I belong to an intricate net of devout extended family. What you kids call party, we call it puja. Be it birthdays or weddings or someone getting kick ass marks in the board exams – its puja time, folks! Loud music, piping hot food, frenzied crowd, what more can you ask for? Just when I look forward to watching films, back to back, at ridiculously overpriced multiplexes, my bank balance is saved by a puja invite or even two.
Pujas are a beautiful sight. I am not even talking about the paraphernalia of the divine, the golden diyas or the sparkling silverwares, the holy cutlery. No sir, I am talking about the people, they come in two types, the speakers and non-speakers.
The last category first, a few older men pretending to be awake but actually dozing off until stirred awake by their own snores. The babies are non-speakers too, unless they decide to blow the conch and give out a shrill deafening cry.
The rest are the speakers. Even those smashing their cellphone screens, are communicating their lack of interest in those present there. Most of my uncles and cousins, by differing degree of relations, invariably talk about cricket since time immemorial. I could close my eyes while they talk and pretend that it is still the 80s, they have the same stuff to talk about, only different names jump out of their conversation. Srikkanth to Sreesanth is the only progress in this time capsule. Of course, they have all grown older, fatter, and balder since then. Some alterations have occurred, some members are dead gone and some ‘boys’ have become ‘men’ and taken in their place. The time capsule dwellers are no longer childish enough to skip meals when India loses a match, but now have matured to observe a preemptive fast for crucial finals.
There are late comers and early birds. And there is this one inevitable scene:
“So why is your daughter not here, Poornima? Preparing for her tests, I am sure,” inquires a relative trying to show off 100% attendance of her own family members.
“No! She could not come to puja today.” Poornima replies and gives us all a meaningful glance.
Another female relative sneaks in long after the puja is over when most of us are about to leave. She stands awkwardly at the doorway, not a single detectable dab of concealer today and we can almost see her wrinkles. She insists on not wanting to enter the purged room at all.
“Sorry for not coming earlier” the latecomer catches hold of her silk saree clad hostess and continues, “You know that time of the month…” “Oh, of course I understand. Please take prasaadam for your husband. Here in this packet” the gracious female host replies. “No, no. Please wait, Vishu beta, please take this packet.” “Couldn’t you have?” quips an irritated Vishu. “Ha ha, these kids!”, smiles the hostess and so does our embarrassed guest.
It was all more interesting when I was growing up, visiting my grandma’s house full of young women in a village in Karnataka. They had their own language, their own code for periods. So when I would insist on being taken to a temple (No, I wasn’t baby Mirabai, just that temple was the coolest place you can hang out in the village) But I would be told very often that “a crow has touched ” my elder relative, no going to temples for a few days. While talking to each other, women would used phrases like “she is touched” or say, “she has been sitting”.
I remember getting exasperated, “Ask her to get up, why does she have to sit?! And why can’t she come and play in the temple yard if she is touched by a crow? And why do all the crows in the village touch you guys all the time?”
We tried making our own code when periods had a novelty element for us. We concurred on “Number 3.”Considering that there was a consensus on what number 1 and 2 meant in common parlance. But it never took off. May be it grossed people out.
I tried calling this phenomenon “puncture”, but it sort of hurt some of us. “It feels too real, ya”, one influential cousin said and then other empty heads just chimed in. So we dropped it too. I find the now popular phrase “chums” too repulsive. It simply reeks of ill logic. There has been a controversy over who/what is a girl’s best friend in the popular media. We all know the fierce battle between diamonds and chocolates. Menstrual cycle was never ever in this race, so how come our chums are those about whom we never talk about, but only whisper? The metaphor is derived from fishing sharks, I later discovered. This knowledge doesn’t help me like this phrase any better. I go by traditional “mensus”. No fancy names for me. Period.
But all these fade in backdrop, because during a puja, my sorority would talk about different conditions of their collective uterus(es).
About to start periods,
See how she swells.
Has she got it?
Get her tested.
It’s what you feed her
Its what you don’t feed her
So soon, what was the hurry?
Why so late?
Can’t you hear the clock ticking away
Tick tock, tick tock.
Lazy women, how abnormal
Is normal delivery in your generation!
Look at us, we mopped, and walked, and worked
While you mope and lie around
C-section, complication and tension
Post-pregnancies and pee problem.
When would you plan for a second pregnancy?
Selfish mother, think of your lonely child
Third pregnancy? Stop her!
Pills popper, Copper T
Contraception and contraptions.
Tie your tubes
Any method you choose
Don’t crowd your house
Beware of menopause.
No wait, I missed out a crucial part,
Perimenopause year 1.
Perimenopause year 2,
Perimenopause year 3 & 4 & 5,
Cancer scare but turns out a fibroid
Perimenopause year 6.
A cyst, or two more in your ovaries
Hormone replacement therapy
Will cool your hot flashes.
Why swing on the mood swings
Her-tear-ectomy, snip, snip, snip.
Bye bye utero,
Welcome extra weight
Life is but a gaseous void.