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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Womanhood in 2018

A few days back I had started a photo-series where women spoke about what it is to be a woman in today’s day and age. Is it inconvenient as many would say? Is it empowering? Is it tiring? Is it confusing? Well, womanhood cannot be boxed into any definition because the expressions of womanhood are infinite. Through this photo-series I aim to tap into those infinite expressions and discover how a woman in 2018 perceives the idea of being a woman and womanhood as a whole.

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Part II

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Nandana James, 21.

It’s a rather strange time to be a woman. While feminist discussions and assertions are abound, instances of sexism are just as rife. Seems like the wrath of patriarchy is going to linger around, but fortunately, people are willing these days to engage in pertinent discussions.

dsc_001511388637.jpgNandana is a journalism student.

 

Shubhita Chawla, 22.

I’ve come to the realization that being a woman comes with its own set of responsibilities- To help other women grow, to be a good human first, to have the strength to follow your dreams through to name a few. There are so many facets to our being. Mothers, sisters, wives, caregivers, goddess, we can choose to be one, or choose to be all of them. But our biggest responsibility is towards ourselves. To love our flaws and overlook our insecurities. To embrace our vulnerabilities and to flaunt our scars with pride.

 Shubhita is an aspiring media professional.

 

The perception of ‘womanhood’ in today’s day and age can be different to different women. In the upcoming blogs I will bring out more such descriptions about how the woman of 2018 perceives womanhood.

What It Means To Be A Woman

On the 8th of March we celebrated International Women’s Day, like we do every year. In college, me and all the other girls in my class were given a packet of chilli power with a message that said, “Spice up the eyes of all those words dare harass you.” Looking at that packet one couldn’t help but think that we live in a society where we actually might have to use this on someone one day or another. We live in a world where some women are still not allowed to venture outside without a male companion by their side. A world that sometimes looks down on you for taking certain decisions or living a certain way of you are a woman. But on other hand, we now live in a world where women are CEOs of muti-nationals and Vice Chancellors of countries. The same world that thought women were incompetent to drive (Read UAE), now thinks we deserve the right to drive if we choose to.

Being a woman in today’s world is a complicated affair. We are constantly processing threats and looking at infinite opportunities all at the same time. It’s not all great for us out in the world, but it’s not all that bad either.

So what exactly does it mean to be a woman in 2018?

I asked a few women and this is what they had to say.

And I’d like to present it to you in a three part photo-series.

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PART I

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Zoya Mateen, 22.

For me, womanhood is simply the art of becoming. It’s an inward journey rather than an outward one. I choose to give very little, or perhaps no importance to what someone might choose to identify me as. Sometimes a Muslim, sometimes a woman, the daunting expectations that come when you combine the two. Add a dash of modernity and a spoonful of arbitrary judgements on what I wear what I eat say or think and I already feel like I’m going crazy!
So no. I refuse to listen to them. I refuse to let them choose for me. My battle is within me.

I’m proud of who I am. my gender, faith or thinking have very little role to play individually in making me feel like that. Womanhood for me is this act of faith in yourself. For whoever I am and whatever I can be. I have the strength to accept myself and in the process learn, learn and keep learning

dsc_0061228821267.jpg Zoya is an artist.

Prashasti Awasthi, 21.

Being a woman is a tiring job especially when you advocate feminism. One is always misunderstood.
Having said that I can’t trade being a woman with anything else. It is the most powerful and amazing feeling. We are endowed with the quality of a nurturer and an empath. I cherish it as much as I cherish my physical growth.
I feel fortunate to be chosen to be a woman.

dsc_0047714435329.jpg Prashasti is a war journalist in the making.

 

 

Well, one thing we can agree on is that ‘womanhood’ cannot be defined. It can be perhaps be perceived in different ways by different people. In the upcoming days I will be showcasing more such women sharing their perceptions on womanhood, and what it is to be a woman in 2018. Stay tuned!

 

I’m Not Asking For Much.

Some days I wish, I could just be,
Plain and simple happy,
Is it really too much to ask ?

To feel the love and not the scars,
To lie with you and count the stars!
Is it really too much to ask?

To scratch and scream and giggle and cry,
Free of all those hypocrites,
Who do nothing but pry,
Is it really too much to ask !

Oh I’m tired of pretending,
This mask is too much to bear !
I want to laze around, just for a day,
Do nothing and be at peace;
And try ….just try, not to care!
Is this really too much to ask?

I know, I can be happy alone,
Though you insist it can’t be true.
But today I don’t want to tag along,
I want to be far! Faraway from you!
I wanna dream and write a senseless song,
I wanna hope that through this mess, confusion, tears, expectations, pressures;
I emerge tough and strong.
But I wanna do this on my own ..just let me .. won’t you?
Is this really too much to ask ?

I know that I can find my way,
Inspite of what anyone might have to say,
You impose your thoughts on me ,
You trample on me and prance around;
But not today ..not today!
I know…I know you care for me
But for once I “need” you to let me be,
Is it really too much to ask ?

I believe that I have made myself clear,
Today I’m not gonna ask twice,
I know what I have to do,
I’m just gonna be myself,
No matter what the price!

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.

Dreamcatchers 

They say dream catchers keep away the bad dreams.

The nightmares that don’t let you sleep. Leave you twisting in fright.

But what about the nightmares you live everyday.

No, not the ones that lurk in the darkness, hidden below your pillows.

The ones that stare at you in the eye in broad daylight.

Like the time you were called a randi for wearing shorts on the streets.

When unknown fingers traced their way along your thighs.

When they tried to pry them open by force.

Or how about the time, when you were denied that promotion because you had a vagina.

How they squeezed every last bit of life out of you, but stole your reward.

How they snatched your dreams and trampled on it.

Or wait.

How about the time your uncle PLAYED with you, when you were too young to understand?

And the shame, the guilt and the anger that followed, all the years after!

That once when you were marked unclean, because obviously God didn’t like bleeding women.

All the times you were taken for granted. Your voice shut out.

The days when your boyfriend thought it’s okay to vent out on you. Just, leave a mark or two. After all, you could just cover it with a little foundation here and concealer there.

Or that time, when your husband raped you and everyone you told thought it’s OK.

What about these nightmares?

What about the false promises and hurtful words?

What about the scars that they left on your skin, reminding you of your helplessness?

Will the dream catcher take them away too?

Will it?

Eqality . Not feminism !

It’s the age of woman power . I think it began somewhere between Margaret Thatcher’s iron hand and Beyonce’s ‘We run the world’ .

After suffering for ages , We the weaker sex , decided to overthrow the social norms . We decided to demand what was rightfully ours . And Man , did we succeed !

We can now choose to be whatever we want . Scientists , Astronauts , Doctors , Writers or even Wrestlers . Gone are the days when we needed permission and approval from the men . We are the mistresses of our will .

It went quite well for a while . But like all great things , the sense governing “Feminism” also seems to have come to an end .

Kim kardashian recently said that posting nude selfies is “empowering” to womankind . I think this is where I jump in and say “Lord ! What has the world come to ? ” .

Some feminists nowadays make no sense and others ,try and make sense out of nothing.

What started out as gender equality ,has now turned into more of a power struggle between men and women .

Feminists insist of overpowering males rather than being accomplished Females !

They argue and strain themselves to prove themselves to be better than the Masculine half of the world .

They will cling on to any ridiculous idea as long as they have the upper hand in it .

What we need to understand is that men and women need each other . There’s a reason why we have coexisted for thousands of years . If infact we did not need each other , the weaker sex would have been wiped out ages ago ! But that’s not the case now , is it ?

True feminism lies in what , each of us as women achieve in our lives ; not in false advocacy of “women’s rights ” and certainly not in imposing obnoxious views on men .

Today we definitely have more freedom than we did 50 years back . Yet we complain of “rights” that we don’t have . We complain of “injustice ” . Why ?
How many of us , who claim ourselves to be feminists , have made use of the power we already have , to do something worthwhile ?

We need to stop bickering and show our power through actions . It’s time “feminists” behave as sensible humans first . It’s time we change the world one day at a time instead of just being the hallmarks of “selfies -with powerful woman quotes ” . And I plead women everywhere to take a Feminist role model who has actual balls unlike Kim kardashian ! (You get the drift ? ) .

It’s time we become amazing Women and not just bull-headed feminists .