marriages.  But I sure of one thing- that I am afraid to find out the truth.

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Filed under Issues, Love and all, My favourite people, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?, World

Breaking the ghetto

As I mentioned earlier, I am visiting my parents in Kuwait this summer. But honestly, it’s quite easy to forget that sometimes over here. Now, we reside in a part of Kuwait where mostly Indians and Pakistanis live. When we step out of the house, people on the streets, parks and malls looks exactly like the people back in India and it does not really feel like we are in a “foreign” country. The local shopkeepers and street-end grocers speak Tamil and Malayalam(south Indian languages) and you can be sure that anyone in the area will respond to your Hindi. Before we go ahead, I must emphasize to those who don’t know already, that Arabs (West-Asian origin)look quite different from Indians (South-Asian origin) in terms of facial features and physical built. Now let’s get to the point.

Why does an Indian or South Asian ghetto even exist here in the first place??! Why do people like to flock with others of a common or even a similar origin irrespective of whether they like the fellow clansmen or not?  This scenario is not just limited to Kuwait, every city has such spaces that can be said to be an area specifically populated by people of a specific races, countries, religions, regions, languages, ages.   All my parents’ friends here are Indians and as far as I can perceive , belonging to certain privileged castes(as such a problem exists in India), class and I suppose also largely vegetarian like my family. I remember meeting a particular Aunty who always always criticizes Kuwaitis whenever she speaks. She talks about how “they” waste food in restaurants, splurge money, ill treat maids, buy too much stuff at the mall etc. But how can a certain people be just generically criticized of a behaviour that I am sure exists even outside of them and I am definitely sure exists also in the people this Aunty will call her own brethren. She probably hasn’t really spoken to a Kuwaiti beyond an “excuse me” and not interacted with them at all. Don’t such preconceived notions definitely stop her and us all from actually ever really getting to know anybody who is born different from us.

Its really strange that what people consider “community” changes in different places and often depends on how far they are from a place they consider their “home” or the place they belong to. For instance, back in University, the Tamilians, Bengalis, Assamese, etc made what they call cultural associations so that others of similar origin and language can gather and mingle, celebrate festivals, eat, date , etc. Delhi also has a Bengali ghetto called Chitaranjan Park and Okhla has actual territories that are divided as Hindu and Muslim where people belonging to the other religion don’t even enter. 😐  Yes, so grave is the situation in the capital of India.

But boss, you should see an India v/s Pakistan cricket match. The most recent of these stand=offs was the ICC World Cup 2011 Final match and it was just crazy how the Indians rooted for the Indian team and rejoiced when Pakistan lost. I suppose the situation is the same on the other side of the border as well. The tension between the countries remains and is quite bitter and aggressive especially when there are unfortunate acts of violence in either country. As for me, I am of a delicate heart when it comes to this, and wanted Pakistan to win that cricket match simply because they needed the victory.

I emphasized the tension between India and Pakistan because I have seen that Indians and Pakistanis bond with each other when they are in Kuwait. The other day we went to an amusement park here and met another family who looked “very Indian” and on speaking we got to know they are Pakistanis and we hung out for sometime and there was not an ounce of bitterness. I suppose that for a lot of people , meeting someone from anywhere near where they are can kindle a sense of brotherhood. I wonder why a brown skin among a sea of white faces should make someone feel at home. (Ofcourse, the same could be different or the exact opposite perhaps for say, Indian who is born and/or brought up in America.)

Guys, so please, just ‘unghetto’. It could make a world of difference. It is actually going to make for a safe interdependent neighbourhood because that is how we could begin to deal with trust issues that have enslaved our minds and bound us from new experiences.

May be I have no right to say all this because I haven’t lived in another country for very long periods, but so far, I have noticed that for me “people are just people”. hah, that’s a line from Regina Spektor’s song, Ghost of Corporate Future. She also says “the world is everlasting, its coming and its going.” So I want to make the most of this world while I come and go and know that I could, without any preconceived paradigms, experience all the people and things that make the world as wonderful as it is. I hope that when it comes to it, I don’t run to some Indian ghetto in whichever part of the world I live in and mix it up bitches!

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Bomb blasts in Bombay

Ok. Just 5 minutes back I got news that there have been bomb blasts in my city- Mumbai. I can’t get through to many of my friends. phone lines are jammed.and I am angry. and I want to rant.

Now, Mumbai, the city I live in , is not new to this. There have been numerous multiple blasts before, there have been shootouts and riots too.

But everytime I believe that this is the last time, it happens all over again. We believe that the lesson is learnt. Whoever wanted revenge has taken it.  And now we will be left alone. But here we are, once again in the middle of another mess, trying to pic up the broken pieces of our city and trying to lift our spirits, and go on with our lives.

I have never really been scared of dying. But now I wonder if the fear has become such an innate part of the people of this city , that we don’t even realize how some part of our mind is always counting the dying minutes.

I don’t know if terrorists read blogs. But If they do,

No amount of Beatles’ songs about peace, no number of movies about the ravages of war and not even real

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