a terrible painter, a dreamer, a rebel , a feminist and a self certified bisexual Witch. Who is always trying to visualize whats on the other side of the canvas she paints,just another human- Living alive Life. Now also a green tea addict.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Synonym- Periods

(This blog post is written for the Blogathon competition hosted by Women's Web in collaboration with the Maya App, copy the link-> http://www.womensweb.in/2016/10/periodpride-blogathon/ or click on the hashtag

In whispers and giggles it had entered our ears 'a girl had bled', a bleeding girl is lonely, but a herd of bleeding girls is celebration. A girls first blush is celebrated in Assam as Tuloni Biya, she is kept inside the house for three days, on the fourth evening she is decked up as bride and a great feast is organised, it’s a coming of  age ceremony, a celebration of blooming into a woman, a tradition both praised and frowned upon. Growing up in Assam had made me attend many Tuloni Biyas, though my own close friends failed to invite me in their own celebrations [traitors]. Being a Bengali I never got my own feast, Bongs are on the hushier side of washing the bloody undies in public.

This ritual is celebrated by the whole community; it not only unites the womenfolk, but has been inclusive of the menfolk too, hence you can see little boys running around, uncles stuffing the girl's face with cream, and these men later grow up well accustomed to a bleeding woman in the house, yes Assamese males share the workload of the house those three days. Hence growing up was not that hush-hush for us, my male classmates knew to be considerate enough of the Red Days. That doesn’t mean teasing never happened, to the opposite sex it is always a curiosity which often made them speak stupid stuff, and of course ask why and how we bleed. [No one ever paid attention in Reproduction Class, all they heard is SEX when Menstruation cycle was explained!]

Soon whisper to us all meant the sanitary napkin, in whispers we shared our whisper pad when another girl blushed for first time in school. In the beginning this red cycle was nicknamed ‘Sua’ [Touch; Named after the common myth that Menstruation is contagious]. Some of us bled cats and dogs, staining and fainting, while others bled after many months of hiatus enraging fear, anxiety, sympathy and jealousy . Every information was accumulated and shared among us girls; authenticity of the information though was was kicked out of the mind. It was Blood that tied us all.

The first time I bled, I was happily adamant, that it was the droplets of brown water colour that fell on my frock from my futile painting attempts every evening. My mom and sister differed to the theory and like an infant I was forced into wearing those white cottony slab which in my toddler years I had mistook as a perfect mattress for my barbie doll. In the household the code name still is ‘Shorir Kharap’ [ Ill Bodied ]. My great grandmother, my grandmother, my mom, my sister and me we still practice the task of avoiding the task of being caretakers for gods for those three to five days, well the gods need rest from us too. When I was in my early teens and bleeding heavily once every month, I would use this new 'weakness' as my trump card from getting away from things I disliked especially the sports I hated. I a constant denouncer of gods, would trick my father who often asked me to do the daily morning puja, I would happily chant ‘Amar Shorir Kharap’ [I am unwell] and kept sleeping, I used the blood bond to avoid worshiping the gods, I fictionally bled as often as thrice a month like Farmina Daza.   

By the time we reached school finals, Lady Menstruation had earned herself multiple names. One of my classmates had picked up ‘Lal Singh’ from a dubbed American series. Another boy had found for us the ‘Red Week Alert’. Another girl had picked from a saas-bahu serial ‘Woh-din’ which eventually became ‘Wow-din’ and my best friend has used I am on ‘Wow-din, pamper me’ mode on her boyfriends ever since and another close male friend of mine has been wishing me 'Happy Red Day' for years now. Deep down each of us had renamed this cycle of donating blood to sanitary pad as something funny but coded.

In my college days, I chose to stick with my favourite ‘Blood Bank’. I always felt that those three days I am being forced to invest in a sinking scheme of no return. It was my blood that mother earth sought after, on top of it her invisible hands were ripping through my lady part! Had I been Bella, I would have asked my Edward to suck me from my vagina at one go, so that I could be done with it in a day! This code name of blood bank I somehow passed to my close friends, who whenever suffer from PMS or are being hollowed by the tampons, type under the hashtag of blood bank.

In my final year of masters, out of the red, I had tremendous pain in my abdominal, so being a good girl I decided to sleep it off, instead of cycling to my university to attended eight lectures . As I lay rolling and cussing, my whatsapp pinged, asking my intentions about the Dalit Literature class in afternoon. Being grumpy and hungry and bleeding, I typed ‘Riding Low on Blood Bank’ and sent it.
Half an hour later I got woken up by a call, my classmate who had sent the message asking about class, was worried. He had panicked that I had an accident; I was on other hand trying to explain that I was fine and only going through the red cycle, performing my ritual of blood sacrifice. To this comment he believed I was watching some documentary on witch hunting. Finally I had to say that my ‘Vagina was Bleeding’.

In return I got scolded, badly, by my friend. He was furious, that I had written something so scary for mere menstruation. He posed me a question, why would I not use the assigned word for this monthly donation of blood and instead type in language of pre-pubescent. Indeed, I who have bought sanitary napkins with my guy friends and made them carry it, I who have complained of my pain infinite times, I who has read out stupid poems penned by me under the name of Bleeding Vagina and has constantly used the words- ‘There is Crime Scene in my Pants’ from No String Attached, has always avoided the use of the word Periods as much as possible. And I never wondered why?

No matter how liberal education I have had, how much frank I am with opposite sex about sexual health, I get tied by a subtle shame. Deep down there remains an inbuilt glitch, which stops us, especially me from accepting the whole cycle as a cleansing process, to us it remains a necessary evil. It’s part of us but never loved, I am no different; I never spelt the word out because it didn’t make me proud. I have always loathed the sticky, wet and grumpy days, how could I ever like it? That one question made me realise by denying this natural process its true name, I was being naive and hindering my own growth and adaptability. Today as I flipped through Anjum Hasan’s stories, Mrs Ali in the story 'The Big Picture' at the end feels a liberation when her period blood over flows and trickles downs her toes. Like her I want to stain the world with my blood, the first step I took a year back whenever the topic of menstruation came up, I spelt out the words loud with certain pride, I am on my Periods.

P.S- “This blogathon is supported by the Maya App, used by 6.5 million women worldwide to take charge of their periods and health.”. Yup another blog competition and that was the first GIF I made, with help of imgflip.com.


Thanking You to bear with me 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Some Mannequins have ten hands.

First time I saw a mannequin is a memory lost in the Ocean. My major encounter with one happened when I was around seven. I was visiting my paternal home during summer vacation, on one particular horrible summer day my family had decided to go shopping. That was where I met a doll that was my size and wearing a metallic brown skirt, I fell in love with that skirt at first sight. Poor doll was also wearing a bottle green sleeveless tee, the greedy me desired that too.

Shopkeepers found me exact copy-paste of the brown skirt, but when it came to the tee, they didn’t have another in stock. They bought me white full sleeved white shirt with red flowers, a yellow collared shirt, a pink frilly blouse, but I wanted that bottle green tee. Meanwhile my sister, mom and dad had selected their clothes; I was still stuck on the green tee. My love for green has been dominant trait since childhood; those were first strikes of my green-insanity. I made the shopkeepers bent to my demand, rather stubbornness. Till this day I get what I want when I desire it with my absolute stubbornness. So we left that child sized doll naked to clothe me.

I am not the first stubborn in this family, my mom has robbed many human sized dolls of their attire and left those beauties stark naked. My sister and grandmother are more human, try not to harm the modesty of these dolls. I have played with dolls, for almost two decades of my life; they have been a fascination, first true obsession where my pocket money went before I married books. I saved up my allowances to just hoard them. Sometimes I bought a new friend every consecutive week. Then the scary mother of mine had started pushing my idle brain towards books.

Before the word ‘mannequin’ happened, to me they were dolls, big dolls, small dolls, tiny dolls. I wanted to buy them all. As I grew more aware of my surroundings the terracotta showpieces also were doll to me, the china camels with wings, the hollow plaster of Paris statues sold on carts were fragile dolls, the idols we worshiped in home became dolls as well. I had a very dear caretaker when I was three, together we had worshipped a Laskhmi Idol on totally a wrong day out of the blue under afternoon sun and cooked real Khichdi in my aluminium toy utensils and though I was denied the taste of it by my mother, it looked delicious. Next day we watered the idol and remodeled the clay into birds- my companions for two days, as on third day they melted in the place we left them to dry because of heavy rainfall.

Lakshmi’s mom that’s Durga had been a Big Doll, so had been her sons and daughters in my mind for initial year of innocent childhood. To me the Durgas all looked a bit like my mom from the photograph taken on her wedding day- big eyes that scares the hell out of me till this day, curly hair, healthy glossy skin, figure of a typical Indian housewives with curves and of course the goddess was stabbing the poor demon like my mom punished me. Those were dolls which were inspired from my mom’s looks only they had ten hands. I was so glad my mom didn’t have ten; otherwise the beatings I got would have been tuned ten folds higher.

The more I have grown up, the Durga Puja and its tradition has sipped in me, so has my cynical eye evolved. During that puja week I know I am getting seriously good food, new clothes and roam around the town to see different idols and their decorated Pandal. In my case new dresses and a bag of jalebies made me run around. Over the years I have grown I tired of this pandal hopping in car and getting lost in dark lanes because my father is terrible with navigation, wearing new clothes and watch the idols bore me to the core. I especially dislike the crowd; because I know the irritation I feel by looking at the glittering people, they too feel the similar irritation with my not so shiny new clothes.

It makes me a spoilsport, which I have been all my life. I never dislike that people enjoy. I love watching girls all decked up the goddess, some go very sophisticated with plain saree and simple bindi, I like how people enjoy the poisonous junk food without an ounce of worry, I love the confidence boys show when they flaunt their traditional attire, its a moment of happiness and carefree evenings. Yet I dislike the otherization festival brings with them. Over last five years I have seen this steady growth in Bongs and Non-Bongs jokes, memes, written pieces which is solely based on the celebration of this these idols. All the creativity this festival brings is limited to one happy city and its outskirts not the voice of an entire culture under bangla banner. Enjoyment at cost of euphoric homogenisation of culture is not my cup of tea.

My mom had told me a story about pre-british (nope I am not writing the B in capital) condition of these pujas and the sculptors. The britishers didn’t want to immerse the idols at the end of the festival because they were so beautiful, they wanted to preserve them like they preserved their marble statues. The sculptors had pleaded, begged and lamented to the britishers not to end their livelihood. Once people stopped drowning the idols their income would get lost forever. Hence the tradition of immersion still prevails. With it the constant cycle of creation and destruction, the essence of creative zeal flows from generation to generation. The idols are made of earth and after the festivals are over they return to earth through immersion, very biblical or may be very hindu, who cares? The idols over the years have become more beautiful, pandals have become grand exhibition of human creativity, labour and investment from the polite abode for goddess under a pink and blue marquee, at same time the idols truly have become the mannequins, the  big dolls of my childhood, only now they are not a replica of my mom, but they models of advertisements for shops, chumming voices of restaurants, mouthpiece FM channels, brand ambassador of Television, goodwill ambassadors of MNCs, survivors from hospitals, as well as advocates of serious causes like Floods, Deforestation, Poaching but the causes become bit funny at the Mannequin’s feet in my eyes.

Few days back my professor shared his experience about this tradition of celebration. He was a Public Relations personal for a company when the story took place, a German investor had visited the factories and workshops and found the workers had put garland around the well oiled machines, they did so because it was the day of the Engineer God. Highly impressed by this attitude of respecting machines and humanisation of the non-living working mate he went back home. Two months later he returned to find the condition of the machines like a coal miner trapped under the residue for hundreds of years black soot. The German man asked my professor if the respect for the machines was only a one day event?

This ten days of puja we are all kind, happy and try not to be rude. After ten days we are back to being plain old buggers. Nor am I free from this hypocrisy, I would haggle for four rupees on a fine day with auto-rickshaw driver, but let puja days come both the driver and me, we are smiling and decide not to haggle for four rupees. It’s all goodwill and sugar, a bit too sugary for my own digestion. Soon after, I will revert back to the money haggling miser who at times believes in elitism of education.

 The goddess that come in these idols, die as mannequins. They are decorated with riches from diamond showroom, they get expensive sarees to flaunt, they are housed in golden alters, they are under the watch of paparazzi twenty four seven, guarded by peacekeepers. Everything that happens is related to them and not a single aspect of their non-existent life is unaccounted for. They don’t come to bless with ten hands, their ten hands are labelled with brands. With their beauty they sell us an expensive dream no ordinary woman can’t afford. It is this expensive dream which leaves us paralyzed and we are awestruck by the vastness of this difference. We take this paralyzed state mind as love for grandeur and beauty, no in reality its our incapability to churn out instruction from art and its the realisation that how puny we are in this grand cycle of materialism. This hyperreal world of celebration would have made Horace commit suicide, in this world of creativity, art has forgotten it’s task of instruction and religion its purpose of guidance  and a community its simple beginning.

P.S- let the goddess swim in the rivers and mannequins drown in them.     

thanking you to bear with me