Monday, July 17, 2017

Period leave – Yay or Nay for Empowerment


I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods

A Mumbai based firm in their attempt to be more women friendly has granted first day period leave to all its women employees. Yay! This should start making men wish they had periods too - the mythical condition that makes perfectly normal women turn into raging monsters. This monthly ritual of shedding eggs is much like the short skirt – the most popular defence for rapists and their many sympathisers. Every time a woman creates a scene, screams her lungs out, gets into an argument because she’s tired of taking shit, it is promptly attributed to the big P or her sis PMS. Either this, or she is menopausal, or may not be getting enough sex.

So deep is this rot in the mindset, a Trump voter went on to say the reason why she’ll never vote for Hillary is because a woman should never be the President. Her hormones that play hide and seek make her so volatile that she can start wars, totally ignoring the fact that both the world wars were started by leaders who were men.

That the future of world peace depends on the mental health of our vagina is a huge responsibility to shoulder. Phew!

Despite menstruation taking the blame for all the ills that befall mankind, it’s funny to note how little men know about it. Or rather choose not to know about it. Never mind the fact that they had taken the same path as period blood to slide out into the world.

Ah, well!

Thankfully we have come a long way from the time when menstruation was thought to make women periodically dangerous. The reason why we were kept in isolation, away from public space and temples, lest we desecrate its holiness.

Period is no longer the condition that renders us bechaari and immobile. We can choose what we want to do – run, swim, scale mountains, barge our way into temples or even go to office, Hell, I can go to my neighbourhood chemist and walk out with a pack of sanitary napkins without its soulmate, the brown paper bag!

No one but us gets to tell us what we can or cannot do. So a Serena Williams wins the Australian Open when she was 8 weeks pregnant. A well into her fifth month Gal Gadot plays the warrior princess in Wonder Woman and slays.

We are no longer shy from talking about what we go through when we are menstruating. Something that was unthinkable for generations before us.

So forgive me if I feel confused when a period leave is hailed as a giant leap for womankind.

Yes, I get it. It is an acknowledgment of what we go through, the uneasiness, the cramps that come and go like electricity in Gurgaon. For some women it’s worse – fainting spells, vomiting, debilitating pain that brings life to a grinding halt. But the lack of a period leave has never stopped us from staying home when it was too much to bear, right?

If we are okay with taking a holiday earmarked as ‘period leave’, what’s stopping us from going to our boss from telling, look, I am about to get my periods, the pain is unbearable. I need to go back home. And if PL is the new normal, why not make provisions for pre-menstrual syndrome as well? Bar women from being part of key decision making, meeting high-value clients, closing business deals, because hey, it’s that time of the month when her mood swings faster than a movie star’s sexual orientation.

I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods?

Let’s not fool ourselves into believing that we are more than just a good investment for our organisation. In my last stint as a high-school teacher, my employee, a woman herself made sure the school did not renew employment agreement of teachers who had joined on probation, the moment she found out they were pregnant.

It was as if they were being punished for being productive. Pardon the pun.

But this is how the world functions. How much a company values its employee depends as much on their merit as their reliability. When we are expected to deliver, meet deadlines, we do not let cramps, mood swings, relationship mess-ups come in our way.

There’s no disputing the fact that an average woman does a lot more than her male counterpart. Besides office, her schedule is expected to make time for Rohan’s soccer practice, Tina’s rashes, Kantabai playing hooky, MIL sick days. Add to it the struggle at office space dominated by men who refuse to take women and their work seriously.

If organisations are intent on making workspaces more women-friendly, they should go beyond tokenisms. Take women who complain of sexual harassment more seriously, give equal pay to their female employees and stop assuming men know more than women. And finally, ensure you hire more women.

The larger the number, more the voices that cannot be muted.

But if PL becomes the norm, this is exactly why corporates will hesitate from employing more women.

So let’s not get riled if certain women refuse to share your excitement for PLs. They are definitely not against feminism, they just happen to have ideas that are different from yours. They are baffled how empowerment has been taken over by things that were once considered trivial pursuits. These days, everything a woman does from getting her head shaved, to wearing anti-fit clothes, to buying shoes she cannot afford, is hailed as some sort of triumph for womankind. It is not. It is simply self-indulgence. This trivialises feminism and what it aspires for. (1)

Is special treatment what we aspire for? Nay.

Just because our foremothers were treated unfairly, doesn’t mean we start demanding special privileges as some sort of penance. We know how that works. It only leads to resentment.

What we need is to be treated as equals, with dignity, respect and empathy. Is that asking for too much?

Extra leave? Sure. Just don’t call it Period Leave. We could do without yet another urban legend that surrounds a condition that is still celebrated as a young girl’s coming of age in certain parts of the country. (2)



(1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/19/from-shopping-to-naked-selfies-how-empowerment-lost-its-meaning-feminism

(2) https://www.thequint.com/health/2017/07/11/why-period-leave-is-a-bad-idea





Friday, July 7, 2017

Open the door, the Goddess is right outside


If you are a woman of reasonable means living in India, chances are you have seen God regardless of your caste, belief and pet prejudices.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be deprived of this divine viewing let me describe to you in detail what it feels like.

Like all good things in life this too doesn't come easily. In fact it is a lengthy process that entails a lot of suffering, uncertainty, anxiety that gnaws at your insides. It's a lot like when you have the misfortune of going to a government office to get a job done. By the end of the ordeal and no solution in sight, you wish you were born a lizard with no responsibilities other than flicking your tongue around for your next meal.

Tragically the longer the suffering is, the higher the probability is of the sighting. Your mood swings like a pendulum on testosterone. You alternate between anger at being betrayed and extreme melancholy. Women experience dehydration from frequent bouts of crying. It is likely to occur when you are on all your fours with a mop in hand, your hair greasy from sweat.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, all you will hear is sad strains of the violin. Nothing feels right anymore, not even your favourite TV series. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ playing for the zillionth time at club near you doesn’t annoy you anymore. You feel exhausted all the time mentally and physically and often end up reminiscing about achhe din which was your reality just a week back.

But no, the unevolved type you are, you refused to appreciate the gloriousness of the present when everything worked with clockwork precision and you actually had time to post photos of flowers, cute kittens and your dinner. Instead you chose to find faults with it. You cribbed about cups with tea-stains, the carpet that looked it hasn't been brushed for weeks.

You refused to appreciate your achhe din while you were living it.

Maybe you deserved this living hell. Perhaps you were asking for it by behaving inappropriately.

But with great distress comes greater introspection. As you are crouched over the sink cleaning the pile of dishes, you chide yourself for being ungrateful for comforts you took for granted.

You are often spotted near the window scanning the horizon for missing achhe din.

Mind you, there will come a time when you might feel tempted to cheat. Especially when the one you trusted so deeply has gone silent. Won't even pick up your calls, reply to your drunk texts, refuse to LOL on all the WA jokes you forward.

Perhaps it is time to move on. Should I start looking for a new acche din?

You give yourself a tight slap for being so impatient. Shutup, Purba, you tell yourself. You have invested so much in this relationship. Don’t give up. Not yet.

Thankfully you manage to assure yourself it is meant to last forever.

So you wait with Zen like patience. You meditate to keep your equilibrium intact. Soon you start experiencing detachment from discomforts you experience but only in spurts. The rest of the time you continue wallowing in misery and trying to unknot your stomach.

And then one day when you are on the cusp of attaining Nirvana and losing your sanity, the bell rings. You drag yourself to the door and open it and lo behold, you are greeted with the most beautiful sight. There she is glowing like a goddess, looking a little shamefaced for putting you through hard labour. Your body is trembling with unsaid emotions and your eyes well up with tears. It takes immense willpower from collapsing at her feet with relief. Before she can say, Didi, you close her mouth with your hands and whisper – bass kar pagli, rulayegee kya?

It’s been two days. Your eyes can’t stop following her like a puppy as she sweeps the floor. Once or twice when she has caught you staring, you immediately start looking intently at your phone and post a few lame jokes on Twitter. You are now making a mental note of buying her a new sari from Amazon.

Maybe I’ll give her something in peacock blue this time. It’ll suit her dusky complexion.

Better still, I’ll build a shrine for her in my heart. After all behind every carefree and footloose woman is her kamwali bai.


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