Tame Your Period With Menstrual Cups

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While travelling in a crowded Mumbai local train today, I happened to look out the window.  It wasn’t one of those rosy evenings when I had my headphones on, pretending to be an 80’s actress. Instead it was a very humbling and thought provoking one. What I saw was a young woman, not older than 25 perhaps, drying little patches of cloth. But what why should I get all riled up about patches of cloth, you ask? They were drying ‘menstrual rags,’ (pieces of old cloth used to block menstrual blood.)

In a day an age when India is capable of sending 104 satellites shooting into space, building the world’s biggest statue and claiming to be a financial epicenter; I fail to understand why are there still women in a metropolitan like Mumbai with no access to basic period products. Why did a young woman have to walk across her slum to dry a piece of unhygienic cloth? A cloth that could potentially cause irreparable health complications? A little reading told me that over 77% of women across India use this method to deal with their period, every single month. That’s when I suddenly remembered my menstrual cup.  I thought that writing about it, could be my little way of helping you make better and informed decision about how you deal with your period.

I’ve used the menstrual cup last month, but I can say without a doubt that it changed my life. Nope, I’m not exaggerating. It really did. Like most women in our country, I was only told of sanitary pads and menstrual rags when I first attained puberty. For years, I used sanitary pads without knowing its harmful side- effects and the fact that were in fact other alternatives available in the market. I suffered skin darkening, rashes, infections, skin irritations, inconvenient disposal, oh, and polluted the environment thinking I had no choice. So obviously, 10 years later when I found out about tampons and menstrual cups I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that no one ever mentioned these to me!

But why didn’t anyone tell me about this? As I traced my steps backwards, I realized that there were three main reasons. One- Many women in India were themselves not aware of these alternatives, my mom being one of them. Two- Some women who knew about them were anxious to use them because of lack of free information about their usage. Three- (the most stupid reason) Most women who did know of them thought they were unnatural, vulgar and immoral, because they had to be inserted into your vagina. They believed that you would certainly lose your virginity if you used a tampon or a menstrual cup.

At the time I didn’t realize it, but now I do. What I understood was how deep-rooted this issue was. It was not just about the tampon/ menstrual cup per se. It was about the fact that a woman’s chastity could be attached to an object. Patriarchy aside, it proved that some women would rather suffer the agony of uncomfortable period all their lives than use these alternatives.

“Screw that,” I told myself one day, and got myself a pack of tampons, after reading tons of articles about it online. Unfortunately, I found it very uncomfortable. I felt that I never found the right brand with just the right absorbency, it made my insides feel dry, it was also inconvenient to replace/change it and dispose off in public and I was still polluting the environment with it.

So a few months down, I got the acclaimed menstrual cup. A friend of mine was already head over heels in love it with it, so I thought it only made sense to give it a go myself. Oh boy, was that the best decision of my life!

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So here’s how I think a menstrual cup is better than all other period hygiene products-

  1. It is much cheaper than pads or tampons. You spend an average of Rs.100 on pads or Rs.150 on tampons, or more depending on the brand you prefer EVERY SINGLE MONTH. On the other hand, you only have to invest in a menstrual cup once every two or three YEARS. That’s a whole lotta money saved that you can rather use during your PMS binges! You can buy it here- BUY MENSTRUAL CUP
    1. It’s super easy to use. Doesn’t have applicators or other confusing elements like tampons.
    1. It gets rid of the period stench that usually lingers during ‘those days,’ of the month
    1. You cannot have rashes or any skin irritations since it has no contact with the outer labia
    1. It lasts upto 24 hours for women with a medium flow. You don’t have to change it every time you pee or poop (as long as you take precautionary measures.)
    1. You will had zero issues cleaning it in public toilets, because all you need to do is rinse it with water and insert it right back in.
    1. You can indulge all your favourite activities without hesitation without fear of leaks or discomforts.
  1. Finally, one product that can reduce menstrual waste and cause the most minimal damage to the environment.   

But having said that, I’d also say that the first step to using a menstrual cup is for a woman to be aware and comfortable with her body. Simply put, if you don’t know the difference between the urethra and the vaginal canal, you’re not ready for it yet. But that’s no cause for alarm. You can always read up on multiple articles about the female anatomy to figure out what really goes on down there! 

Also, these are a few tips I think will help your usage a lot smoother-

    1. Use a water based lubricant for application if you’re having issues inserting the cup. It helps in gliding the cup by reducing any friction within the vaginal canal.  
    1. Don’t freak out about over-cleaning your cup. No, you don’t need to boil it every day of your period. No, you don’t need special soaps or disinfectants to clean it. All you need to do is thoroughly wash it with clean water to rinse it.   
    1. Use the Punchdown Fold (also known as the Shell Fold) to make insertion easier. If you’re wondering what it looks like, here’s a picture for your reference.push down fold menstrual cup
    1. Always make sure you have a sink or commode to empty the period blood where you can flush it out. Period blood has a lot of bacteria which can go airborne if left unattended, so make sure to leave no trace of it.
  1. The best way to insert the cup is standing up, with your legs apart in a slight squat. It helps widen your pelvis and in turn your vaginal canal.

What I’m saying is, maybe you were one of the millions of women who didn’t know the existence of alternative period products so far. But now you do. Don’t let years of lies and wrong teachings keep you away from the better things in life. Because at the end of the day you can choose to have power over your period and not the other way around! So, you go girl! 

P.S. Any questions, doubts or clarifications you need, you can reach out to me in the comments section.  

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A Slice Of Patiyala In Mumbai

I’m a sucker for authentic delicacies. Be it Eromba from the North East, or Thecha from the farmlands of Maharashtra, I love trying local favourites.

Recently on my way home, I came upon an obscure little street stall that instantly had all my attention. With mounds of meat frying away in woks, the stall’s bright red signboard read, “Lucky Patiyala Shahi Chicken Corner.”  I craned my neck out of my rickshaw to get a better look, but there were too many people crowding the tiny stall. Day after day, I would see people flock upto this spot. Some would park their cars nearby and enjoy freshly fried chicken on their bonnets, some would get it parceled, some would just stand nearby and gorge on plates after plates of the hot stuff. Finally, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

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The stall was manned by two middle aged men in turbans and a lady who seemed to in charge of handling the money. One of the gentlemen would marinate the chicken and the other would fry them. That’s when I also saw fish in their menu. I’ve heard so much about the Amritsari fish pakoda, and I knew this was as close as I could get to tasting the real deal in Mumbai. So without much ado I first ordered a portion of Rawas Fish Fry, Chicken Popcorn, Chicken Soup and some Chicken Pakodas. All to-go.

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The month old food stall is already popular in the locality and also attracting people from other parts of the city. One couple had driven over 14 kms just to munch on their fried Chicken Drumsticks! The owners said they’re originally from Patiala but settled in Mumbai. The marinades and masalas are all homemade, typical Punjabi style.

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This very well reflected in the food. Although the dishes I ordered all looked the same, they all had very distinct and unique flavours. The fish was succulent, deboned and had a tangy tinge. The Chicken popcorn had milder spices in it and was dusted with cumin powder instead of chaat masala like you’d find in a Chicken tikka or tandoori. The Chicken Pakoda was my personal favourite. It was perfectly crisp, not one bit oily and tasted heavenly when eaten with the mint chutney that came with it.

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The Chicken soup on the other hand, was such a delightfully refreshing break from your Manchows and Tom Yums! It had hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper corns, which made it perfect for a cold-ish Mumbai evening.

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You could pair the chicken and fish with pav  if you want. But I’d suggest otherwise. Crack open a can of coke on the side and I guarantee you a happy tummy!

The dishes are priced between Rs.80-Rs.250, so you can take your pick according to how much you’re willing to splurge.

 

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Only catch here is- this stall remains open only in the evenings between 7pm-12am and mostly they run out of chicken even before that. So if you’re planning to get yourself a Platter of Patiyala, you better keep this in mind!

Where:

Lucky Shahi Patiyala Chicken Corner, Near Holy Cross School Mira Road. 

What’s Freedom To You?

I N D E P E N D E N C E

Liberty & Freedom were the words that came up when I looked for synonyms of ‘Independence’. I think it’s safe to say that an Independent country is also a ‘Free’ one. But considering a country as diverse as India, where people worship Rajnikanth in temples, cricket is a religion in itself and over a thousand dialects of hundreds of languages are spoken: ‘Freedom’ can be subjective.

To my mom, women being able to choose their own husbands nowadays is Freedom. To my grandfather, easy access to education and free information is Freedom. On the other hand, it’s us. The millenials. We were born into an Independent India. We didn’t have to struggle for our basic rights like our elders did, and somewhere along the line we began taking these rights for granted. Nowadays, the trend is to rant about how restricted India is, ON Independence day. As a friend of mine put it, “It’s like complaining to your parents on your birthday!”

The spirit of Independence day is to remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors for our generation to live in a free India. We need to show gratitude for the fights, revolutions and bloodshed that went behind the liberties that we inherited by birth. The Freedom, we think we are entitled to.

Well, are we grateful? I don’t know about you, I sure am. But…. Yes, there’s a but.

…But does that mean, we shouldn’t strive for more? 70 years post Independence, we should have definitely crossed some mile-stones. We should have had a constitution that progressed with time and accommodated the changing needs of its people. But sadly, we are stuck somewhere in the past, with laws that still don’t consider marital rape a crime and consider same-sex marriages one!

Instead of progressing we have regressed on many fronts, putting our forefathers’ fight for freedom to shame. Today, we censor public opinion according to the ruling leaders (sacking pahlaj nihalani), we ban things as and when we please (Beef, ripped jeans or sleeveless clothes in colleges), we lynch people who might follow a certain way of life or belong to certain minorities (Gowrakshaks), we collectively pass judgments as we see fit (arushi murder case, salman khan runover case), we don’t value human life (’82 Sino-Indian war: Deoliwallahs), we monetize on religious sentiments, we categorize emotions as right or wrong and punish people who work against these set categories, we repress dreams and kill aspirations when they aren’t in tandem with the norms. This is what we’ve become merely 70 years after we won “FREEDOM”.

Should we be thankful for the rights and liberties we inherited? Yes.

Are we entitled for more rights and liberties? Also Yes.

Speaking of Freedom, here’s what my friends thought we need freedom from:

  • Freedom from Chauvinism
  • Freedom from an unhealthy lifestyle
  • Freedom from feeling unsafe
  • Freedom to eat beef
  • Freedom from Patriarchy
  • Freedom from moral policing
  • Freedom from gender bias
  • Freedom from Intolerance
  • Freedom from the past mistakes
  • Freedom from State capitalism
  • Freedom from too much freedom
  • Freedom from weak and incompetent administration and management by our leaders
  • Freedom from wanna be activist who don’t fully have the grasp of the case they are fighting for.
  • Freedom from your own insecurities
  • Freedom from financial debts
  • Freedom from racism and regionalism
  • Freedom from curfew at home
  • Freedom from my husband’s tantrums (Not sure if this applies to everyone!)

In other words, it’s time for an UPGRADE. An upgrade in ideals, norms and laws. An upgrade in the way we function as a society. An upgrade to become a better people. The one that our forefathers aspired for.

You could either accept the reality of today as your fate, or raise your voice and ask for what you feel is Freedom. You could comfortably sing “Saare Jahaan Se Accha Hindustaan Humaara” today, without meaning a single word of it; Or, you could free yourselves and India from the prejudices, injustice, corruption and hypocrisies.

The question remains, “What’s freedom to you?”, and more importantly, will you work for it like your forefathers did?

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How It Felt To Be Bride’s Maid To A Blind Girl

This blog is about my experience at a Blind girl’s wedding. Both emotional & inspirational this story is close to my heart!

Calm and unfazed, Premala sits smiling even as others frantically move about running last minute errands. Premala is getting married today! She says that in her 23 years of life, this is her happiest day.

She pouts & holds, as I line her lips with the deep red shade of lipstick that her guardian selected. Why her guardian you ask? Well, ever since Premala lost her sight when she was 10, her parents kept her at a distance. Too poor to look after a blind child who was also happened to be a girl, her parents dropped her at a school for the visually challenged children & never really intended to look back & take her home again.

I look at her dimpled smile as she chatters with the guests. The way she blushes when someone mentions the name of the groom. And emotions flood my brain.  I’m at loss of words as to how someone who is missing such an important aspect of life is so positive. I am at awe of her nonchalant grace.

She suddenly bursts into a song in Marathi & sings a couple of verses in her beautiful voice. Her voice so confident & clear, stuns everyone in the room.  Her voice managed to silence an entire room of cackling relatives and friends, at a wedding house! And then, she abruptly stops and asks me if her lipstick has smudged because of the singing. The women giggle as they hear her naive questions & tell her not to worry too much about the lipstick, to which she stubbornly replies that she wants another coat of lipstick! “It’s my wedding and I want to look the prettiest in the room.”, she says pouting again.

For some reason Premala had taken an instant liking to me ever since I first met her. Even at her wedding I was her maid-of-honor of sorts.

As I head towards her she asks me what I’m wearing. After all, she wouldn’t want her “didi” (sister) to look under-dressed at her wedding. I tell her I’m wearing a floral dress. I see her face light up! She asks to me come closer so she can feel the dress with her hands to know what a dress feels like, “I’ve never worn one didi, come closer, I want to SEE how your dress looks.” She runs her fingers through the creases of my dress and then looks at me with a smile and says something I will never be able to forget, “You look Beautiful didi.”

That one statement had tears flowing down my cheeks. I told her that she looks beautiful and all the guests were in love with her saree and her radiant smile returned!

This was followed by the wedding ceremony that was held in a church. I bore the bride’s trail. I was by her side until she was finally united with her husband, Sharad Patil who is a visually challenged person himself.

It was so beautiful to see how these two souls found each other. Their blinded vision didn’t stop them from finding love. Just because Premala didn’t see colours didn’t stop her from dreaming of rainbows and chasing behind them. At 23 she has a college degree in biblical studies and aims at reaching out to young girls like her.

If this isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is!

Many of us complain about things that don’t even matter. We are never satisfied and crib about everything that comes our way. Inspite of having the best education, best parents & friends to love us we point out to that one thing that we might NOT have. That one dress that you can’t afford or maybe that bike that your dad refused to buy.

One failed relationship and we give up on life, one test gone bad and we are ready to jump off the 17th floor of a building.

Sometimes all we need to do is look around us and absorb the strength and determination to keep going. Hey, no one said it’s going to be an easy ride. Take Premala for instance, she’s got it the worst way possible. An abandoned blind girl child, who had to fend for herself. But instead of letting all of this hurt and disappointment take a hold over her, she decided to give life a second chance, then a third & a fourth! Until she finally found what she was looking for. Purpose in life & someone to love. And that’s amazing!

Hopefully someday there will be more of Premalas in this world that gives up so easily. A world that fails to see the beauty in the little things. A world that has forgotten to be grateful.

Hopefully, Someday.

Mumbai

You will find me in a million beating hearts.

In the clutter of the Dadar market,

In the chai -sutta of the rebellious city teen.

In the waves that sweep through the shores of Marine drive.

In the misty coffee houses of Matunga,

In the dingy slums of Dharavi,

In the chic bungalows of Juhu tara.

In the alluring charms of Kamathipura,

In the abusive banter of the fish mongers.

In the first rains that soak the children,

In the humid summers that drench everyone in sweat.

The groovy nights at blue frog,

The blissful prayers at Siddhivinayak.

In the buzzing streets of bandra,

Or the country-side bliss of vasai.

In every heaving-breath of a Virar local,

In the saddened silences of Tata hospital.

In the legendary evenings of Prithvi theatre,

In the infinite aimless games of cricket at the oval maidan.

In the cheers for the Mumbai Indians,

In the masked smiles of the LGBT pride parade.

From the nalli nihari and the salli boti

To the masala dosa and vada pav.

From the pillars of gateway,

To the roads of palm beach .

I’m a heaven for dreamers.

I’m the love child of chaos and tranquility.

I’m the unbreakable spirit.

I’m the euphoric emotion.

I am you .I am me.

I am Mumbai.