I got my first period when I was nine years old. Yes. I was still a child and back then, many decades ago, the average age at which girls first menstruated was around 13 or 14. Needless to say, my parents were very worried and took me to a lady doctor to figure out if all was well with my reproductive organs. It was, she assured them. I was just an early bloomer. It also had to do with the fact that I was, err, as they politely put it back then, very healthy.
My mother sat me down and explained to me that once a month, every month, blood would come out of my private parts for a few days, and it might be a trifle inconvenient and uncomfortable. My dad brought me my first packet of sanitary napkins. Covered in a newspaper. My dad died a few months later.
I grew up without a dad. But it took me many decades to realise that my father was unique, a man who had absolutely no qualms about going to a chemist and asking for a pack of sanitary napkins. Even if it came wrapped in a newspaper.
Now many years later, when I ask for a pack of sanitary napkins at the chemist’s, they continue to be stealthy about it. Wrapping it in newspaper, burying it beneath the pile of whatever else one has bought in the carry bag. Handing it across to you, almost embarrassed to be associated with this evidence that you are in the reproductive bracket. And that you bleed.
It was only a few years ago that we got supermarkets and we could pick up our choice of sanitary napkins from shelves stacked with various options. Extra-large, with wings, dry gel… you name it. And we could toss them on the shopping trolley in full public view and not feel embarrassed about it. Because, yes, that is how nature created us. We bleed as women. Because we bleed, we can carry babies within us. And because we carry babies within us, the human race continues. Is that an aberration to be embarrassed and ashamed of?
Yet, across cultures and religions, the female menstrual cycle has been viewed as ritually unclean. Barring a few religions, most religions mandate that a menstruating woman is unclean, and bars her from certain activities. Most religions have their own menstrual taboos; much of it was based on the lack of understanding of why it occurred. Depending on the degree of orthodoxy, a menstruating woman might be even segregated until she completes her menstrual cycle.
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So, the very fabulous Rega Jha, Meghna Pant and me at #FeministRani organised by SheThePeople.tv the other day. Here are some pics and a video.
It’s okay to name a movement after a half that needs it the most says Buzzfeed’s Rega Jha on Feminism. In a no holds bar conversation, along with Author Kiran Manral the second edition of Feminist Rani picked up on ‘everyday feminism’ as its focus. “Why are women defined by what they don’t do?” asked Manral. The candid conversation had experiences from the speakers and the audience. “Feminism to me,” said Jha “is not having to think of a toss between male gaze & comfort while picking clothes for office every morning.” Manral added to that saying men are threatened often and how they need to get to terms with that. She especially dismissed silly assumption people make about women. “It’s okay to have a cleavage and a brain at the same time,” Manral contended. Women at Feminist Rani expressed they weren’t taken in by certain feminist concepts of not shaving your body hair or unabashedly being anti-men. That men are a part of the big picture even in finding gender balance is something most agreed upon. Jha asserted how Feminism as a word is far more controversial than the movement itself.
Yes, we bleed! say women taking on menstrual taboos in the country
Menstrual taboos continue to exist in India despite the efforts of many activists and campaigns to dispel the myths around a natural feminine physical phenomenon. Talking about periods or menstruation still is taboo for many people and there are many don’ts associated with it. Women are not allowed to enter the kitchen, visit places of worship and even touch food items like pickles while they are on their periods. They are considered ‘impure’ during their menstruation and hence the rules.
Today, some women have taken on this taboo, and those propagating it in the country, on social media. Nikita Azad, a 20-year-old girl has taken on the keepers of the Sabarimala Temple after a decision was taken by them to scan women to see if it was the ‘right time’ for them to enter the temple. Author Kiran Manral, who initiated the online volunteer network India Helps after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, has also started a similar online campaign. And it’s not just women who extending their support to these campaigns but men too.
The #HappytoBleed Campaign
On November 20, Nikita Azad wrote an open letter to Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the Devaswom chief of the Sabarimala temple after he told media about this on November 13. She also started a #HappyToBleed campaign on social media.
In the #HappyToBleed Facebook page which she started with some friends, it reads, “Devaswom chief of Sabrimala temple, Kerala has given a sexist statement that once purity checking machines are invented, that check whether it is “right time” or not, (whether women are menstruating or not), he will think about letting women enter.
By this statement, he has reinforced misogyny and strengthened myths that revolve around menstruation. Although this has become the immediate reason of our campaign, our focus is identifying all forms of patriarchy and preparing ourselves for struggle.” Nikita Azad’s campign also urges women to hold up “placards/sanitary napkins/charts saying Happy To Bleed, take their pictures, upload it to their profiles, and send it to us, in order to oppose the shame game played by patriarchal society since ages.” (Read her letter here)
The #IBleedDealWithIt Campaign
Meanwhile, author Kiran Manral has also launched an online campaign called #IBleedDealWithIt against the taboos and myths that surround menstruation. “I grew up knowing absolutely no menstrual taboos. I guess I was lucky. When I was older, I realised there were a host of things women were not supposed to do during their menstrual cycle and it quite flummoxed me, because if anything menstruating is a natural process and is part of being fertile as a woman,” Kiran said.
“I began this campaign #IBleedDealWithIt in response to the realisation that we are still carrying a lot of myths and taboos about menstruation with us, even though we might be educated women of the 21st century. The change must come from us, we must realise that if we refuse to follow menstrual taboos which are restrictive and discriminatory, and counter superstition with rational explanation, we could initiate change,” she explains.
People took to social media to extend their support to these campaigns by tweeting and posting pictures.
Read the original here
The good people from Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa called in the middle of last week. Would I like to go to check out their property in Mahabaleshwar, they asked. Given that I’d spent the better part of the past two months travelling in and out of the city for various book related events, the last thing I really wanted to do was travel. But the offspring had been whining incessantly about how it was not fair, and how he was stuck at home while I travelled all over the place. And perhaps this would be a good break for him before school reopened and he got back into the grind. And so I accepted.
He packed his own bag, one with his clothes and a smaller one, for his toys. His WWE action figures. “In case I get boredt.”
We set off on Friday morning at the crack of dawn from Mumbai, the pitstop at Lonavala food court to refuel had me cautioning him to stick to the idli sambar given I knew his propensity to become a projectile hurling device when confronted with mountain roads. When we finally reached Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa, in an Avomine induced sleep haze (the offspring’s, not mine) the hunger pangs were striking, and striking hard at that.
The first thought as we turned in from the road into the neatly paved path leading to the reception was the number of buggies that were parked along. So many buggies, asked the offspring. Bud wai? We would soon find out, we realised. A smooth check in later, we were directly off to the restaurant Latest Recipe for lunch. Latest Recipe and the Indian dining restaurant, Chingari, are situated in a building a little away from the reception, reached by an imposing stairway. The best thing about the stairway I realised, is that it has been thoughtfully designed, so part of the stairs morph cleverly into a zig zag ramp way for either prams or wheelchairs, enabling access to everyone.
The cafe, cheerful done up in white and pastels, had interesting steel thermos flasks set in niches in the wall, wall murals of plated settings, mixed seating that ranged from six seaters to intimate armchair seatings for two and three, was just what hungry souls wanted after a long drive.
The offspring discovered on offer his personal all time favourite Rogan Gosht and having confirmed plain steamed rice was available, he got down to the task of dingle handedly demolishing the contents of the chafing dishes.
After lunch, we discovered exactly why those buggies were so omnipresent, we needed them to get around in the property, because all the food we’d just eaten had put us into a complete food coma.
Villa 5 was ours, a lovely room done in greys and purple and metallics, with a lovely little sitout shaded by trees, looking onto a path. The bathroom had a huge bathtub and that was invitation enough for the offspring, who has to normally be sent in for his daily bath at gunpoint to state that he was very dirty after the journey and needed a proper bath.
Post which, we were off to High Tea where Brian Povinelli,Global Brand leader for Westin and Le Meridien hotels and resorts, spoke about the ethos of the brand world and their expansion in this region. “Families are somewhat forgotten in this industry,” he said, “What we wanted to create is a multigenerational experience, where the entire family can find something to interest them.” Their programme is called #UnlockDestination, that aims at helping an entire family holiday together, and discover a destination. All their properties are based on the basic premise that people want to feel that they’ve been somewhere. Elements of the local culture find their way into every element of the hotels designed, whether through the decor, the cuisine or the various elements that make up the property. For instance, at Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa, the ubiquitous local strawberry finds its way into the dessert tray, the signature éclairs and even into light crisp sandwiches.
A tour of the property was called for and we went walking through the infinite paths that comprised the property, stopping to see the little touches at the corners, a thoughtful gnome in a garden somewhere, a man sitting on the stairs at another.
The evening was a lovely sit down dinner at the Henry Lawns, with Samantha Edwards performing some fabulous jazz vocals. The nip in the air was just right to be pleasant without being chilly. The next morning, after a lovely breakfast, we set off again to explore the property. We discovered the Kids Club, where the offspring had a blast.
The Kahaani festival was also on, with storytelling workshops by children’s authors Shabnam Minwalla and Jerry Pinto and a theatre session for children by Tom Alter which had the offspring quite enchanted. There was puppetry, dance, music, baking and what have you to keep the offspring completely busy –allowing me to take time out for a Swedish massage at the Explore Spa. An hour long massage with a blend of rose and lavender had me relaxed, refreshed and completely de-stressed.
There was also strawberry picking at a strawberry farm, a visit to the ‘Unlock Art’ Partner, Devrai Art Village, which made the most divine brass and wood artifacts, and a visit to an ancient temple. Dinner that night was at the Indian restaurant, Chingari, which had the offspring completely bowled over by their mutton biryani and the seekh kababs which he declared were the best he’d ever tasted, and trust me he’s tasted a lot of them.
We left the next morning, most reluctantly. In fact, the child was insistent he would stay back, all I needed to do was to leave my debit card behind with him. But alas, school was reopening the next day and he was led away, very very reluctantly from the resort, promising himself he would come back again, and very soon at that.
Thank you Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa, for a lovely weekend.
(Disclaimer: We visited this property on invitation from Le Meridien)
By Kiran Manral | posted Nov 20th 2015 at 1:44PM
“Will the Paris terrorists come to Mumbai?” he asked. “Will they come to my school?” He’d asked a similar question before, many years ago, when gunmen came to our city from the sea, in a dinghy and unleashed a spree of terror that left many dead, many wounded and a city shell-shocked with the realisation of its complete vulnerability when confronted with terror. He was much younger then, and I’d explained to him then, in much simpler terms, that while there was always a possibility there could be an attack anywhere, anytime, we would do all we could to protect him and the other children in his school. It wasn’t accurate, but it was, I like to think, reassuring. And at that moment, the only thing a child does want is not an explanation of the politics behind terror, but the simple reassurance that the adults in charge of him or her will do the best they can to protect them.
He was much older when the seven gunmen stormed the school in Peshawar last year, killing 132 children, of a total of 141 people they killed. He was old enough to know now that there is good in this world, and there is inexplicable evil that co-exists. “Will they come to my school?” he asked again, “Will they come to my building? Will they come to the mall?” I comforted him. “Anything could happen at anytime. A car could hit us while crossing a street. A plane we are in could crash. But that is life. You must be prepared for every situation. But you have us, you have security guards in the mall, and security guards at school and security guards in the building. And there’s us. Your father and me. We will keep you safe.”
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Will the Indian Darcy please stand up?
That scene is so strongly etched in popular memory that in 2013, a 12-foot fibre glass statue of Mr Darcy emerging from the water was installed in the Serpentine before it was eventually placed at in Lyme Park, where the series was partly filmed. Needless to say , it is a pilgrimage for Austen fans.
“It feels like a school nickname you can’t shake. It occurred to me the other day to change my name to Mr Darcy and be done with it,” said Firth in a 2007 interview to the Times. And there in that wry comment by the actor lies the crux of the matter -that in Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen has achieved what most writers aspire for: creating a character that not only outlives them but continues to rule the readers’ imaginations.
What is it about the over-200years-old character that continues to live on in imagination and seeps into almost every romantic male protagonist written since, and is the muse for over 3,00,000 fan fiction sites?
Writer Kiran Manral believes Darcy’s continued popularity owes itself to Austen’s writing of the character: a man desperately in logic-defying love who overcomes his biases and changes his views after the woman he loves points out his shortcomings: “He’s attractive, handsome even, seem ingly distant and unattainable, someone with immense integrity, a man who keeps you guessing yet does not attempt to ingratiate himself, despite being attracted to you.He is not perfect. He has the best interests of the female protagonist at heart and goes out of his way to help in a dismal situation without the expectation of her ever getting to know or being grateful. That in itself is terribly endearing. And the fact that he is described merely as tall and handsome with a noble air, makes him a tabula rasa every woman can project her own personal preferences (appearancewise) onto him.”
Creating a desi Darcy
Ask writers and most of them would say that the key to creating a hero as eternal as Darcy is to strike a balance between extremes -someone who is wild and good-hearted at the same time. “In life as in books there are two kinds of heroes you meet-the romantic one who is dangerous and just that degree unattainable, and then you have the guy who loves dogs and is the immensely marriable kind. The thing with Darcy is that he strikes a balance between the two. He is the quintessential taciturn, strong, si lent type who is not sexist. He respected women and I think that is what every woman is reacting to. And of course, there is the fact that he is rich,” says writer Itisha Peerbhoy. A self confessed fan of Austen and Darcy, Peerbhoy admits that the Darcy character may have creeped in while creating Aftab, one of the leading men in her book, Half Love Half Arranged.
“Dylan Singh Shekawat from my novel, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, comes close to the Darcy persona,” says author Anuja Chauhan whose leading men have quite a following among young readers in the country. About the work that goes into creating a leading man who can strike a chord with readers, Chauhan says that her first task is choosing the world she wants to set her characters in. “I first find a world I want to live in. For instance, when I was writing The Zoya Factor , I was steeped in Indian cricket. I then provide a propulsive thrust through the love story,” she says. Currently working on a story set in the air force, Chauhan’s hero this time around is a short, cocky pilot who doesn’t fear anything. “Unlike Darcy whom, frankly, I find boring, I think a good leading man has to have some baggage, some character flaw. Dylan, for instance, has a dangerous past but at the same time he has a strong sense of righteousness and it is this combination that work with the readers. For a hero to rock, he must have strength of character,” says Chauhan.
“In any romance, what makes a person more attractive is their unavailability . You are never enticed by someone you know is there for the taking, are you?
Forget the story, when you are making allusions to the chase, you are playing with basic human psychology,” says writer Milan Vohra who while creating her characters follows a rigorous process. “I draw the character in total, from his physical characteristics to even imagining his past and how it may have changed him. At times, I even put up a picture of somebody who may be a likeness to the person I am creating,” says Vohra.
(My iDiva.com column this week)
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to be on a television debate on this issue, given the Honourable Judge at the Madras High Court, Justice N Kirubakaran, had suggested in a strongly worded judgement that the Centre should consider castration as a punishment for convicted child rapists. The Honourable Judge said, “The court cannot be a silent spectator, unmoved and oblivious of the horrible blood curdling gang-rapes of children in various parts of India.” The judgement, pronounced on October 16 said, crimes against children are rising despite the stringent law in place, namely, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Between 2012 and 2014, sexual crimes against children had risen steeply from 38,172 to 89,423.
The judge added, “The law is ineffective and incapable of addressing the menace. The court is sure the castration of child rapists will fetch magical results. Though the suggestion of castration looks barbaric, barbaric crimes should definitely attract barbaric models of punishment and the very thought of the punishment should deter the culprit from committing the offence.” A recent study by Bachpan Bachao Andolan found cases of sexual abuse of children had a conviction rate of 1%, with 4% acquittals and the remaining 95% remaining unresolved.
There are two kinds of castration, physical castration which is permanent, surgical and irreversible. And chemical castration which involves the administration of drugs, and needs monitoring, and which is reversible when discontinued. According to Wikipedia (link), “Chemical castration is castration via drugs, whether to reduce libido and sexual activity, to treat cancer, or otherwise. Unlike surgical castration, where the gonads are removed through an incision in the body, chemical castration does not remove organs, nor is it a form of sterilisation.
Chemical castration is generally considered reversible when treatment is discontinued, although permanent effects in body chemistry can sometimes be seen, as in the case of bone density loss increasing with length of use of Depo Provera.”
There are two types of treatments that sex offenders can be treated with. The first are SSRIs which are commonly prescribed for depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, and the second are anti-libidinal medication, which work by reducing the levels of testosterone to that of pre-pubescent levels, reducing arousal, sexual interest and consequently sexual behaviour.
The negatives? There are health risks, yes. These also have to be monitored constantly. Stopping the treatment can reverse the effect. But voluntary chemical castration is one of the options worth considering in tandem with the present system, in tandem with therapy.
Castration has been made the penalty for convicted sexual offenders in many countries, including developed nations such as the US, the UK, South Korea, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and others like Indonesia, Poland and Russia. The Czech Republic and four American states (Montana, Florida, Texas and California) also give the convicted sex offender a choice to opt for ‘surgical castration’. In Victoria, Australia, anti androgen treatment is a pre-condition for parole for sex offenders.
Countries like Germany offer sex offenders the option of surgical castration, in a voluntary procedure, along with a waiting period in the event that the offender might want to reconsider their decision. In the UK, convicted sex offenders can opt for a chemical procedure to control their impulses and sexual urges. In fact, there have been cases where convicted paedophiles have opted for voluntary chemical castration because they realise that they are a threat to society. Over 100 convicted sexual offenders in Nottingham, UK have opted for a scheme that involves chemical treatment to reduce their sexual urges to a pre-pubescent level to be combined with counselling. The treatment is only available at the end of an offender’s jail sentence and not as an alternative to prison.
Studies show, “Of more than 700 Danish sex offenders castrated after multiple convictions, relapse rates dropped from between 17 percent and 50 percent to just 2 percent. A Norwegian study showed the same for selected male and female sex offenders (the women had their ovaries removed). In smaller studies of cyproproterone in Scandinavia and Italy, chemical castration was equally effective in some groups of volunteer prisoners, with the most dramatic reductions among paedophiles.”
We do have a very strong law in place, Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act 2012, which could be bolstered by having quicker trials and convictions, special child-friendly courts and more convictions. But to get to the root of the issue, we would need to tackle patriarchy, mindsets and most importantly, educate our children about good touch bad touch, to empower them to know that what is happening to them is not acceptable.
Read the entire article here
Ace Author, Kiran Manral, released her third book ‘All Aboard’. Launched on September 11 in Gurgaon Moms Reading at Queens Bar. Follow on launch at our favourite club, Delhi Book Club, in Cafe Vintage. She was in Phoenix market city, Mumbai in Blogger Lunch Cafe and then at our home turf, Bangalore, in Atta Gallata on September 26. Look out for her picture in Black Saree, it is the most liked picture of an author on facebook in recent times.
Firebrand. Fierce. Free
Say hello to FEMINIST RANI. India’s first effort to engage, empower & elevate conversations on the subject of Feminism beyond its current shell.
Feminist Rani identifies opinion leaders – men and women who have advocated gender equality and women’s rights through their work, words and deliberation. These compelling conversations will happen at a charming venue at Deepak Talkies, Lower Parel, Mumbai called White Elephant Arena.
We are inspired by heroic women – no less than the woman on the street earning for her family to those who are driving change being activists,artists, CEOs, peacemakers, entrepreneurs. We celebrate women who enrich our lives, stand for gender progress and balance and believe in women. Feminist Rani is the culmination of these efforts and ideas.
Details and registration here