40 Years Young

Unmatched beauty of the soul, you radiate like the sun
Those hazel eyes tell a thousand tales
For my misguided sense of control,
You are the perfect decontrol.

In a world where madness ensues, viruses engulf,
You are my antidote,
Restoring my faith in humanity
You are the remedy.

You are as tough as nails
My anchor and my guide,
A moral compass I depend on
A loyalist I can count on.

Travel and adventure, I binge on those memories
Millennium new year in London, hot air ballooning in Turkey
And sulking as we swam in the not-so-hot springs of Santorini
I think it’s time we took the monkeys to Disney.

A pandemic milestone birthday, how I long to see you
I’m making plans over plans, on how we will commemorate
40 year’s young and this is not a cliché
Darling Priya Tai, you make 40 look young.
I love you.

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Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers

Do you get seven to eight hours a sleep a night? New parents are likely throwing a burping cloth or an unwashed milk bottle at me right now. Well you’re not alone new-mom-and-dad. Completely healthy, no extraneous circumstances young adults tend to have a lifestyle that affords them less than the recommended amount of sleep. The result- an unforgiving sleep deficit. Unlike a bank account this negative balance cannot be paid off by sleeping extra over the weekend. It only accumulates

A few months ago, I read a book called Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, and it was a real eyeopener, pun intended. Walker talks about an experiment where a group of subjects are shown a random sequence of images and asked for simple one-click responses, at the start of the day. The responses were recorded and the group was split into two. Group 1 repeated the same exercise at the end of the day, group 2 was commanded 8 hours of sleep before repeating the same test the next morning. Counter-intuitively, group 2 after getting a wholesome night of sleep did better than the group 1. Just saying, the next time you hear someone say ‘you snooze you lose’, feel free to educate them.

IMG_7826Routinely sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a day compromises your immune system. If you think of diet, exercise and sleep as three pillars of our health, Walker goes one step further proclaiming that sleep is in fact the foundation of the other two pillars. I’m not the one to argue, I’m all about a getting a good sleep. This might be because we have been parents twice over now, and know how wretched sleep deprivation is. But another reason I buy it, is because after having major surgery, when I got home all I wanted to do was sleep. Un-medicated, deep sleep. I wondered what was wrong with me. My cousin (who is a doctor) reassured me that sleep was a good thing, it was what my body needed to heal. Lots of water and abundant sleep. And I did just that.

In the mid-60s a high school student named Randy Gardner ran an experiment on himself where he stayed awake for 11 straight days and some-minutes. It is the longest record of a human voluntarily going without sleep (and without the use of stimulants). Gardner’s physical and physiological inadequacies included everything from slurred speech to an expressionless appearance, at one stage he forgot what he was doing a moment ago. Decades later Gardner began to experience insomnia on a nightly basis. Overall the effects on Gardner were so dire that the Guinness Book of Records has stopped listing records for sleep deprivation to discourage further attempts. To put things in perspective Felix Baumgartner ascended to the very outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere in a capsule wearing a spacesuit. He then got out of that capsule and did a free fall back down to Earth, breaking the sound barrier, traveling over 600 miles per hour. The Guinness Book of Record deems that as an acceptable feat but sleep deprivation because of its deathly consequences is barred.

My favorite part of Why We Sleep was the discussion on REM sleep and our dreams. What we perceive as nightmares are in fact therapy for the brain. Reliving painful experiences or projecting outcomes that may not have occurred is a way the brain copes with trauma. I saw this concept repeated in the book I’m currently reading called The Body: A guide for occupants by Bill Bryson. His research shows that our dreams are often disturbing because it is a mechanism for our amygdalae to unburden itself.

I urge you to either procure the book(s) or read excerpts, you’ll find that the research is fascinating and argument compelling. We need a good night’s rest, every night, for 7 – 8 hours with a healthy dose of REM sleep (children need more, babies even more). And if this new-age jargon isn’t for you, and you’re all about all-nighters and increasing work output and human efficiency by reducing sleeping hours let me quote ‘I have confidence’ from Sound of Music

“Strength doesn’t lie in numbers, Strength doesn’t lie in wealth. Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers…” Fraulein Maria gets it.

Goodnight, sleep well.

A Hairy Situation

Salons across most parts of the United States and the world have been closed due to covid19 pandemic. This has created a need for hairstyling at home, from the untrained masses. And boy has it been fun to watch. I am seriously impressed by the likes of my sister and other cousins giving their toddlers a stylish shag. I attempted one haircut for my son but the uneven feathers he was left with had Nuwan convinced that I am not qualified for the job. So, for the past two months Nuwan has let his mane grow, wild. I made several offers, but he wouldn’t bite.

In the meanwhile, I have seen social media posts of friends that go for that austere military look but come out practically shaven after getting too enthusiastic with the clippers. Hairstyling is serious business. I hope barber’s tips go up after the lockdown is lifted.

The great state of Indiana has decided to reopen salons with restrictions and rules to follow. Nuwan promptly got an appointment with Earl, the barber. Earl is running extended hours; the appointment was for 8:45 pm, that is late for Columbus lifestyle. With dinners done, kids bathed and tucked into bed Nuwan was ready for his makeover.

Here’s a glimpse of the new world order. The barber only takes in 1 customer at a time, you’re not supposed to occupy the waiting area. Nuwan stayed in his car, in the parking lot till Earl called him on his cellphone saying he was ready. The customer is instructed not to touch anything other than the chair you sit on. Nuwan didn’t even touch the door handle, the barber opened the door for him. The cape is single-use only and was thrown in the wash basket after Nuwan’s haircut. And Nuwan paid in cash, no card machines and pushing of buttons. The barber also took his PPE seriously, as we all should, but umm he did look like an aspiring SWAT member.

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Yes, I wonder why Nuwan would rather have G.I. Earl use sharp objects near his head than me?

Nonetheless, I present to you the work of Earl, the barber.

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The cousins have already asked what kind of magic does Earl do, Nuwan is looking younger and slimmer in the ‘after’ picture.

Pandemonium at the Groceries

A little over a month ago the coronavirus became a threat the world couldn’t ignore. Watching it unfold in the news was no longer just a conversation about our Wuhan-based employees. It was real, the virus was here. In the United States; Washington (Seattle area), California and New York were hit early and hit hard. Early on, Nuwan predicted that hand sanitizer bottles would fly off the shelves… and masks would be next. Over time that is what we saw in our local pharmacies.

The next unmissable sign of panic was at grocery stores. People thronged to the shops in anticipation of lock down, curfew and self-isolation. The hottest item on the shelves? Toilet paper. We have all seen memes and videos of people going ape shit over toilet roll. This can be our new definition of privilege- fighting over toilet paper at the onset of a pandemic.

Nuwan went on a grocery run that first week people in our area started hunkering down, in mid- March. The empty shelves were eerie to say the least.

Vacant aisles, a sparse frozen section, meat all gone, and no toilet paper of course; was a sobering sight. Nuwan said he saw only a few people in face masks, and they kind of stood out. The 24-hour grocery store has changed its hours of operation, closing early in the night to allow workers to restock and sanitize the place. Also, morning slots are now reserved for senior citizens. I’ve read that grocery stores in the UK such as Sainsbury and Tesco have made provisions for NHS workers to shop.

Fast forward 10-12 days. This time around I went to pick up essentials. I noticed more than half the people were in face masks- cloth and medical grade. Suddenly the ones without masks like myself looked odd. A new rule popped up – customers are restricted to three of the same items when purchasing milk, chicken and meat. This is an attempt to stop people from hoarding. I think it’s a good move. When I checked out, baggers were still bagging. However, when they saw I had reusable bags they gave me two options- either go for plastic and have them bag my groceries or use my cloth bags and do it myself. I chose the latter. The reusable bags have a destiny to fulfill (Read: the author has issues with control).IMG_1608

A glaring addition to the store was the “wait here” tape on the floor at the cashier. This aims to help maintain a 6 foot distance between carts as people line up at checkout. Nuwan has since speculated that this might become the new normal. Considerable distance while queuing; everywhere.

To the people working diligently during a pandemic to ensure the shelves are stocked- from the farmers to the semi-truck drivers; the grocery store workers and pharmacy personnel- THANK YOU. I now have a better appreciation for the breadth of essential workers we depend on.

I’m in the process of determining our needs moving forward. Maybe online delivery from a place like Whole Foods is better than going in-person.

Toddlers in House Arrest

Day 16, the inmates have united. Keeping peace and learning is a challenge, harmony is a pipe dream.

The jailbirds not only tag team, they feed off each other. It’s a kind of trickery we, the inexperienced guards are struggling to outmaneuver. I will use street names to protect their identity. Big Brother and Baby Girl alternate between meltdowns. The precision is staggering, they tantrum within plus/minus five seconds of each other.

Brother and Baby have zeroed down on the weakest link- me. They are better behaved with Hubby with a goal of scoring snacks.

Baby decided to spend the better part of this morning sobbing on my left shoulder, the primary complaint was, “Amma hold me.” This was exceptionally ironic since I spent the better part of this morning HOLDING HER. I questioned my mothering skills as Baby Girl’s tears moistened my shoulder. The dagger of guilt runs deep with this one.

IMG_1634Brother’s mood swings were trying. He was smiling and stomping, sometimes simultaneously. No one napped. Baby was in sleep-deprivation mode by 1600 hours. I made an executive decision- the inmates needed to be separated. Big Brother was bursting with energy while the novice with 3 years of experience was low on reserves. Baby Girl needed rest and Brother needed outdoor time. I took him out. When it became apparent that swinging, monkey bars and slide wasn’t enough, I took the energizer bunny to a creek nearby. We threw rocks in the water and cheered every bird that tweeted. That did it! He was beaming ear-to-ear and was the happiest toddler on the block. To be outside during these uncertain times, social distancing (we didn’t run into a single human) yet enjoying fresh air on this beautiful day, is a privilege. Hand-in-hand, dancing and singing we went home to an angelic baby sister… sleeping.

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Nuwan decided today we could make do with frozen pizza for dinner, and he turned the oven on. Vihaan’s squeals for pizza lulled Aarini out of her deep slumber. The partners-in-crime scarfed down their Italian meal. We witnessed a welcome moment of bipartisanship when both kids asked to sit on my lap. Under a blanket, snuggling, rocking on the recliner, giggling and cozy; Vihaan and Aarini fell asleep.

Nuwan carried the kids to bed, one tiny human at a time. He is my hero.

Stay warm and be safe.

Working from home with toddlers

We are living in strange times. Have you seen Contagion or any pandemic end-of-the-world-apocalypse movie? Yeah, we are a living it and its surreal. Countries across the world are in various degrees of shutdown; international borders restricted, pubs and malls closed, gyms shutdown, “gatherings of two” banned and some societies in complete lock down.

However, essential workers have been asked to be at work. The rest of us non-essential humans have been told to strictly work from home. I just want to state there isn’t a non-essential bone in my body. But yes, sadly my ability to help society is now restricted to the premises of my home, driveway, mailbox and backyard; and I’m abiding.

IMG_1509Working from home with toddlers has given me new founded respect for zookeepers. How do they do it? Even with just two kids, Nuwan and I feel like we are in an endless loop of keeping the monkeys fed, hydrated and clean. And the ratio is 1:1 here! We have kept the kids at home 13 days now, not that I’m counting. (Please sound the alarm bells if I start measuring the time in hours.)

Self-isolation is tough on everyone. Kids cannot be cooped up all day, every day. I have found safe ways of taking my children out for fresh air. We are lucky to have access to a backyard and play area that is in pretty much isolated.  The days the weather has been good, we are outside playing or riding our bicycles. We don’t run into anyone, so the 6-foot distance is easy to abide by. It should be noted that my 3-year-old is rather regimented with her personal space. Based on whim, her mood or the moon phase, there must be no more than 6 cms of distance between us. Once she has had her quota of “Amma”, and her sense of security is restored, she releases me and busies herself with brother and toys.

Calling into meetings where I am actively participating (read- not on mute) is a fun little challenge. I try to be creative and set up the kids with something that will occupy then for more than a fleeting minute. And yet more often than not, it sounds like I’m dialing in from a fish market. Screams and squeals are interchanged on a regular, no one can tell if they are fighting or dancing.

Then there are the moments where all you can do is surrender to the situation. Like the time when I was having a one-on-one with my manager and my son busted in and proclaimed, “Amma you’re doing a great job!” I’m going to say that is a performance review. Then there was a time I was hiding in the closet, called into a meeting, when my daughter found me and demanded, “Do you see the tears in my eyes?” The dagger of guilt is deep with this one.

IMG_1352Nuwan and I are caterers, the cleaning crew and fast food workers; we are also engineers in any breathing moment. We want to be diplomats and mediators, but most times it is enough that we are referees in a tough fight. We also cut hair; Vihaan looks like bird now thanks to the feathery haircut with uncut wings we gave him. Regardless of the position we hold, for Vihaan and Aarini, our role as mom and dad is their entire world.

The reality of working remotely with young ones who have no sense of the world, offers a strange sense of levity from the harsh reality we are in and the uncertain times ahead.

With everything we learn – the 98,000+ covid19 cases in the US, the sharp rise of deaths in Italy, Spain in peril; Prince Charles, Boris Johnson and the health minister affected… writing this post about toddler children, innocent and clueless, warms my heart. I hope it does yours too.

Don’t be a vector

It was a month and half ago, seems longer though, when we heard about the novel coronavirus. Flu-like symptoms, with bad outcomes for a few. The part that was confusing, right off the bat, was the young and seemingly healthy unable to beat the virus. Immediately two schools of thought emerged, one camp claiming this is propaganda and it is no different than the flu and in fact less severe. (True in some cases.) And another camp that forewarned the population that this is going to get bad, very fast. (Also, annoyingly true.)

I sit in the third camp of people that are screaming we do not have accurate data. How are we assessing this pandemic with unreliable data? These are the nations and demographics that baffled me, just to name a few: –

China: How many people did we lose before the virus was identified? How many were denied testing because of shortage? What is the number of untested low-risk individuals that survived?

Italy: Are the numbers so high because of an aging population? Or is it because we had access to more testing?

India: The numbers are less than 500, at the moment. How is that possible with the population density and proximity? We neighbor China.

USA: There’s a strict selection criterion you need to pass before you will be eligible for testing. I’m thinking at this point it’s easier to get into Harvard. (Ok not really, but you get my point.)

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Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Epidemiologists are trying to make sense of  Covid19 and the data they are presented with. As an engineer, I would be appalled, naah I would flat out refuse to make decisions based on the above. But then again, I’m not tasked with predicting and preparing for the future of humanity. In my examples above, I am not faulting anyone or any government. All I am saying is that we seem to be working off dodgy data. In the biz we call it GI- GO, garbage in garbage out.

Reflection- did you notice how in my statements above, in reference to China, Italy, India and the US I say “we”? We really are in it together, the world over. What Italy is grappling with, is the fear we face worldwide. I know I’m stating the obvious but it is our responsibility to not be the vector. Do not be the super carrier, the one that gives covid19 to the vulnerable.

If your mind goes to senior citizens as the vulnerable, you are right but you are also naïve to think it is limited to pensioners. People with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes all fit the bill. Also diabetes isn’t just type 2 that adults get, there is also type 1 (Millennials, think Nick Jonas) that children and young adults get. Then there is my core group, cancer patients. During chemotherapy my white blood cells took a considerable hit, lowering the body’s immune system. Covid19 makes everything worse for patients and their care givers. They need to be even more vigilant, a level of anxiety I cannot imagine. Who else? Children with underlying health conditions like asthma and congenital ailments.

Furthermore, there’s sub category- people that have been scheduled for or have had surgery recently. Surgery, blood loss, the body trying to heal, puts them at a risk. Then there’s elective surgery, and sadly we continue to misunderstand this subgroup. I know off a breast cancer patient coming up on her double mastectomy date. She chose to do a bilateral removal, as did I and other survivors I know. She has now been denied surgery on her non-cancer side. They will remove her cancer-side, once she has healed, the drains removed, and she is done with radiation therapy they will consider the non-cancer side. When allowed she will have to go through another major surgery, drain on one side, a whole round of antibiotics and pain meds while facing increased risk complications. 

Finally my soft spot, my weak spot… the physicians in my life.  I have too many doctors and health care professionals that I care for and love. From my mother to the cancer center nurses, my closest cousin to my OB, the radonc who saved my life to the pediatrician who has cared for my babies; I want them safe. They are on the front lines and I worry.

Coronavirus consequences are not as straightforward as we would’ve hoped. We can debate over the ambiguity of spread and death rate.  But there should be one thing we can agree on- don’t be a vector, self-isolate and help stop the spread.

Ganpati 2019 Lego and Playdoh

It has been a while since I wrote, but I’m back baby and I hope you enjoy this post.

September is my favorite time of year and no, it is not because of pumpkin spice and the crisp fall weather. In September (or end of August, depending on the lunar calendar) we get to celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesh. It’s Ganesh Chaturthi! I am trying to introduce Indian festivals to my children organically. I want these celebrations to be as much a part of their lives as Halloween and Thanksgiving are.

This year to commemorate the beloved Lord Ganesh, Vihaan is participating in an Indian cultural dance. I take him to practice two times a week where he is paired with other 5 and 6 year-olds to learn and Indian dance. Sidebar- Vihaan adores his dance teacher, which I think is so cute. On the last day of the Ganpati festival Vihaan will perform this dance on stage with his buddies.

Another thing I’ve done past couple years is make the Ganesh idol at home, either using clay/ pottery techniques or plain ol’ playdoh. I prefer playdoh, while the idol does not come out as sophisticated and elegant as clay or a store bought one; it is easy to return to its elements at the end of the festival.

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Ganpati needs a home to reside in during the festival, a palace and his throne is collectively called a makhar. Last year I made the makhar out of magna-tiles because my children were into magna-tiles. I wanted them to have a stake in it, and feel ownership of the makhar. This year we stepped it up a notch and used lego blocks to make the makhar. I was helped by my two top assistants, Vihaan and Aarini. I’ll admit their involvement is more distracting than constructive, but it was fun nonetheless. Vihaan helped sort the legos into different colors and Aarini was given the task of finding all the flower blocks. We were preparing a little Ganesh cityscape. The focal point of our city is Ganpati’s home. I used orange and dark yellow blocks for the pillars and back wall. The roof has some bright red blocks and Ganpati’s chair is a red lego chair. Maintaining color themes gives it a sense of purpose. I didn’t want the makhar to look like I threw some blocks together. We made it look even more legit when we arranged Batman and Hulk as devotees. Aarini and Vihaan are big into superheroes. Vihaan was so pleased that superheroes are getting their superpowers from Ganesh.

IMG_8691During the festival we offer flowers and prasad (Indian sweets and fruit) to the God. I wanted to add that to the cityscape. My assistants located brown blocks for the ground, and green ones for leaves. Aarini gave me all the lego flowers she could find for our little garden. Vihaan asked if we could put a bird in the garden, just like the birds we see in our backyard. Of course we can! We had a yellow lego bird in the pile. It was added to the garden. I wanted a gardener tending to the flowers. We found a handsome lego dude with a suit tie and glasses. I paired him with a watering can, and we got ourselves not just a gardener but a high-end landscape artist. Garden complete.

IMG_8692The flowers need to be transported from the garden to the temple. We made a little train by linking a couple wagons together. Vihaan picked out a girl driver and Aarini helped me fill the wagons with flowers and we used lego grapes and cake as prasad. I put another lego girl in the back end of the train to keep a watch on the goods and water the flowers.

 

Tada! And here is our full set up.

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I continue to seek ways of getting the children interested and involved. Vihaan checks in on the superheros and Ganapti each morning. Aarini watches her brother adoringly. And we pray as a family.

Ganpati Bappa, Morya!

Previous posts: Ganesh 2018 and Ganesh 2015

 

100 Years since Armistice Day

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 a ceasefire was signed between the Allies and Germany to mark the end of the Great War. World War I changed the political landscape of Europe and severely altered the socioeconomic future of people the world over. I had to look up what “armistice” meant, it means truce or peace agreement. World War I started in August 1914 and was expected to be over in a matter of months. A snippet from NPR said that people anticipated the war to end by winter. We have seen this time and time again in history, Nuwan was just telling me how the Gulf War was expected to last a weekend. As a people, we severely underestimate the tenacity of human beings on both sides of the fence. World War I didn’t end by the winter, it lasted more than 4 years 8 million died and more than 29 million were injured. A British writer H.G. Wells penned this would be the “War to end all wars”. A statement that was then re-quoted by several hopefuls.

 

World War I history is often written from the eyes of Europeans. But lately more articles have surfaced about the other nations involved and the sacrifice of their people. I can speak on behalf of what I’ve learned about India’s involvement in the war. Approximately 1.5 million Indians fought in East Africa, the Middle East and the Western Front. India was a colony of Great Britain, which inadvertently meant we provided more than just manpower. It is worth noting that over 100 countries were involved in the war, spanning across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe; though the level of involvement was varied.

 

In the U.S. Armistice Day is recognized as Veteran’s Day, at day to honor all who have served in the United Armed Forces. Veteran’s Day was like any other day for me when I moved to the US. Classes went on as usual and when I started work there was nothing extraordinary about the day. Things have changed over the past decade. My office in Seymour, Indiana had a special lunch for veterans on Friday and showcased a Fallen Comrade Table. The table, also called the Missing Man Table was set up to remember the fallen, missing or imprisoned military service members. Next week my office plans on doing a Wall of Honor. We have been encouraged to put up photos of family members that have served on this wall. Today marks one hundred years since the end of World War I. It is a sobering reminder to see leaders the world over pay homage to our soldiers.

 

There is a special story behind how Armistice day is honored in the UK. When I first moved to England on a 6-month assignment, I noticed friends and colleagues wearing a red poppy brooch on their clothing during the month of November. I figured it was a European way to honor the fallen heroes of World War I, I didn’t give a second thought to the red poppy flower. The Caterpillar Perkins facility I worked at observed a one-minute silence at 11 am on 11 November for WWI. I thought it was such a poignant reminder of what this day represents. The darling husband gave me another tidbit of knowledge. Poppy seeds thrive in the conditions of disturbed earth and places of high vibrations- for example the bleak grounds shattered from shelling. After the war, the barren battlefields of France turned blood red with poppy flowers. These resilient flowers grew around bodies of heroes and soon became a symbol to the fallen. I didn’t know there was such a thoughtful meaning behind the poppy flower. I have wanted to get a brooch for many years but didn’t know how people would react to it. I feel differently now, I am in search of a poppy flower brooch that I can wear proudly next year, to honor the fallen and pay homage to India’s 1.5 million soldiers that served in the war. I’ll end with a poem from John McCrae;

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short day ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

Period Indignity

In the early 1990’s a temple in India called Sabrimala banned women of menstrual age, girls over the age of 10 and women under 50, from entering the temple. Last month, the Supreme Court, in its supreme wisdom lifted this ban citing discrimination. What followed was a religious debate, articles on menstrual practices, uproar from conservative Hindus and jubilation from feminists.  This post isn’t about the Sabrimala Temple case, it is about the taboo surrounding periods and my exposure to it as an Indian Hindu.

 

For starters Indian culture is not unique in its perception of periods. Here’s an article from the Huffington Post All The Inconceivable Ways Women Deal With Their Periods Worldwide.. And How To Help It talks about the plight of Nepalese girls that made to stay in period huts overnight, Afghani women that are advised not to shower during their periods, Bolivian girls who are told sanitary napkins cause cancer. There’s another article I learned from Why a monthly period is especially hard for millions of women and girls around the world. This is a misunderstood and mystified topic across the globe.

 

_MG_0586My first brush with period-indignity was when I was 13. We were visiting my grandmother in Nagpur and had planned to go a local temple. My cousin came with us but didn’t enter the temple, she said she was unwell. I naively said to my mother, “It’s not like Ganesha was going to catch her cold. Why is she waiting at the doorstep?” My mother told my cousin was on her period and it’s common practice for women to refrain from praying during their periods because menstruation is considered impure. I asked my mother, “Why would Ganesha have a gripe against the very body he has created? The time of month doesn’t alter my desire to pray or taint my soul.” Moreover, how was this anybody’s business? I asked my mother what she thought about this practice. Her answer left a lasting impression on my young mind, “You eat when you’re on your period, you sleep when you’re on your period. You to go school, do your homework and play with your friends. Why would you not pray when you’re on your period?” We did not follow these archaic traditions in my household.

 

As I became more comfortable in my own skin, I wanted to learn more about the taboo surrounding periods. I read articles about the origins behind menstrual customs and talked to friends about what they learned as kids. A buddy told me that when his mother was on her period she wasn’t allowed in the kitchen. Another friend told me she was forbidden from feeding her son if she was on her period, yet was expected to go to work. Strong enough to earn a living but too unsanitary to touch her own child, who by the way is only here because this woman had her periods and was fertile.

 

I will sheepishly now admit how I learned to associate periods with fertility, which I consider a positive connotation. After two years of breastfeeding my son, my periods had returned and I was sad, inexplicably ashamed. I talked to my obstetrician about it and he said to me, “Niyati this means you’re fertile.” That right there, a simple statement shed a positive light on periods. I am embarrassed that at the age of 33 a physician had to link periods and fertility for me, but hey it was a revelation. I was just not used to thinking about it that way. We should use these words to educate our girls and boys about periods, instead of making it some mysterious phenomenon or shameful burden.

 

Here’s the problem, menstrual practices in India have a deep-rooted history. Some say periods make a woman weak because she loses blood and she needs a break from her chores to rest. The peddlers of period huts, describe it as a safe haven for women to recuperate. Theologists cite Vedic literature and claim that it causes an imbalance in the universe or that women have negative energy. Whatever the justification, it is a tool to restrict women’s freedom and shame them about something that is completely natural. While we can debate over why it started or the value of preserving tradition, the plight of women is forgotten. Girls get raped in period huts. Telling your pubescent daughter to hide her sanitary napkins strips her off her dignity. Banishing a mother from the kitchen teaches boys that there’s something unclean about their mother. Allowing postmenopausal women to enter Sabrimala Temple is derogatory, because it implies they are no longer desirable and cannot entice the celibate God. What does this say about how our culture thinks of postmenopausal women? The truth is; us menstruating, child-bearing, pregnant, breastfeeding, postmenopausal women go to work, do chores, care for our family and volunteer in the community. We are not impure, weak, unsanitary or tantalizing- at any age or any time of the month.

 

My sister and I grew up in the metropolis of Mumbai to a feminist father and a physician mother. My father didn’t pose any restrictions on my mother about her freedom, hygiene or piety. My mother taught my sister and me about feminine hygiene and never once used the words such as impure or weak. I owe this post to my parents for raising us to be self-respecting women. I went to temple on my periods, and I prayed with a pure heart. With this body God gave me, I bore two children. I will educate my daughter and son about periods and fertility. I want them to know we will not stand for discrimination against women on any grounds. Period.