Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stepping Into The Temple with a Trail of Red - Happy Woman's Day

picture courtesy: BBC News
The whole day today I have been getting Whatsapp messages wishing me for Women's Day. Have you closely seen the word 'woman'? It almost sounds like woo-the-man. Some even say that it means "to win over a man. While the feminist in me shouts about rights and privileges, a question has started arising in our mind. What if we are burdened with the wrong name calling card? Why do we need the word man in my being a woman? 

And mind you, this word was coined by the most progressive of all countries - United Kingdoms. The pioneers who gifted the world with the English language. So why were the XY chromosomes given a single name and we the XX had to 'woo' a 'man and be called a woman?

Where did the word Woman originate from? Research tells me that that word was originally coined as 'wifman' meaning wife of a man which later over the decades was broken, mended, churned and finally emerged as a woman. How convenient :) So while the sexist out there snicker here is another interesting tale. 

How did the biological symbol of a woman come into being?
The circle with an equilateral cross below is the symbol of Venus's hand mirror.  Venus never went anywhere without it and since Venus represented feminity in the ancient Greek culture, the circle with the equilateral cross become our biological representation of women. 

So what is India's contribution to the world of being a woman? Living offshores, I have found something that has put me in a cultural shock. I interviewed 10 women from my friend list. 5 from India and 5 from the USA. I asked everyone if they worship God when they have their periods. 

Here is their answer:

1. Indian Woman One: We don't follow this anymore. Even my grandma didn't.
2. Indian Woman Two: Pagol? Me and God have our own personal relationship. So why should I hide my periods from my mother?
3. Indian Woman Three: Are you crazy? Those days are gone. I do my chantings even during my periods. 
4. Indian Woman Four: I don't pray to God during these times Rubes. 
5. Indian Woman Five: I pray, I dance and I do everything. Who made the rules? The rules are in our Shastras and they were made by men. 

Now take Two... 

1. Desi Woman in the USA:  I worship Rubes. Does not matter to me. 
2. Desi Woman in the USA: Oh no..we will burn in fire if we do this. 
3. Desi Woman in the USA: No never. I don't even cook and touch my husband. 
4. Desi Woman in the USA: Don't even come to my house if you have periods. I never go to anyone's house too. It will make the house impure. 
5. Desi Woman in the USA: Arrey no re baba. We are so impure during our periods that we should not even touch anything. 

Impure? We are impure because we are women? We can't enter temples during this time? Why? Because we will make the grounds of the temple impure? Who made the rules? Men who abuse their wives can go and do 101 parikramas and they are not impure - for sins are washed as we do the parikramas? But I have one question. How do you know the Goddess you are doing Parikrama around does not have periods during that time?

We are all talking about Gun laws in the USA. Every Indian male and female who have never visited the USA are shouting too. But what about this discrimination so close to home? For centuries. When are we going to raise our voice against this discrimination? Maybe that day we can say - Happy Women's Day in India. 

Recently heard a dialogue in Begum Jaan. Vidya Balan says : Hume Mahine na yaad dilao daroga, Kambakht laal karke jaati hai. 
Don't remind me of months Inspector, it leaves a red trail behind. (rough translation)



24 comments:

  1. I agree, taboos and old rituals that have no meaning..... Time to step up!

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    1. Absolutely. If we don't have periods we can't produce kids. So how is this whole process impure?

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  2. There is nothing pure or impure about periods. Nature/God made us this way. And it's a bit shocking to learn that Indian women in the US are more shackled to useless rituals!

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    1. At least the section I had interviewed. I truly hope this is not what we are all about. I think we have left India a long time back and carried our traditions with us. India has changed but we have not. We still think India is what we had left a few years back.

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  3. Hard hitting article, Rubes. Loved the question you asked: How do you know that the Goddess you are doing Parikrama around doesn't have periods during that time? Surprised to see the answers from Indian women living in the US. This is something I admire about the Sikh religion. I've only come to know it closely since after my marriage. Being one of the newest religions around, it is not weighed down by meaningless dogmas.

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    1. What does the Sikh religion say about this? I am curious. Even ISCKON does not have these religious craps.

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  4. I am surprised to read the responses of some of the women you spoke to. After all the talk of progress, we haven't made much of dent it seems. I have also observed that Indians living abroad are culturally more rooted than those residing back home. Interesting to read about the origin of the female symbol. I have come across texts from ayurveda that supports the theory of women's bodies undergoing tremendous change during periods and mostly advising that period for rest and rejuvenation more than anything else. Of course traditions misconstrue science and make a hullabuloo of matters like these.

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    1. I was shocked too. Even my mother in law is liberal about all these things. So when I heard that I can't come to their house because I have my periods. I live in the USA for god's sake and I had never faced this even in India. Forget about Puja room, they don't cook or eat in the utensil. The plates are separate etc. I am trying to understand the logic behind all these things.

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  5. Rubina, your piece reminded me of what my mother asked her grandmother when a friend of hers was not allowed into our family temple. She must have been around 14 then. My great grandmother was a tough little lady, and was taken aback at the question. "Isn't the Devi a woman? Doesn't she have periods as well?" However, even today, there are sections who feel impure when they have the periods. Hopefully, they are a minority.

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    1. My constant fight in my house Deepti. Always it has been an issue in my family with my constant questioning and rebelling. Thankfully I was blessed with very open minded parents but relatives are another tale to tell. :D

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  6. Following a custom, however ridiculous, is a personal choice. I mean I respect the choice of women who choose not to visit a temple or perform religious activities during their periods. But the scary part is the complete lack of understanding of one's own body and why certain biological functions take place. And the scariest part is the arrogance with which this ignorance is perpetuated as knowledge. I've even read articles explaining vibrations menstruating women are supposed to emit which can disrupt the vibrations of temples etc. These are published and propagated by educated professional women. They don't realise they are not only doing a grave disservice to Hinduism itself, whose philosophy is rooted in introspection, they are also failing the sisterhood by packaging discrimination this way. This is a never-ending debate and as long as women wilfully choose ignorance over practical education, this will continue.

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    1. I am all for do whatever you want within the boundaries of your house. But when someone gives me a shocked look if I sit next to my hubby during my periods, they have awakened the fighter inside me. And Sumana I asked these ladies why do you follow this rule - because my mother did and grandma did. So, how are we progressing?

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  7. Superb article, Rubina Ramesh. Keep up the great work <3
    Forget about taboos, we girls used to be asked to sit separately at home. While it seemed fun to have a lot of time by myself, it still irked that it wasn't a decision that I had chosen to take; it had been forced on me. This had been my pet peeve that drove my grandmother to nuts. Well, I hope you saw the past tense. My daughter isn't even aware of any kind of taboo. I wouldn't let her face it and she's the happier for it. :D

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    1. I am glad you are doing your bit in changing our society. This is such an important issue that we sweep it under our carpets. Its the first lesson I want to give to my daughter - be proud of who you are. And Periods are what makes us different from men. The ONLY difference.

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  8. How do you know the Goddess you are doing Parikrama around does not have periods during that time?
    Now THAT is a really good question. I am sure no learned men will have an answer to that one!
    I loved your thought process, Rubina. It has empowered me to change my stance to not go anywhere near god during my periods.

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    1. My main anger stems from the fact when men tell you what to do during periods. You need to bleed to know what it is all about.

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  9. This topic is close to my heart too. Thanks for bringing up discussion Rubins on women's day. I hate following rules without logic in the name of old age customs. I rebelled against my family in my teenage about this topic and now iam happy to follow my own rules after my marriage. I don't have daughters but would have raised them without these customs.

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    1. Glad to hear I am not alone in this Mahathi. I have not implemented any rules such as this in my house. Frankly speaking its becoming important suddenly in this phase of life when I am seeing highly educated women doing all these nonsenses.

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  10. We really need to step out of such silly customs. All man made. Nice article and right on time :-)

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    1. Thanks a ton SlimExpectations. Life, as we knew it, is no longer in vogue and we need to change with the changing times.

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  11. A superb article on Women's day! We've never had taboos at home but that was not the case at my in-laws. I don't even tell them when I get my periods. Not that they should be told. But I take extra precautions so tht they don;t come to know of it :)
    Welcome back to blogging, dear Rubina! :)

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  12. Happy to note we are more progressive out here; Amazed at the frog in the well approach of the ones living in US though by no means this small sample can adjudge the mentality on the whole! But I am gobbersmacked at the opposing views!!! Thanks for such a thoughtful piece Rubina

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    1. I suppose we have left India a long time ago and we have carried the values we followed during those days. Have you seen the movie DDLJ - how Amrish Puri clung to his values from his childhood and instilled them in his children? But when he goes to India his friends children had a very modern outlook. That's what I am talking about.

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