Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Female Human Body and the politics of Menstruation

Nikita Azad has pulled the rabbit out of the hat. A raging, roaring debate about menstruation has been deafening this part of the planet. And its falling on the deaf ears of a bunch of self-confessed misogynists who have appointed themselves as the patrons of religion.
This is India, where talking about menstruation is forbidden and a bleeding woman is considered impure. Look at the irony, it's also the same country where women are worshiped as goddesses on Ashtami. So while women are revered as sacred their bodies and the blood flowing out of it, because of the changes that a woman's body undergoes to prepare for a pregnancy is considered impure.  Once in a month, the uterus grows a new lining to get ready for a fertilized egg. And when the body does that, all hell breaks lose and women are deemed as impure by men and women, the silent agents of patriarchy.
When I look back at times, I remember my struggle with menstruation. I was one of those girls who started menstruating early in life and was not prepared to deal with it. It came as a rude shock for my mom, who thought that she had all the time in the world to arm me with the necessary information. What followed was a cycle of events every month that involved regular visits to the chemist shop to get my supply of sanitary pads, to carefully placing it so that I don't stain my clothes and become a butt of jokes ( I did become a butt of jokes many times, since I suffered from heavy flow) to hurriedly rushing to the washroom during a period to change to escape the prying eyes of people and especially men. 
We used to secretly murmur about it amidst female friends never letting the guys around us have an inkling of it, as if they had no idea about menstruating girls.
Religion meanwhile had already played havoc in our lives. Many hindu girls used to tell us stories of how they were disallowed to enter temples while on periods and were even not allowed to say their prayers. I was told to not attend the Sunday mass and touch the bible while menstruating because as per the patriarchal church fathers I was impure to touch anything that was sacred. Since I wasn't a devout Christian, I used to happily give the sunday mass a miss while on my period. But over the years I felt like questioning these practices, devised by a bunch of men  for keeping a check on women. I decided to abruptly end this malpractice of not being allowed inside the church premises by heading to the church on a Sunday, while on my periods. Mom supported me and never reprimanded   me for this sudden outburst of rebellion. While some eastern orthodox churches still do not allow menstruating women to partake in the sunday mass, the catholic church had since opened its doors to women on their periods. 
Infact when I had posted a status update to support the #HappyToBleed hashtag some friends expressed their surprise and doubt about such practices existing in the church. Many more decided to stay mum about body politics that is regressive and oppressive. 

Nikita's open display of fearless honesty has opened a dirty can of worms. I saw quite a few women supporting the #HappyToBleed hashtag with pictures, with a vast majority still choosing to stay silent about the period talk. To all such people, who decide to brush this issue under the carpet and consider it shameful to talk about menstruation, may I pose a few questions.

1) Do you think menstruation a natural process needs to be hidden from men?
2)Do you think men don't know about menstruation and if suddenly through an online campaign they are informed of it, all hell will break lose?
3) What is so shameful about menstruation, the blood or the fact that it flows from the vagina?
4) Is it difficult for you to accept menstruation as a natural body cycle, if we forget the pain and cramps associated with it?
5) Don't you think the body politics around menstruation needs to be discussed, so that women are not shunned and shamed by patriarchy, for something that is natural?
6) Don't you think talking more about menstruation will bring to light the taboos associated with it?
7) Don't you think campaigns centered around menstruation will allow the less privileged women folk of our country to be informed about it?
8) Don't you think campaigns like #HappyToBleed will foil patriarchy to play havoc in a woman's life?
9) Do you consider yourself impure when you are on a period?
10) Should a  normal cycle be a yardstick for shunning women  from religious freedom?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A rendezvous with a Gmail helpline executive

A fortnight ago my gmail account went out of my reach. It's been ten years since I'm using it, and there have been very few instances when I might have ever changed my password. I know that is suicidal, but since the past seven years I have got used to the idea of staying logged in through my phone. I take the pains to login through the computer very rarely, which is why staying logged in through phone had become a habit.
Last fortnight was a different ball game. I opened my computer and frantically typed in my login id and password, to be denied access. Hell broke loose thereafter, since I had to send an urgent email. I tried churning my memory to remember my alternative email id's password, since I had entered another person's mobile number as the phone recovery option. This was to avoid any instances of my mobile number being sold to pesky advertisers. That precaution backfired and I felt as helpless as a child who had lost her way back home. 
This is when I happened to click on some random options in an agitated attempt to somehow recover my gmail email, which turned out to be blessing in disguise. Somehow a message was sent to the gmail helpline and I got immediately connected. 
An american lady politely offered help after greeting me. There weren't too many unsolicited apologies, much like our indian customer care or helpline numbers retort to. She carefully guided me through the process of recovering my email, by asking for the last alternate email address I remembered. I informed her that the phone number I had mentioned on the recovery page had been wrongly entered. She assured me of all possible help and after about five minutes of patiently listening to her sermons of handling our email accounts, a solution came my way. She told me that the  recovery team would forward an email to me with a link to reset the password. She also directed me to carefully fill the recovery page again with my correct mobile number.
For the tough lessons, that this episode of confusion had taught me, I filled in the recovery page with all the necessary details and finally caught hold of my beloved email account.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In Her Tenth Year



Her inner iron melts
as she is being leeched
scraping the rust
on her soul
her smell of blood changes colors
Twenty five days of being human
and five of being an injured cow
that is being milked, drop by drop.
Every month this river
trespasses her land like a robber
much like the July rain
that the crops need for tilling.
‘Be careful lest it gets stained’

‘Do not touch the pickle, else you’ll spoil it’
she stays back at home else she may
dirty a building by entering it
her body doesn’t listen to her
as her earth erodes.

On those days she collects her stains
from her scars
silencing the shrieks of the planet
by stuffing its mouth
with menstrual waste.
In another world, women still use rags, dirty cloth
and husk to soak their rivers of rage,
as she crumples like a foetus
to contain her cramps
a ten year old child, ignorant and ill
of a bleeding that is virginal,
chocolates and tears are her allies
she stamps her foot to complain
to mother nature
‘Why this bad blood?’
while another woman
is happy that her husband
won’t  touch her for the next five days
until then her body will reclaim
it’s unholy celibacy.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

September 27th, Marine drive, 7.30 pm

This city never changes colors
unlike humans and chameleons,
the queen watches the sky pour ashes on her head
as the prostitutes teething pain behind their painted lips
offer themselves to the heat of hunger.
Dancing to the garish tunes of this concrete jungle
mountains rise from molehills
as I look for you like a helpless child
who's lost her way back home.

This morning I had my breakfast at Theobroma

as the cold coffee cut through my parched throat
I saw the smiles you lent me 
melt on the brown velvet cake
chewing vegetables sandwiched between frail breads
I ate fear
fear of a rendezvous someday over an English breakfast
my eyes riveting in circles
trying to thaw cold feet stuck in my shoes
circling dates on a calendar
skinning nail biting moments from dead carcasses of air.

It's a long lustrous night before the day spills gold

on the feet of trees
Here in my room coiled under a blanket
I wish you would blow gently over the clouds
that embower your city, sending rain to me
I've always loved walking in the rain.
Tomorrow these messengers of yours will wake me up
their winter melting on my palms
Don't know if this is how it would feel?
Your first touch.



                           
                              Picture credit: http://grabhouse.com/urbancocktail/?attachment_id=5319


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing by the Window by Nivedita N


Title:Writing by the Window
Author: Nivedita N
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 62
Price: Rs 99
ISBN-13: 978-81-929002-9-2
Published by: ParanthesesPhroetry Press

















Picture Credit: Sridevi Nayak K

Poetry is an image, it is an echo of words, unlike prose. It is an art wherein the words create a vision. 
This is an experimental endeavour at juxtaposing poetry and images, but as an old world poetry connoisseur, I think the purpose of poetry gets lost in this  exercise. A poem is in itself a complete image, unlike a blogpost. Maybe that's why somewhere down the line, this idea didn't go down well with me. Although that doesn't mean that I am not open to creative experimentation.
I liked the cover page designed by Sridevi, Nivedita's friend. It sits pretty with the title of the book.

In the first poem "House no.4, Street no.10", old memories are revisited which was a visual journey and knock at the door of your heart.
"The aroma of mother’s varied sumptuous dishes
And nailed on the fridge our to do list of wishes
Our nascent chuckles still echo
Ah! For that piece of green paper a lot we did forego"
The souvenirs of memories that the poet left can be visualized by the reader here. 

"Why did you swallow the last breath, Grandpa?" is an emotional read where in the poet talks of the pains of parting with a life partner and the gullibility of old age.
"Smiling and blushing like a shy bride, she looks up to the luminous moon till she wakes up to a mundane ritual laugh aloud till tears swallow her red cheeks
She sits down quietly reading spiritual texts."
These words picture loneliness of ageing and is a visual journey through Nivedita's grandma's life, as she lives it now.
"His mother" was a cute rendition of memories that the poet shares with her friend's mother. I liked the physical sketch of the person to whom this poem is dedicated to. There is too much ache in the frail, bony, droopy eyes. Stray grammar errors could have been avoided.
"Today I met your father" is another poem talking of a relationship between a father and son. 
"His rate of speech like Rajdhani Express" is a beautiful metaphor.
"Today I met an old friend" has loosely woven images that could have been developed more. 
Caged Love is a colorful poem which reminisces the life of the poet's love birds, caged but very deeply in love. 
"They behaved like love birds too.
with their beaks they shared grains day and night.
looking at each other, they let out funny sounds"
The question was a powerful end.
"The Brahmin boy and the Dom girl" was one of my favourites. Talks of the differences dividing our society and how rebellious acts can put to rest such issues.
Poems like "A glimpse of you", "The Station", "Tree story", "Tea', "Wildflower", "The Patriot" and "Colours"were stray poetic doodles that could use some more snapshots and be developed into poems that swallow the readers into a sensory experience.
Love note was a love struck seeking for words. I liked the way she decided to play with her knowledge of different languages here.
Middle Class poet reminded me of my own love for weaving political poems.
"I write while the rice settles to whistle.
I don’t have a writer’s table.
It is used as a dining table."
These lines wonderfully describes the limited resources that do not bind us down.
"Menstrual cycle of a pen" is a bold try to draw a metaphoric parallel between a pen and a woman's period cycle. "
The pen is too embarrassed to explain. Upset, the paper rolls itself and sulks; the pen holds it rib and cries in pain."
Many women may identify with these lines.
I must appreciate Nivedita's observation of people shunned the society and the empathy towards them. "The Artist Beggar" was a wonderful dedication to the common people lurking on the streets, who may have talents much like us.
"Feast of Rose" quietly captures the vagaries of the human heart. It played with colours and captured moments which it was intending to do.
In the "Stubborn Pen" she has conjured images of a strike that usually happen in south india to the life of a pen. She could have used more of the figurative language to transport us deeper into the life of a pen.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mad Jade by Sona Ghose


Title: Mad Jade
Author: Sona Ghose
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 53




When I first opened the pdf file of this poetry book by Sona Ghose, I was smitten by the cover graphic and the title "Mad Jade". Poetry should be mad and evocative filled with imagery and imagination, which the poet has successfully achieved in some of her poems, while many of her other works were emotions expressed onto the pages of a book, simply like we write a diary.
I was amused by the poetic rendition of her acknowledgement page, which is dedicated to her beau and in clear words were poignantly suggestive of the bond she shares with him.
Her prose piece "Fashion is fickle" tells you of her struggles to get published and more so, to get a footing in this big bad world filled with poets and authors. When she finally decided to listen to her voice and ask her own self for support, this poetry book took shape.
"When do I get myself back?" is a call of her alter ego and I liked the way she plays with the images inside her head, trying to tell the reader of the deeper voice of her alter ego that isn't leaving her alone.  

"For as long as I can remember,
I’ve been tugging at sheets
to tell myself that I’ve still got a hold on things,
but she and I both know
that I’ve never gotten the hang of hanging around her.
Sitting in my car, she’s singing
folk songs I’ve never heard. She brings
something to the table
that I’d left to childhood fables."

Scary images of a confused reverberation of her other self are painted in these images.

In the poem "Names" she has tried to sketch a colour of the seasons like she does it here
"Let me call you April
because I’ve never come across
a brighter storm; you
surrounded by gusts of wind
and rains which beat on the window panes; of me."


Friday, August 7, 2015

Cold Confession

She was puzzled to see the blood stains adorning the alabaster marble flooring.It was the third case of cold blooded murder in the city which had left the police force as well the people of the city in bewilderment. The murder weapon was untraceable and there were no helpful clues that could aid the investigation

Two months,three murders and no major headway.

ACP Ananya Sharma was a discomfited soul. This mystifying situation had gifted her sleepless nights and a lot of unhealthy criticism that was posing as a serious threat to her job.

She belonged to the 2002 batch of IPS(Indian Police Service) officers, who, because of their extraordinary brilliance had been deputed into the Central Bureau of Investigation. She had won many accolades for her bravery and sharpness but this time around the story was very different. She could sense a grave situation in store for her if she failed to achieve a breakthrough in this case.

****

She was sipping a glass of orange juice and was observantly examining the forensic reports along with Abhigyaan her immediate junior officer who had been deputed to the CBI from the Delhi Police.

"One thing is for sure, this guy is a brutal soul, else why would someone want to kill three pregnant women?" she asked.

"I agree madam. Did Dr.Rishabh tell you something about the murder weapon?" he enquired.

"Yes he says that a weapon has pierced two to four inches into the flesh cutting the jugular vein." she replied.

"Oh, then there might be some clue about the kind of weapon used"

"No, Dr.Rishabh said there are no traces of any kind of metal in the DNA samples of the victims. He could confidently tell me about the kind of injury but was not very sure about the murder weapon. He says this is the rarest of the rare cases. He assured me that he is working on it."

"What will we do madam, if the forensic team has no clue about the kind of weapon. They are the only people who can give us valuable evidences that will help in the investigation. What will we do,madam?" Abhi inquired in uneasiness.

Suddenly her eyes fell on the glass of cold drink that was placed on the table. She could visualize the ice cubes getting smaller in size and blending with the drink.

"I think I have a clue." Ananya said with a dash of jubilation in her voice.

"What clue, madam? " Abhi asked .

"You know our body is composed of roughly seventy percent water and if something like a weapon has to get into the flesh and disappear, I think it has to be water. Just like these ice cubes which are merging with the drink and getting smaller in size with time. After sometime they will disappear. I hope you are understanding my point."

"Yes madam, I think I am understanding what you are saying. But then water in which form?" Abhi questioned.

"Water in solid form that is ice. It can be very dangerous if in solid form and is easily available." Ananya replied.

"Oh yes Madam, Ice can do the trick. Oh yes..."Abhi marveled at her brilliance.

"I am glad you understood my point."

"But this has complicated the case further. What will we do now,madam" Abhi asked

"I agree Abhi. But let's not lose hope. ” She assured.

“Abhi, I need all the details about the three victims. Let me know everything right from their education to their husbands to their family backgrounds. I need every bit of information about these three women.”

“I need about two days to gather all the information. I hope he doesn’t commit another murder in the next two days.”

“No he won’t. Have you noticed Abhi? This guy murders a woman once in ten days. The first murder happened on April 17th,the second on April 27th and the third on 7th May. The fourth may happen on 17th May but again I am not very sure. This guy wants to challenge our mind. I hope and pray that the fourth murder doesn’t happen before we catch him. ”

“Hope so,madam. ”

“Just two days,that’s all you have. ”

“Sure madam,I know how important it is to be quick in our profession and not waste time unnecessarily. ”

****



“These are the details, Madam” Abhi informed as he placed a blue colored file on her table.

“Wow, thanks Abhi. You took less than two days actually. Thanks a ton. ” She replied in gratitude.

“The common link between these three victims is that they were pregnant and studied in St.Mary’s College. ”

“Whattttt? That’s my college.Oh my God.Then I am sure I might be knowing   atleast one of the victims closely, or maybe my sister might have some clues since she is from the same college as well. ”

She hastily examined the file and frantically dialled her younger sister’s number.

“Oh didi, I was about to call you.” Priyanka said.

“Yeah Pri. Do you know the latest murder victim to die in the city was a classmate of yours. Did you know her? ” she probed .

“Yup didi. She was the topper in our class. An extremely intelligent woman. And recently she had got promoted as the assistant director in the Chamber of Commerce.” informed Priyanka.

“Oh God, This is insane. And you know we collected their medical reports and found out that they all went to Dr.Rashmi Prabhakar’s maternity care home in the city. ”

‘Didi, I am consulting Dr. Rashmi as well. Maybe I can accompany you to her clinic and maybe she can give you some important clues.” Priyanka told.

“No,Pri. I just want you to be careful and not go to Dr.Rashmi’s clinic for a while till I inform you. OK? ”

“ Alright didi. Rohit is always here with me. And so are dad and mom. I won’t step out of the house without Rohit. So don’t you worry” Priyanka consoled her.

****

“Dr.Rashmi Prabhakar’s Clinic. That’s our first destination for today, Abhi.”

“But why madam? What can this doctor do for us? ” Abhi asked.

“It seems this killer is getting some kind of help from Dr. Rashmi. And you know Priyanka my younger sister is also consulting her and I am really worried about her. It seems like this killer knows me as well. ”

“Is it madam? I hope she is fine. ”

“Yeah. I asked her not to step out of the house. Let’s go Abhi.”

They reached the clinic in about half an hour and headed straight towards Dr.Rashmi’s chamber.

“Hello Madam. I am ACP Ananya and I am the special investigating officer of the triple murder case in the city. I wanted your help. ”

Oh yes. I will surely help you. But…what can I do for you? ” Rashmi stammered.

She handed out a sheet of paper with the details of the three victims clearly inscribed on it.

“They were my patients. ” Rashmi said in hushed tones .

“What else you know about them? And do you know one Priyanka Sharma? ” Ananya enquired .

“She is my patient and I can only help you with the medical reports of these three patients. There is nothing else I can do for you. I think you must go and conduct an enquiry with the families of the victims. " Rashmi suggested.

"Alright, madam. Sorry for the trouble caused. Kindly hand over the reports to Abhigyaan as soon you can" Rashmi said.

"Let's conduct an enquiry with families of the victims."

"But is it sane to give this lady a clean chit?" Abhi probed.

"No. It cannot be a coincidence that the killing of three innocent women in the city has nothing to do with this doctor. Since all the victims were her patients, it's too early to comment on her innocence. Let's see where we are going from here. Meanwhile, ask Arun and Pratish to keep a check on her in plain clothes." ordered Ananya.

*****


"We condole your daughter's death Mr.Verma. I have come to you to clarify certain things. I hope you will be supportive." Ananya said.

"Yes we will help you. But please keep Mrs.Verma our of this. She isn't feeling well and might get depressed if you ask her disturbing questions." Mr.Verma replied.

"I understand Mr .Verma. Where is Renuka's husband? Can I meet him? " Ananya inquired.

"He's out to the U.S. He went immediately after the cremation. He said he wanted to be away from all the pain and I think he had some meetings there." replied Mr.Verma.

"But don't you think he should have been here and supported you. How can any man attend meetings after his wife's brutual murder? Mr.Verma if you don't mind,can I have Renuka's husband's mobile number. I need to talk to him." Ananya requested.

Mr.Verma scribbled the number on a piece of paper and handed it over to Ananya.

"I...I wanted to tell you something." stammered Mr.Verma
"What is it Sir. Feel free to tell me everything. I am like your daughter. I will support you in every way possible." assured Ananya.

"There was some problem between my daughter and her husband. I think Pranav, her husband has another affair in the U.S, because he visits the place once in three months. I am not sure but I think something is terribly wrong, because my wife always kept telling me about their fights. And I was about to speak to Pranav about the issue. But..But... Before that he killed my daughter I think." said Mr.Verma and broke down into tears.

Ananya went near him and patted his back and consoled him.

"Mr.Verma I will look into the matter. If your daughter's husband is behind all this, I won't leave him for sure. Thanks for the number"

She took leave from Mr.Verma and walked towards the door dialling the number engraved on the sheet of paper but it was prompting a busy tone.

"Seems that asshole is busy. Abhi,please take down this number and keep trying. Meanwhile we must also conduct a check at the pregnancy aerobics class."

"Sure madam. I will keep calling and inform the telephone exchange to keep a check on this number" replied Abhi.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Lover in the White Cassock

The walk towards the church was a long one. The winding serpentine roads were a pain that broke her legs which reminded her of the pain that the rubber trees in her hometown might be going through, when the axe fell on them. Even then she loved to walk. She had broken her leg a few months ago. Since then walking seemed like a curse, infact a child who had just grown over her walker, could limp better than her. Although she loved ambling towards the church every Wednesday to pray the beads and hoard sanity. Having lived as a stay-at-home good-for-nothing keep of a husband who stayed away from Delhi for many months on the pretext of work, left her with a lot of time to pursue hobbies and also taught her to pray. She lazily got up to the call of a housekeeper who reminded her of her own mother, she vaguely remembered. To a breakfast that left, no room for lunch. This Wednesday she decided to not break the fast and head for church with a growling stomach. She loved quelling the groans of an empty stomach by guzzling as much water that her stomach could hold.
This was her way of rebelling against comfort food that her rich husband could afford.


The afternoon was welcomed by an unexpected deluge that tore the womb of the sky and fell on the parchment dried and devastated by the heat. They were a reminder of her childhood days in Kochi. A city washed by the sea that had hidden a thousand untold stories in her belly. Her mother had gone to God's house, that was what she was made to believe in as a child, when she was four. Her father was a businessman who never had too much time for a young daughter, who had just lost her mother to fate's dirty games. The free time he had was spent in devising new ways for filling the church coffers. They were perhaps one of the richest Syrian Christians in India, who were household names in every Syrian Christian household. The aristocratic royalty that her forefathers carried, was all that was needed to be honoured.
And to look with disdain on people who weren't as honourable as them.

As she grew up and stepped into the "marriageable age" she was ordered on the dinner table, one night by her father, who found solace in the wealth he was stashing with a petrified guilt, to find a husband for herself. For once, it came as a sigh of relief for her, unlike the other syrian Christian girls, many of whom had first known their husbands on the marriage bed. She had another story that wasn't letting a man walk in, the appendages of which choked her sometimes. She wore his shirt on days that she wanted to feel his skin on him, and many times the letters he had written to her as a young twenty-something innocent young man took her down the memory lane, that still knew their footprints. To get over him she had started following a strange exercise of writing a diary, where in she recorded the most intimate details of a love so shameless, yet so pure. She missed the fragrance of his cologne, the mole on his neck and the warmth of his arms, that she thought had grown up to remember her softness. They were school friends and neighbours who took to knowing each other's bodies from having started doing their homework as pre-school kids. He left on a Sunday morning, leaving at her side a goodbye letter that was a mystery stranger than the UFO's. On nights that she hallucinated about him, she used to see strange objects flying in her bedroom until she would shut her eyes tightly and chant a prayer.
Ralph was like an irritating common cold, that was taking its own sweet time to get cured.

The church bells always rang at the right time, never a minute late. Catholic people from around the sleepy neighbourhood of the government colonies attended the afternoon mass, so did a few enthusiastic school students who studied in the convent nearby. She loved to see those young girls hop around the grey cemented courtyard of the church that had started developing cracks much like the old famished building, that needed the touch of the masons urgently. On the wooden over-sized benches in the church, she had seen life change. Marriages had happened and baptisms too, but nothing changed for her. She still came to church everyday, to pray for a bit of love and everyday she had to meet with disappointment, as though God lost all his divine powers when she turned up with her requests. She was more like a spiritual atheist who had no hope in God, and only in the still silence of the white washed walls of the church that squeezed peace out its pores. She had an important thing to confess about and today she might have to wait after the mass to voice her confession. She hated to wait, all thanks to the privileges that were served to her on a platter. Maybe, that was the only gift her unloving husband could provide. That made her stand on six inched stilettos with not a care in the world.
She felt like a queen.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Is Caste-based-reservation a fair deal?

I am taken back to my college days, a few years ago, when I am starting to write this post. I had the aspirations to become a doctor, and opted for physics, chemistry, biology in class eleventh. The rut and rigmarole of studying for medical entrances wasn't helpful either and perhaps since I wasn't a student belonging to the OBC or SC/ST castes, I was left behind in the race of becoming a doctor. My dad didn't support the idea of paying capitation fees and getting me a paid seat, and much like most of my friends in the graduation batch I was compelled to devise a plan B. Little did I know that I would end up becoming a teacher, which is a profession I didn't want to take up in the first place. But slowly with the passage of time, I'm loving the idea of enlightening minds searching for knowledge.
For all my friends from the backward castes who are doctors now, all thanks to the cakewalk they had during admission, life is indeed a "pain in the neck". And here I'm enjoying the fruits of a profession that has fixed working hours, awesome perks and most of all paid holidays, which being a doctor wouldn't have offered me. Reservation that way, was a "blessing in disguise" for me.
But then only if, I were to be a doctor, I could have only become one, if I was entitled to a reservation. Else I might have got a medical seat only if I was the best in the lot, which I wasn't. I believe these are the reasons that initiate and impel "brain drain" from India.  Many of my friends who couldn't live up to their dreams of becoming a doctor in India, went abroad.Only because our incompetent classmates from the backward classes realized their dreams of wearing a doctor's coat.
Not because we weren't more qualified than them, but because "reservation based" quota had got them their dreams on a platter.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Naming

On those bricks
built as a bane,
was this plate clutched
garbled in gold
I saw letters rooted
like creepers crawling in vain
a language read as archaic allusion
as if plastered onto Pharaoh's pyramid.
The arrival was anticipated
and a coconut fell in salutation
when they told me
that their house was called
the land of one coconut tree.


Three houses away
their hut was known as
the land of three coconut trees,
while at a distance of two houses
along the orange mire's swamp
they called their hearth
the land of tigers,
for their great grand father
found a cub to pet
while on a spirited soldier's sojourn.


In that land, rivers have
pend poetry to christen houses
while nursery rhymes have babbled
from a four year old's lips
to reach her parents
when they baptized their abode
after their child's favourite fable.
Rambling along those shambles of soil
to kiss the horizon's hue.



Friday, June 5, 2015

Why make a woman's body a mannequin of religion and traditions?

I can never understand the reason behind the notorious display of jewelry on an Indian woman's body, after she gets wedded. Recently our next door neighbour got married, and she came home for the "pagg fera" looking like a human mannequin endorsing jewellery of all kinds. I mean one look at her, and you can spot everything from plastic bangles in red and white, which is called " chooda" to the vermilion, nose pin, toe rings, anklets and the black beaded noose "mangalsutra". This is a common sighting in much of India where the ornaments more or less differ. In the northern parts of India especially in Delhi, it is the chooda that you can spot, while in south India it will be an over-sized thali with a leaf shaped locket hanging from a gold chain. In places like Mumbai, the women never forget the toe rings. 
In most parts of India, the vermilion or sindoor is common, while everything else gets a special place on a woman's body as if it was a mannequin made of flesh and bones. It is amusing that even in today's times all these visible ornaments of marriage are forced upon a woman's body after marriage, to remind her of the privileges that a marriage and the presence of a man have bestowed on her. 
While nowhere in India, do the men adorn themselves with any of these symbolic ornaments, telling us of the notorious patriarchal norms that Indian marriages have been delving into. What amuses me is that amidst the "hue and cry" of gender equality, these kind of rigorous medieval customs are still a reality in India, and especially amidst educated well-read Indians. Surprisingly, most of these ornaments are a prideful possession for many women, who refuse to part from them. Most women are socially conditioned to wear them, so that their husbands have long, happy and healthy lives while they walk around looking like gaudy human bodies owned by patriarchal religious customs.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Case of Purvi Patel and why Reproductive rights are Human rights

Recently an Indian American woman Purvi Patel became the first woman in history to be charged and convicted of child neglect and foeticide, which to begin with is a irony of idiosyncrasy. She faces a 20 year sentence with a six-year sentence for foeticide which will be served concurrently.

The Purvi Patel Case
The case for the starters is a a butt of jokes for the state of Indiana, convicted her for killing her unborn foetus and for abandoning a living one. How can both these incidents happen simultaneously and in cohesion? 
The state that held her guilty is one of the most religious states of America which has a strong anti-abortion stand and recently passed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" that discriminates against gays. No wonder, that's why to hold the holiness of its views on anti-abortion, two impossibly different cases were framed against her.
She was accused of having induced the abortion by consuming abortion pills which she had ordered online, which was further confirmed by laying hands on the text messages she had sent to her friend. She described the taste of the pills in the first one while in the second message she informs her friend of having lost the baby. On the other hand, toxicologists couldn't find traces of the drug in her blood or that of the foetus. A contradictory spate of events that do nothing to prove that she had indeed, induced an abortion and killed the foetus. While on the other hand she was slapped with charges of child neglect, arguing that the foetus had been born alive. A "lung float" test in this case was used to prove this charge, which can't be taken as a concrete evidence. It's only Purvi who is the sole witness to the fact that whether the foetus was dead, or did she give birth to a premature living child.
The ironies here are that a charge of foeticide requires a dead foetus while the charge of neglect of a dependent requires a live birth. Either ways if she has to be convicted it has to be one of the two.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mumbai, 11th March, 15.10

To drive past this city is homecoming.
Welcomed. Unintended.
21 degree celsius. Summers don't shiver
underneath bare neem trees.
The street is a molten river
gurgling an old song
carrying rust and residue of metal automobiles.

It hasn't rained

since I went. Parched tar gapes its mouth.
Chatrapatti Shivaji terminus
She looked like an enchantress that evening.
Today she is an old woman
beaming ear to ear at the city 
that walks past her. Will someone pay heed?
Her eyes well with tears. Careful, lest they spill.

I stare at the swelling suburbs

that once spelled my name. 
Old famished brick buildings jeer at me
I feel like a princess trapped in a cage.
Escape. Exhale. Exit.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Once More

Rain is my first love
flailing over molten memories
dripping like wax on my skin
it burns.
Light years expand between us
as clouds copulate with the womb
of the earth.
Coiling in the songs of
the pattering petrichor
I've seen you simper
like a five year old boy
to this day, you are the first prayer
of the pluvious.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Killing an Old Lover inside my Head

This rectangular cot of wood
is my world tonight.
As I lie counting the stars
curtained across a glass window.
each a tiny speckle
threaded in the patchwork
of the wild blue yonder
that changes colors
like my body that loves to play with
fire and ice. Normal is passe.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Moments

Only if moments were objects,
that you can hold
name and own.
Like that moment when
your eyes sunk in hope
rotated across the circumference of earth
yearning for a glimpse of me,
while I stood at the corners of a square room
grinning like a cat.
That moment when I drowned myself
in your brown eyes
hiding myself from the iridescence
of city lights.


Friday, April 10, 2015

In August

In August ache was ageing on bare peepal trees
picked by the pointed beaks of notorious crows 
that took shade on a hot summer afternoon
In August you visited friends living in countries
with strange names
while I confided in strangers
whose names I tried and memorise.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Home maker


She complains in monosyllabic matters
by making music with
panting pots and clinging cutlery,
imposing self imprisonment
in an old ancestral home
she has been running after a mouse
for wifing a house.

She bared bleeding bones
to give babies
bickering in sealed spaces
and open streets
voicing her cross swords
she stutters and walks
on a nameless street
each day, every day.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Curling in the First kiss

It feel like water colour spilling 
on white washed walls
it's like being hunted down
by an army of love hormones
like a burst of your musk
thawing through my skin
butterfly wings flaying on the
velveteen skin of a rose


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Breaking the bread with you, last time

English breakfast was a word
660 minutes later,
I was sieving seconds
collecting hours in white china cups
sugar seeping into my tongue
melting into the silence of my mouth
The city was smelting in sounds
waning woefully in the dirt
 flashy flourscent lights stared into my eyes
as human life fiddled with speed
on half lit roads.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why elitists like Deepika Padukone can never be a feminist icon?

To begin with, let me applaud Homi Adajania for this brave effort to portray the petrifying patriarchy existing in the Indian society. The message it carries is loud and clear. But why would I not buy it?

For an actress who was once the face of Garnier fairness cream, this is a message that confuses her fans and followers. She retorted to the same kind of publicity gimmick before her movie "Finding Fanny" when she had raised hell against the TOI newspaper for having published a picture of her cleavage. Elitist feminism as I call it. Who is even bothered to know what she feels about a woman's body and her choices? Her choices are solely based on the power of the moolah. Else why was it important for her to sue TOI for a provocative picture of hers during the time "Finding Fanny" was hitting the theatres, when a hundred times before that, she may have shown her skin, in the launch party of a movie or as a publicity stunt.
In her next "Happy New Year" she went about roving in the air, in skimpy clothes objectifying a woman's body. I was also terribly violated to hear the lyrics, which was out-rightly sexist.
Who can forget the garnier fairness cream advertisements? I've lost count of the number of times that her huge cut-outs of Garnier at the market have made me wanted to hide.
The movie would have packed a punch had a celebrity like Konkona Sen Sharma or Nandita Das endorsed it. I do not remember these women ever promoting fairness products or "size zero" to make money. I remember Konkona for being the petite Meenakshi Iyer in Mr. And Mrs. Iyer or for her realistic portrayal of an ambitious girl looking for freedom in "Life in a metro. I do not recall any advertisement of hers that might have endorsed fair skin, much like the Garnier advertisement.
Nandita Das is another kind of a woman. I will always thankfully remember her for launching the "Dark is beautiful" campaign, which got the racist Indians obsessed with Fair and Lovely, to think about inhuman and impossible standards of beauty that we shamelessly impose on women everyday, especially when in the "arranged marriage" market.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Digitally empowering the "Second sex" of the country #DigitalIndia

Digital India vision was launched by the Prime Minister of India with a mission to make essential services like medical care and education a reality, for people who don't have access to these basic facilities.
The mission has promised to transform India into a knowledge economy that will offer world-class services at the click of a mouse, through common service centres that will act as the delivery points for goods and services.
While I was beginning to write this post, a scene from the Bollywood movie "Three Idiots" was playing in my mind. Remember a heavily pregnant Mona Singh, Kareena Kapoor's elder sister seething in labour pain, and her father Prof.Sahastrabuddhi yelling at the ambulance service people for not reaching them on time. 
Enter our hero, who is a technology expert. Although the college director has thrown him and his friends out of the premises, he makes sure that he applies his technology expertise to help the Director's ailing daughter. What follows is a sequence that may have never been aired on the Indian movie screen ever. A group of three men helping a pregnant woman deliver a child.
On the other end and right on the edge is the heroine who can't reach her sister because of incessant rains and flooding. She is a doctor,and has an internet connection and a laptop and directs the hero and his friends to safely bring into this world her nephew. If not for the invention of the laptop or internet, our eyes would have never been treated to a scene that was until a few years ago, impossible to be presented to the Indian audience. I remember a lot of traditionally thwarted aunties who might have otherwise hushed and puffed, lauding the sequences by clapping and blowing kisses in the air. 
This is the story of a woman and her family, who could afford medical care, but couldn't get a reach to it, on time. If we were to replace a tee-shirt clad pregnant Mona Singh with a woman from one of the Indian villages battling the pains of labour, much like Mona she is not able to reach a hospital on time,  because the only hospital in her village is miles away from where she stays, then don't you think that this is a leaf from the real life diaries of real Indian women.
Digitizing our villages would cater to the needs of such women, who do not have provisions of basic health care in their village. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

What's in my bucket list?

I wonder why do they call it the "Bucket list"? They should have rather called it a wishlist or travelogue list, if I were to go about revealing it.
Mine is a weird one, which may make you burst into peals of laughter or you may end up calling me a "madwoman". Scientists are mad, after all!

1) Visit atleast 50 countries, especially Egypt, Seychelles, Pakistan, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and yes Iceland too. Infact go to all the countries where being a woman is not a sin. You shouldn't be amazed if someday, all of a sudden an interesting section on travel stems from this blog.
2) Head to the most exotic beaches in India, especially those in Diu and Pondicherry. Work has bound me in chains until now, and the only two beaches I've ever seen are in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
3) Go to Lahaul and Spiti and try and spot a UFO.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rising out of Bullying

Bullying is an evil we may have all grown up with. Infact, it is a terrifying truth that plagues the society, where in a stronger person pulls a joke on a weaker person for not being like them, resulting in a repeated rut that drives the victim to depression.
As a child I was carefree, but a strong believer of equality. For me a fair person was in no way special than a friend with darker skin. I had brown skin myself, which gave a fair skinned friend of mine all the wrong reasons in the world to bully me. His mother was a fair skinned punjabi and father a dark skinned south Indian. This wasn't a deterrent for him and he went on bullying dark skinned people for being wrapped in browner membrane. I was fed on the perception that it was penurious to have brown skin. I decided to treat my skin to creams and charms like "Fair and Lovely" only to get into the good books of this fearless bully, but it didn't yield results. I remember hiding in the darker corridors of the school only to not come in the sight of  this bully who never got tired of addressing me as "Kalicharan".

Monday, March 16, 2015

Marital Surnames aren't a legal necessity. Then why hang on to them?

A school friend of mine recently separated from her husband. Her divorce proceedings are on, and it's not long before she will legally cut off all martial ties with him. We used to be fast friends once upon a time, until a silly confusion cropped up between us. We have stayed away from each other since then, although my heart yearns to mend the broken ties with her. But to no avail. 
Recently while dillydallying on facebook, I saw her profile on another of my friend's 'friend list'. And to my astonishment, she was carrying her father's family name as opposed to her husband's, which was a choice she had made after tying the knot. What startled me the most was her attitude towards the surnames of the men in her life. 
She was madly in love with her 'then boyfriend and now husband' and maybe that's why she decided to wear a new surname after getting wedded to him. Which is rightly her decision. 
But then again, her idea to switch back to her father's surname in the midst of personal crisis was proffering allegiance to patriarchy, which rabid feminists like me will never come to terms with.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Delhi Calling

I moved back to Delhi recently. Initially, when my good friends heard about it, I was treated to a barrage of brickbats. I had always wanted to lead a single and independent life. Then why did I decide to throw that axe on my leg?
I agree that living in a new city with friends in a rented apartment or as a paying guest is the first step towards freedom. It's a kick, to have your own room where in mom won't barge in without knocking the door, but is that really liberation?
After finishing my laboratory work in Mumbai, I had got the golden opportunity to dwell by the sea. It would have been a dream come true had I mellowed to the idea.But I decided to give it a second thought.
By this time I had accustomed myself to the eternal eccentricity that life was putting me through. From doing my laundry without a washing machine to eating the soggy bland food to having no one to crib and chatter with in malayalam.

30th March, Bombay Central

15.30
I wait for the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani
I hate train journeys
I feel like a matchstick
stacked in a blue rectangular metal box.
I crouch on the dusty bench
The garbage bin is retching
much like my heart was
when I was forced to forget
the touch of your hand.
That evening, I was looking into
the black sky
murmuring for a miracle
the pole star had vanished
I yearned to blow a wish.
''I'll hire a cab.''


Sunday, March 8, 2015

India's Daughter documentary. Watch it but don't buy it fully

This is the season of bans it seems. The ban on Cow meat in Maharashtra. The ban on a documentary.The  ban on "freedom of speech". 
The Modi government with its strong hindutva school of thought seems to dive into a cathartic escapist ideology to deal with issues that they do not have a say in.
BBC and Leslie Udwin meanwhile decided to exploit the petrified patriarchal sentiments of a nation where patriarchy is tradition. I did find a few more opinions that out rightly blasted Ms. Udwin for not making a documentary film on countries like Somalia or Saudi Arabia where the voices against patriarchal misogyny are lulled every day by beating, raping and killing women who dared to raise a finger against the inhuman apathy they are meted with. Thankfully, this movie was made, even though not for the right reasons. 

I watched the documentary with hope, because for the starters I expected it to not be a clever scripted rendition of  the gory evils that Jyoti Singh and her friend had to bear witness to. While Jyoti's friend had testified to the fact that she was brutalized by all the men riding in the bus with them that evening, Mukesh Singh was made to take a call in his favour by lying about it. It's too difficult for me to believe that he was driving the bus throughout the fateful incident and wasn't a culprit. Will lying help him in any way and his shameless patriarchal patronized lawyers to push for his release? And if that happens I will surely loose all my faith in the Indian judiciary system and thousands like me who decided to brave the December chill in 2012  to demand for justice.
Thirdly why did his admission of the "she deserved it" attitude come as a shock? He further added fuel to the fire by condemning death penalty and inspiring the rapists of the country to kill their victim, to leave no witnesses or proofs behind. Sigh! I wish they could have edited this portion of the video, because for a troubled rape ridden culture like ours this spells doom.
Again, this predetermined policing of the script failed to achieve what it was aiming to portray in the first place. Talk of gender violence and the feminist movement in the country. It was more like a Bollywood movie that had characters, incidents and the stories of the people starring in it.
Fourthly, people like the defence lawyer A.P Singh and the impunity with which he still admits to owning his daughter send shock waves down your spine. The other defence lawyer was the Shakespeare of the movie.  It's high time that women stop being the flowers, they must learn to be the thorns.
Why was the documentary named "India's daughter"? It could have been given any other title, but this, fearfully strips naked the male privilege that we women are forced to lean on, for our safety, respect and dignity.
Last but not the least, this documentary is a must watch. For the minor biases that it carries, should not give you a reason to ignore it. It makes you aware of the nerves of India's sons, who have been raised on an unhealthy dosage of poor education, patriarchy and poverty. Who are thriving in the backyard of male dominated homes to replace the filthy rotten fishes that will be thrown out of the sea. Rotten fishes like Singh, who deserves capital punishment or rigorous life imprisonment.
And yes, Jyoti Singh is not India's daughter. I so wish she wouldn't have taken birth in this wretched country.





Picture Credit: http://trak.in/tags/business/2015/03/05/indiasdaughter-youtube-bbc-documentary-blocked/