Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Conservative India which Never EXISTED!

This post is a part of the weekend blogging contest at in association with

This post won the contest!

 Self contradiction, that is what India stands for. At least, our thoughts, beliefs, traditions are very self contradictory. And today I am taking one topic into consideration, and that is Women's health. Thanks to the contest of Blogadda, I am all ready to vent out my frustration that has been piling up in my head.

In South India, when a girl menstruates for the first time, it is a matter of great joy to the family.
 Our forefathers had laid down rules of an "event" which has to take place when a girl "comes of age". The whole community, neighbourhood, family, uncles, aunties, uncles' aunties, aunties' uncles, etcetera are called to celebrate this great "occasion". The reason of this ocassion in the old days was- "Now that she is menstruating, she can be sent off, married, mate with a man and bear a boy." Now even though this reason is not prevailing in the urban areas, the tradition sure is. The girl does not even get time to understand what the hell is happening to her, and she sees flocks of unknown men and women along with the known one congratulating her, giving her dresses, ornaments and what not. What for? She just started getting her *hushed voice* periods!

And the girl just sits there, while the people enjoy a grand buffet.

Isn't this breaching of privacy?

The same grandmothers, mothers who are the ones who "conduct" this ocassion of "Hey my girl just menstruated!", are against ads which show how to use a sanitary napkin, why to use it and ads of intimate care. Well, make up your mind people. When she menstruated, you took out a loudspeaker and announced it to the whole city. So what is wrong in advertisements which show how to take care of the intimate organs! And it is very sad that  it is the WOMEN who feel awkward talking about WOMEN's health. Wow!

And after the menstruation has become a regular matter for the girl, she is not allowed to come inside the Puja Room, the kitchen, or touch people. The girls often run into dilemma- "Some years ago they made my menstruation look like a grand extravaganza, called people whom I didn't even know to tell them that now I can bear a child, made me feel like a goddess, and now they don't even allow me to enter the puja room. What am I to understand from all of this?

Why go far! I have many friends who say this when we have a discussion about our periods-

"Why the hell are we even discussing this? So awkward!"

In North India, this kind of occasion does not exist, at least I don't know whether it does. But I lived half of my life in North India, and there was this incident which blew my mind away.

 I was 11 yrs old, and I didn't know what "periods" meant. Nor was I taught in school. When I entered my house after coming from school, my mother took me to a room and said-
"You won't believe what happened."
First, she told me what menstruation is. Then she told me about one incident that had happened that day, which always shocks me whenever I think about it.

She told me that a girl from the neighbourhood, had "come of age" today. Her mother, being my mother's friend, came to her, and said that her daughter has come of age, and she is feeling very shameful to tell her what it is, why does it happen when a girl is growing up, and also requested my mother to tell how to use a sanitary napkin!

People go against explicit ads and knowledge about women's health, but I never knew even your own mother can feel awkward when she has to discuss the matter with you. I am blessed to have a mother who openly talks about everything to me, and always make me comfortable when I have to talk about some bodily problems I have.

In school, I was taught what is menstruation when I was 12. All the girls were taken into a huge hall. Before telling about it to us, they closed all the windows, doors, and everything which could give away what is happening inside the hall. Even a mike was not used. Well, it never helped us. As boys were never told about the pain a girl has to grow through at this time of life, many girls were often made fun of by boys when they unfortunately got stain marks in our perfect white school skirts. Even some girls resorted to hiding when they had to tell a girl that she has stained. And you know what-

Those boys who had sisters at their home, knew what is what,  were often our shields.

This directly means that the same knowledge if propagated to both the sexes can be so helpful. What is the shame in that? In school, whenever we learn the Reproduction chapter in biology, we often hear giggling voices when the topic of menstruation, sexual intercourse and the ways of protection comes up! And there are only rarer of the rare teachers who hush the giggling, instill some knowledge about the topic and tell people that it is nothing to laugh about. It is what makes us human.

Another self contradiction- We explicitly talk about rhinoplasty, breast implants and there are some channels which show countdowns of actresses who have injected silicone to make their breasts look bigger, how much liposuction has been done to remove the fat from a woman's buttocks etc. And if some ad talks about a girl's vagina, it becomes a horror show.

Well, we live in a world where sexual attractiveness judges your whole goddamn personality and where there are so many "commericial products" which tend to make men and women more "sexually appealing". So why the whole hubbub and hullabaloo?

 I dont know what the outrage is about when we are the people of THAT country which produced the book called "Kamasutra". We say the New India is Bold India. If we dig deeper into History, we have been VERY bold since our civilisation started. Ours is the country where women's infertility is punished and man's infertility is mourned about, or hardly accepted.  Ours is the country where a girl is raped on the streets and people capture it and spread it around the world.  Ours is the country where nationalist leaders enjoy watching porn when a topic of national importance is being discussed.  Ours is the country when a girl and guy get married, the family demands for a child instantly, like demanding instant coffee. So why the shame when it is just amounts to display a "conservative" India, which never existed?


Manian said...

Kudos to you and your Mom who fortunately happens to be my beloved wife! Bold and hard hitting!!

Arch said...

It is nice to read you on this topic:) What contest is it with Blogadda? Din't know 18again launched a contest.

Runa said...

Excellent writing,it really touched my heart,children like you are our national assets!kudos to Geeta who made you exceptional!Keep it up my dear.

punit mukherjee said...

Brilliant writing!I exactly dont know your age but the maturity shown is excellent!I being a guy faced situations equally comical!friends can chat about sex and crack jokes breaking all boundaries but when it comes to a serious discussion or as you said advising or helping any girl, I personally have been subject to giggles and laughter from the same friends!it is the lack of education you see..we are basically afraid of the 3 lettered word!at home parents dont give liberty to the children to ask or discuss,actually they dont even get the comfort zone of doing so!outside they get different versions of truth and jingling them up they have a very vague idea of it!that creates the mess!parents need to understand that without the knowledge a child is more prone to doing something wrong!its simple logic!they know wrong,they do wrong!Parents need to teach their children what they think and not what society thinks!the word 'conservative' is very flexible term in India!as the joke goes on,having sex with someone unknown is bad,but arrange marriage is not!why???just because you have a social license to do so???!!as Laurence Sterne said and i quote: "Most of us are aware of and pretend to detest the barefaced instances of that hypocrisy by which men deceive others, but few of us are upon our guard or see that more fatal hypocrisy by which we deceive and over-reach our own hearts."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article!!! Its very well written, and says it lyk it is, lyk it needs to be said! Keep it up!!! ;-)

Shreeji Pandian said...

well said!

Anonymous said...

I suggest you read this one.
And i request you to read the full post.

punit mukherjee said...

read it!loved it!thanx for sharing!

Nimue said...

The south indian tradition you talk of always amused me and made me cringe too .. such breach of privacy ! and then as you mentioned , never to dare talk about it. I remember once needing a sanitary pad and mom wasnt around. so with great courage i asked dad to get it for me. Thanksfully that day i realized its not a crime ! since many girls had told me not to tell your dad about it or ask from mom much questions. My mom would infact tell me the facts and precautions on her own sensing my discomfort in the beginning.

trishanka said...

celebrating a girl's maturity is in our custom too(Assamese culture). But it's inclined towards science. Those who are amused with our cycles deserve the thrasing

Susan Deborah said...

Prerna, I think that we are talking about customs and traditions without the rural-urban divide. Are we discussing the urban household or the semi-urban household which though living in the city follows the coming of age rituals by inviting people and feeding them.

Most modern households don't follow this custom. Moreover, the "breach of privacy" that you mention is a very individualistic modern syndrome. In the villages and semi-rural places, everything is a community affair where there is nothing like privacy and all.

In most villages, women are kept apart from the house and household duties - this is wonderful because during the time of mensuration a woman is physically tired and needs her rest. Okay, there is the fear of polluting and all that jazz but still can you imagine something like this in the modern household where a woman is given complete rest during her period time. NO. She still has to cook, clean, rush to office and also take care of herself. Sad.

The points that I've mentioned are just some feeders to think about. All said and done, you argue for your points quite well.

Joy always,

Prerna Subramanian said...

Well I come from a so called modern household and even my coming of age was celebrated, though subtly
Still, keeping a.women away from puja room is not giving her rest.
and then making her cut veggies,do all those petty works outside the kitchen and not letting her enter is hypocrisy.
and I guess scientifically, resting during mensies is not advisable.

Thanks for stopping by
Thanks. Debating is one of those rare things I CAN manage to do

vinodvv said...

Awesome post
few things which I would like to highlight, The so called puberty function is most joyous moment of any parents, It is actually love for their girl child. It is like respect too, because only the girl child can only give birth. Hope you understand what I am saying. Yes you are GOD.

Again the resting part was that, women attain puberty at an earlier age than men, scientifically I can't prove, neither I have data ;) but with things happened around me I realized that my classmates aka girl friends have attained much earlier. Coming to that main point is "cleanliness" as young girls, you are bound to jump and hop around, play in the mud, get wet and much more. Hope you know that Girls get soaked in turmeric at that time, beautiful looking girls just turn yellow. Sad part, it is the fear of parents for their daughter, not to fall sick.
Yes, turmeric has medicinal value.

The understanding is that as young girls grow up to women, and so they will understand to keep themselves away from infection.

About not allowing them to touch Thulasi, entering Kitchen is for those unstoppable Young girls who would not stop even if parents ask them to take rest. So some intelligent forefather decided to induce fear by saying things like God ill feelings, curse etc etc.

Hope it makes sense.
Cheers for women hood
BTW one more thing which I have seen "Women is the worst enemy for Women" lol

Prerna Subramanian said...

Women are the worst enemy of women.
Well that forefather must have assigned something different because if he wanted us to rest, why forbid us going from only CERTAIN places? Why make us do work which can be done in places other than kitchen or without touching tulsi? That's a heavy rationalization for something which is nothing but stigmatization of a biological happening.

Prerna Subramanian said...

Must have-should have*

vinodvv said...

Lol, loved your comments, For your age you are matured. Wish I had a girl child like you. Now for more explanation

1) If you look at olden days women primary worked in Kitchen, for washing clothes a separate place near the well, now so called bathrooms, who don't have washing machines ;)

2) How do you restrict some "Adaga pidaris" lol, just kidding aka mischievous girl child who would not listen, because parent love her, they don't want to hurt her. But at the same time they have to induce fear so that she doesn't get back to her feet.

Fear is God, God = Thulasi, Pooja rooms
Does it make sense again.
Sweet kid. Keep em coming.

annasarp said...

Susan. I agree with most of your points. But coming from a semi rural place I can tell that women isolated from house go through lot of difficulties. Most of the families there are joint families, the kid who was playing and chatting away at night with her cousins made to sit in a dark room in backyard and asked to sleep alone. I myself have heard few of my cousins cry because of fear of snakes and things like that. Grandma was kind enough to sit by them the whole night and tell them stories. Giving complete rest with this much of stress is not really necessary. Once my cousin stick a spiritual sticker in our cup board and I know she got thrashings from her mom because she was not "clean" on that particular day. I didnt know the reason then and they refused to tell me. I never put my hand of spiritual stickers from then on. There were so many instances like that. In rural villages they respect privacy very much but its the community's privacy and they dont allow breaching.

annasarp said...

The last sentence.. Suckerpunch

sahi said...

hello prerna.. first time here.. nice post!.. well i have few thoughts on this here.... there is a three level society that is present.
1.who still follow the age old traditions
2.who are confused if to follow the old Indian traditions or the spreading western one
3.who are toatlly into the western culture.
the 1 and the 3 are those who are really modern with their thought, but its the ppl who fall in the 2 nd category who always are in the confused state and do all those things mentions by u !

rajni said...