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A Bleeding Goddess

Has it occurred to anybody that we are debating a woman’s right to worship in the same month that this religion worships womanhood? Navratri, Durga Puja or Pujo, whatever name you know this festival by, honours Shakti, the divine female force that manifests in abundance (Lakshmi), wisdom (Saraswati), loving relationship (Parvati) – just a few of the avatars that Hinduism revers. Durga specifically, represents the female force against evil. And what is more evil than discrimination, than treating human beings as less than human? It is especially ironical that the very thing that is considered prime about the female energy — the ability to bear life — is also used as a reason to discriminate against everyday women.

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This body is function. This body is strength. This body is beauty. This body is sex. This body is purpose. This body is life. Don't objectify me. Don't deify me. My poem on menstruation taboos and a religious celebration of womanhood. Thank you to @karthik.rao99 for the music and @kalart.ists, @me_shayar_to_nhii & @ujjain_nalini for bringing this performance to the world. Watch the video here: Link also in bio. #performance #performer #poetry #poet #poetsofindia #poetryofindia #feminism #menstruation #menstruationmatters #menstruationmatters #menstrualhealth #kalart #periodtalk #periodtaboos #menstrualhygiene #spokenword #durgapuja #pujo #navratri #indianfestival #hindufestival #hindusim #sabarimalaverdict #sabarimala

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Let’s examine menstruation taboos. What makes a woman unclean during her period days? I’ve heard people tell me that this was used as a way to give the woman rest from her hard labour and to keep her husband from imposing sex on her. Even if this were true and the only way to give a woman rest at one point of time, is this the world we want to live in? What does it say about us as a society if the only way we can allow a woman rest and reprieve from forced sexual demands is by making her taboo? Are men and society at large that indifferent to a woman’s personhood — her health, her wellbeing and her consent? And if that is the case, what kind of hypocrisy is it to worship this same aspect of the women that they discriminate against?

Menstrual blood is not unclean and is not an excuse to treat menstruating humans as untouchable. A period is not an illness, not a reason to quarantine menstruating people. Women are human beings, not objects to be put out of harm’s way or intoxicants to be locked away.

This is my poem about the dichotomy of being an object of worship/discrimination in my culture. The background score was composed by the talented Karthik Rao and the animation and video production were by KalArt/Bramha Media. Thank you Kunal Jhawar and Nalini Ujjain for bringing my message to the world.


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The Land Of Chowmein Rapes & Durga Ma

I usually steer clear of current affairs, especially on this blog. It’s comfortable to sit in this nook where a woman can say and do anything, assuming that the freedom of speech and other laws of this land apply equally to her. But the past couple of weeks have really made this an impossible notion to hold onto.

First, Jitender Chhataarthe of the Khap Panchayat declared that,

“Poverty and intoxication are the main reasons for rape as well as young people sitting together the wrong way. But also eating chowmein causes a hormonal imbalance which is a big reason for rapes.”

Then, Sube Sing, another Khap Panchayat member said,

“I believe this is happening because our youth are being badly influenced by cinema and television. I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don’t need to go elsewhere. This way rapes will not occur.”

And finally today, taking a break from rapes and chowmein, comes a more ‘constructive’ opinion from Rajpal Saini, BSP MLA that,

“There is no need to give phones to women and children. It distracts them and is useless. Why do women need phones? My mother, wife and sister never had mobile phones. They survived without one.”

Of course, the social media is all abuzz with these statements, angry/smart hashtags are trending and every article written on it is getting passed around like the common cold. I’m just wondering, what is this country I live in, where men in positions of power feel it permissible to say such things? A 65-year-old ‘democracy’ that believes that women are no more than numbers on the census data, to be force-slotted into the most convenient plans possible. What do you say to someone who does think of you as anything more than a vagina and a uterus (oh, and maybe a pair of breasts)?

You know what’s ironic? We’re right in the middle of a festival that celebrates womanhood. Little girls’ feet are washed, their blessings sought, married women are given auspicious tokens and gifts. And the great Goddess is brought out in procession and worshipped.

For shame, I feel deeply misfortunate to be born an Indian woman. Don’t call me a Bharatiya Nari, please. Right now, it’s an insult. And you can take your woman worship and shove it right up your chowmein-flavoured mobile phone.

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