#InfertilityNotATaboo – Brave it out, You are not alone

Write Tribe has come up with a topic not many discuss – Infertility. Couples are reluctant to talk about it because they feel depressed and hopeless. They also want to shield themselves from prying eyes which only want some food for gossip. Yes, it is our society that has made it impossible for couples who are struggling to have kids, to live peacefully. There are expectations everywhere, and there is always talking behind the back.

Years ago, with lack of knowledge, it was always a woman who bore the brunt of it all. It was always ‘her’ mistake. There was something ‘wrong’ in her if a couple could not have kids. No body questioned the husband or the son-in-law. Just like Eve had been held responsible for Adam’s eating the apple, it was as if only the woman was at fault always.

Not much has changed despite education and medical advancement. Woman is still held largely responsible for childlessness. Men with their inflated egos, and their mothers with their flawed and misplaced prides, refuse to even consider male infertility a possibility. The result is that many marriages break, couples are torn apart and ignorance prevails.

Infertility is not a bane. Just like any other ailment, it too is a medical condition that can be corrected through expertise. But to be cured, it needs to be first recognized. In many cases, it is left un-diagnosed owing to superficial pride and bloated egos. Statistics reveals that male infertility is difficult to diagnose and cure due to various reasons, despite the fact that it is the underlying cause of couple not bearing children in almost half of the cases. Men wear this thick cloak of masculinity and become touchy when asked to be tested. “Nothing’s wrong with me”, is all they can say.

But it does exist. And in order to seek help, one needs to come out and talk.

 

सींचा कोमलता से मैंने 

क्यारी में न फूल खिला 

सब बगिया को दोषी कहते 

माली को क्यों भूल गए ?

 

Infertility Dost

 

Image Source

Gitanjali Banerjee’s Infertility Dost is there to help you #OpenUp. A “regular, middle class woman” who struggled through a long and tiring period of infertility, Gitanjali has decided to bring it out in the open and discuss. She is blessed with kids now but her journey has not been easy. She realizes how important it is to be able to confide in someone, to be able to get the right help and the right care. That’s why, the name may sound like an oxymoron. Infertility has not many ‘friends’ (dost) but a whole lot of nosy critics. Gitanjlai intends to reach out to those in need to give them love, care and the required medical assistance.

You can help Gitanjali too.

Share, write, discuss.

Be an Infertility Dost !

In my circle of friends and family, there are a few who have had trouble bearing children. Some were successful and some were not. But in most of the cases, they have kept it quite. A relative of mine underwent a long and painful surgery without even confiding in her parents. I often wonder why she did so. Perhaps, she did not want to raise their hopes because she had already struggled with this for almost her entire married life. Now in her forties, she must have felt that is would be even more difficult to conceive. Or perhaps, she wanted to protect herself and her husband from unwanted questions. Whatever the reason, I respect her need for privacy on the matter.

The need/desire for children is something natural. But I feel strongly that as a human being, we have no right to pass judgement on the lives of others. We ought not to comment, criticize, give unwanted and often senseless advice to others, especially on personal matters. If someone confides in us, we ought to respect that decision and act in their best interest. Often, with lack of knowledge, we can kill someone’s hopes. We have no right to do that. The best solution is to help the friend in need be seeking appropriate medical help when necessary rather than just trivializing the issue or spreading rumors about it. Words and mentalities hurt in unimaginable and irreparable ways often.

Representing Infertility – Letting it out

For my post, I have picked the issue of ‘representation’ of ‘infertility’ in literature and film. I have chosen a short story written by a writer whose thinking was way ahead of her times and a movie that is contemporary to us. In the former, the saga is one of despair and anguish, and in the latter there is humorous rendering of the issue and lots of hope. Both try to bring the topic out for discussion. To solve a problem, one first needs to see it, accept it. Progressive minds often help in exposing and articulating a subject that others will usually try to hide. And therein lies hope. When writers and film-makers pick up controversial topics, they are doing much more than just seeking attention. They are coaxing people out of their comfort zones to think, and interrogate.

Female Infertility – Depicting Injustice through Irony in Amrita Pritam’s बू (Stench)

It would have been a cozy night if I had not decided to read anything. But my kids were sound asleep and I yearned to read something thought-provoking. Looking through my collection of books, I came across Amrita Pritam’s collection of short stories in Hindi, titled सत्रह कहानियाँ  (Seventeen Stories). I randomly selected a story titled बू (Stench). As I flipped the two pages of this short story, my heart broke. It was fiction, yes. But it was a fiction that was a reality for many many couples out there – childless couples.

The story revolves around a childless couple Guleri and Maanak. Seven years into marriage, Maanak’s mother has given up hopes on her daughter-in-law. As Guleri goes for a visit to her parents’ village during harvest time, Maanak’s mother brings in another woman to replace Guleri. Maanak’s protests are feeble, voiceless. He has tried to stop his wife from leaving but is incapable of standing against his mother. He marries again. A few days later, Maanak’s friend announces the death of Guleri. She has set herself on fire after hearing about Maanak’s marriage. Maanak is shattered. In the meantime, his second wife gives the much-awaited news. Maanak’s mother is blind to the agony her son is going through. Guleri’s death has had no impact on her. She places Maanak’s new-born son in his lap, hoping, in fact almost certain, that the child will knock in some ‘sanity’ in his son’s mind. But the moment Maanak stares at the little bundle lying in his lap, he screams in despair, “Take him away….take him away….he stinks of kerosene…”

The story ends.

Pritam’s story left me pondering on the many aspects she had touched here. She had picked up a topic that not many would be comfortable to discuss or even acknowledge. The male protagonist was depicted powerless and the woman in the house was, ironically enough, a heartless mother. She wanted her son’s child so badly that her own maternal love was overshadowed by her greed.

Who was the culprit here?

The mother?

The society?

Or Maanak?

Or all of them?

Yes, all of them. Maanak was not a man enough to brave the storm. Or perhaps, secretly he too yearned to have a child and thus gave in to his mother’s demand. His mother was a victim of the society she lived in, which looked down upon childless women with disrespect and hatred. The society considered woman only as a child-carrying vessel. She ought to be discarded if she did not function well.

Pritam’s story highlighted the rampant injustice of our society through a flawless use of irony.

That a woman was instrumental in bringing about the death of another woman, was a significant element of the story. It reflected what actually happens out there to countless women who are unable to give birth, who are unable to fulfill the greedy desire of carrying the lineage.

It highlighted one more thing – #Silence.

Had Guleri and Maanak been able to talk about this to someone, and also to each other, the ending would have been hopeful. But the inability to confide even in your partner pinpointed the extreme helplessness of living in a callous society.

Male Infertility – Talking Taboo through Humor in Vicky Donor

Vicky Donor was an instant hit. Audience laughed heartily. Everyone seemed to celebrate the ‘Aryan’ boy’s immaculate intelligence and good looks and the doctor’s discerning eye. Babies came. There were smiles everywhere. Was it just a feel-good movie meant to earn bucks for the film director? No. There was much more happening. Director Shoojit Sircar had managed to bring a #taboo topic out of the closet. In a society which failed to even concede to the fact that male infertility existed, the movie managed to make people laugh and accept it as a reality. The last scenes were meant to drive the point home. There was hope for everyone. And for those who could not bear children on their own, there were alternatives like artificial insemination and sperm donation. Interestingly, the protagonist who made parenthood a possibility for many out there, ended up having no child of his own. But the movie ended not on despair. It gave the message of hope and happiness.

Children, or no children, a couple could still find happiness and love in each other. One had to just be ready to accept.

And that was for me the most beautiful message from the movie.

For some, it may not work but still…..

There are so many little kids, who for some reason or the other have been separated from their family. They yearn for love. They long to belong. They ache for that gentle affection that only parents can give. You can be their parent. One does not need to bring a child biologically to the world to feel that love and sense of belonging. That attachment can come from being together, living the high and low moments of life together.

Please do not give up hope. Adopt a child. Sponsor someone’s education. Give someone a reason to smile. Become someone’s reason to smile. Don’t care about the society which frowns upon your decisions. It is just not worth it.

दूर कहीं पर पनप रहा 

एक फूल अकेला गुमसुम-सा 

बगिया छूटी जाने क्यों उसकी 

जाने क्यों उसका माली रूठा 

तुम प्रेम स्पर्श से पुलकित कर 

उसको गर फिर से महका दो 

मदमस्त सुगन्धित हो जाएगा 

सूना आँगन भी तुम्हारा 

This blog is to #SpreadAwareness about Infertility through Infertility Dost, India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. You can find other links  on Write Tribe.

विवश कावेरी

विवादों से  घिरी

नदी  कावेरी

कभी लोपमुद्रा  रूप में

थी सहायक

आज विवश बहती हुई। …

तत्पर आत्मजा

अपने स्वरुप को मिटा

पिता को प्रचुर भूमि देने की चाह में

बहने चली। ….

अगस्त्य पत्नी

गंगा को भी करती पवित्र

आज कितनों के पाप धो पाएगी ?

आक्रोश से दूषित हुए मन

कावेरी की शीतलता से

क्या ठन्डे हो पाएंगे ?

नदी बहती जाए

ढूंढती कुछ उत्तर…..

Hutted and Hushed No More – #PeriodPride

[I begin this post by referring to two different cultures in time and place and their ‘celebration’ of  ‘menstruation’. I take a critical view of the ritual, without meaning to offend any religious belief. My analysis is only for the purpose of understanding our habits and rituals concerning the monthly cycle of women. The two stories are followed by my take on ‘punishment’ in patriarchy and the idea of ‘taboo’. I end by asserting that every girl has the right to live a dignified life. It is time to accept this and talk.]

The Mayans story of Origin

Recalcitrant Po stands punished

Her love for Sun is taboo

Out of her blood 

The world is created….

A world of opposites-

Of diseases and of healing

Of the obvious and the hidden……

According to the Mayan mythology, the Moon-Goddess Po who was the daughter of Earth, consorted with Sun, and was discovered by her angry father. She was punished and her ‘disobedient’ blood was the cause of creation. A strange story about the origin of not just the world we inhabit, but also the beliefs that seep through across cultures and generations.

Nurturing Desire – The Goddess Kamakhya

Kamakhya sits untouched

She bleeds to nurture,

Part of Shakti, Goddess of desire

Purified before ‘worship’….

The story of Goddess Kamakhya (worshipped in Assam in India) is similar in one way to the story from Mayan mythology in that there is a rebellious daughter and an upset father. Sati is the daughter of Daksha and she chooses Shiva for her husband. Daksha is unhappy over the alliance. When there is a puja in the house, Daksha does not invite Shiva. Sati is enraged. She vents out her anger by throwing herself in the fire lit by her father for the puja. When Shiva finds this out, he performs Tandava holding Sati’s body. He vows to continue the dance until the body of Sati is completely decomposed. Vishnu, in order to save the entire world from destruction, uses his chakra to cut the body of Sati into pieces. Finally, Shiva has nothing to hold and he stops dancing. The pieces of Sati’s body fall on different places on Earth, and Kamakhya is the ‘womb’ – the part of procreation. Hence, the Goddess is worshipped in Assam as one who has nurturing power. She is the source of life. The ritual, however, is that of three days of forbidden entry to the temple as this is the time of her annual menstrual cycle (after which she will nourish the earth and make it sustainable for everyone.) Post the three-day hiatus, the Goddess is ‘bathed’, ‘purified’ and ‘worshiped’ again.

Punishment and Laying down the Rules

In both the mythological stories, the ‘female’ is initially the ‘dissident’ one. She has upset a certain ‘order’ in the patriarchal set-up. She is a threat which, if not thwarted, will cause anarchy. Po is punished by death and Sati kills herself out of provocation. But now, desire has to be placed in a sanctioned zone. It cannot be let loose again. So, Po’s blood becomes a symbol of both life and death. ‘Pure’ and ‘impure’, ‘disease’ and ‘medicine’ are segregated. Rules are laid. She can give power but she can be a deterrent too. A similar thing happens in the case of Sati too. She is literally cut to pieces and embodied again as a Goddess who bleeds, is not to be touched, first cleansed and then revered. A certain discipline has been imposed in both cases. This discipline imposes protocols on the subjects, in this case, the devotees. These devotees constitute our society. The rules have been set for the society. Unambiguous rules, backed in the name of worship.

 

Taboo

 

What is special about a menstrual cycle? It is nature’s way of telling that you are fertile now. The body is biologically getting ready. But from where comes the necessity of imposing taboo on what a girl/woman is supposed to do during that monthly cycle? Why does she need to be segregated and told she is impure and unclean? Why impose such meaning on something so natural? Why make her feel guilty for something that comes to her on its own, not something she has ‘brought about’ by any ‘fractious’ conduct? What is it but a means of putting her down yet again in the name of purity and impurity!

There is nothing pleasant about a period. It is a time of discomfort and unease which becomes habitual after a certain time. But it is also a necessary cycle. And one has the right to be prepared for it. Every girl/woman has the right to live with dignity every single day of her life, ‘those days’ included. Instead of ‘hutting’ them, (I am using this phrase after I read about menstrual huts – certain tribes across the world have special huts where ‘unclean’ women live during those days), the society ought to make ample provisions to help them live hygienically. Naari is trying to do precisely this. Rising above the taboo of  not talking about the periods, they have taken the initiative to instill in girls a sense of respect about their bodies. They tutor underprivileged girls on maintaining hygiene and on using nature-friendly products. A proper knowledge can ensure a healthy future for them. I was surprised when I read in the article on #PeriodPride shared by Write Tribe that

  • Chemicals like Dioxin which is found in disposable sanitary napkins is a known carcinogen and has been linked to ovarian cancer, abnormal growth in reproductive organs, impaired thyroid and immune dysfunction. Dioxin has even been added by WHO in their list of Dirty Dozen – List of 12 harmful chemicals.

 

It is imperative for each one of us to give the girls a chance to talk, so that they can articulate their concerns, their fears, and seek guidance. It was a time of utter ignorance when I had my first period. Having no knowledge about what was happening to me, I thought that I would die. I didn’t say all this but I think my mom knew what happens and  she handled it well and taught me how to take care during that time. Although she had not prepared me before, she helped me when the time came.

I really hope that each and every girl gets the chance to live with dignity throughout her life. I hope that provisions reach every corner of the earth so that terrified little hearts who know nothing about their bodies are calmed and comforted. They don’t need ‘hutting’ and ‘hurting’. They need love and interaction. They don’t need taboo. They need to talk.

 

Linking this post to Naari and Period Pride | Blogging Competition #PeriodPride via Write Tribe

Chocolate

For all chocolate-lovers…..

Surviving Mexico

maya glyph for cacao.jpgChocolate, from the Nahuatl word xocolatl meaning bitter water, is a gift from the gods.

Legend has it that the god Quetzalcoatl stole and gave the plant that provided a special drink meant only for the gods to his chosen people, the Toltecs. He asked Tlaloc, the rain god, to water this plant and Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility and vegetation, to tend to it. Quetzalcoatl picked the pods, roasted the kernels and taught the Toltec women to grind it to a fine powder. The women mixed it with water and whipped it to a bitter, frothy drink called chocolatl. Such was its sacredness, it could only be enjoyed by the priests and royalty.

When the gods discovered Quetzalcoatl’s theft, they were angry and plotted the destruction of Quetzalcoatl and his people. Quetzalcoatl’s enemy Tezcatlipoca came to earth on a spider’s thread and disguised himself…

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My Spark Will Burn Still

As natural as rain
As vibrant as rainbow
As diverse as the hues it spreads
across the horizon
Is my Love.
It is ‘different’, yes.
But so is yours too.
It is passionate, yes.
But so is yours too.
It is an eternal flame
Of belonging.
Just like yours
It is an undying promise
Of togetherness.
Just like yours.
It is different only in the same way
As you are different than me,
And your beloved different than mine.
Rest is the same.
Put on my shoe
Maybe you will understand the pain I endure
The agony I face
From you and your undiscerning likes.
Stand where I stand
Maybe then you will know what it means
To be a victim of harsh heartlessness.
Or maybe you will see that
Love is Love, no matter what.
Kill it not with your senseless hatred.
Slaughter it not with your callous ignorance.
You will only be tainted in return,
While my spark will burn still….
——————
This poem is dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the Orlando Massacre. My heart breaks to see such brutality let loose. I pray for those who have left this indifferent world. May their souls find peace. May the grieving families find strength in this difficult time.

Poetry Response Ability (a manifesto) | Trish Hopkinson

THE FEM

“Today I realize that my text is not going anywhere—except to meet itself.” Octavio Paz

Writing and reading poetry helps me interpret the static in my world—the noise, the many alternate voices; and to determine my roles and how each role alters others—to find the mother, wife, daughter, sister, student, friend, and poet wandering within. I read and write as a woman, as an aspiring artist, as an extension of myself. I write out of necessity, out of bursting urges, and with determination and courage. I write bravely, when all else is quiet, shy, and scared, to share secrets, and to solve mysteries. I read and write for relief—to find and fill in my personal perspective, to extract the byproducts of being, to produce an end. The creative process itself and how it reciprocates, is poetry’s true intention; its end—the poem—is the authentic byproduct.

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How my book ‘Lei’ became the target of ‘phishing’ attack

Scribble and Scrawl

By Somali K Chakrabarti

We keep hearing about cyber hacking, malware and scams such as phishing , but it hits us the most when the security of our own site or our copyrighted material is compromised upon. I am sharing with you how my kindle book ‘Lei : A wreath for your soul’  recently became the target of a phishing scam.

I was startled when I noticed that  ‘Lei : A wreath for your soul’ was available free for download on a particular website.  To my utmost surprise the website also carried some reviews of my book along with comments from users who had downloaded the book. The screenshot is attached below.

Phishing

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