Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Menstrual Cup - a love story

I’ve had a dry creative run for the longest time. Nothing has been inspiring or challenging enough for me to want to write about. But then I came upon the menstrual cup, which has been nothing short of life-changing. I almost feel obliged to share information and experiences with the menstrual cup, with my fellow women. In a country where discussing menstrual anything is a taboo, I find it imperative to let women know about this wonderful product on menstrual hygiene. However, this is for tampon initiates and little virgin maidens who will use only pads and never consider anything ‘penetrative’, this is not for you.

Despite the information overload in the age of the Internet, I am willing to bet that LOT of Indian women have never heard about the menstrual cup. Heck, many don’t even know what a tampon is! I didn’t know about this product either, until a few months ago. One of my lovely Twitter friends from Australia shared a link about the menstrual cup, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that my life changed.

Types of menstrual cups

So, what is a menstrual cup? A menstrual cup is a 3-inch long, 2-inch wide cup made of surgical quality silicon that is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. This cup covers and sits at the mouth of the cervix, air sealed, thanks to the tiny holes on the cup’s sides. Because the cup is about 3-inch deep, it is able to collect a fair amount of menstrual discharge. The cup needs to be extracted after a few hours, emptied, washed and BINGO it’s ready for reuse. Did I want to try a product that was discreet, did not need disposal & re-purchase and was eco-friendly? Yessir!

I asked around some more, and was told that there are a couple of Indian companies making and selling this product. I ordered mine via phone from Shecup, a Bangalore-based company and the product was delivered to me in a swift couple of days.

While I had looked it up on the net, I wasn’t prepared for the size of the product. It seemed BIG in the beginning and I was like… “I’VE GOT IT SHOVE THAT THING IN?” Especially for someone who is accustomed to using a tampon, the menstrual cup seemed decidedly large and uncomfortable. And make no mistake; IT TAKES SOME TIME AND PRACTICE TO GET USED TO. It reminded me of my first days of using a tampon, when I was too scared to push it far in and sat awkwardly in office chairs, feeling poked, poked, poked all through the day. But as one gets used to all things, I mastered the tampon and thought it was the best thing to happen to womankind… until the menstrual cup came along (with its initial hiccups, of course).

Unlike the tampon, which has a string, the cup doesn't have a pull-out aid. I would initially push the cup too far back in. After a few hours, when it was time to empty out the cut, I would be having panic attacks in the loo because WHERE WAS THE FRIGGIN' CUP? I would gingerly push up my index finger – long nails and all – and not find the cup. Then I would push (not a good idea if you also have the urge to crap at the same time) and grunt and finally extract it from the great dark pits of my hoohah. Jackpot! I’m sure my joy would have rivaled a treasure hunter’s at that moment. Sure, it can make you a little squeamish in the beginning, holding a small cupful of your own menstrual blood. But you can play pretend, imagine you are a witch and throw the blood down the great magic pot-cauldron! Whee! PS: menstrual blood DOES NOT STINK. And this, especially for the chee-chee ladies, it is YOUR OWN BLOOD. Chill.

There is a technique of insertion and removal, which I mastered over the next couple of days and trust me, it’s not rocket science. Fold the cup nicely and gently insert it; just remember to not push it in as far as a tampon. You should be able to feel the stem of the cup; and no, it doesn’t poke. The cup gets pushed in a little more eventually anyway. To pull it out, squat or sit down and relax your vaginal muscles. Use your index and middle fingers to reach it, press the base of the cup lightly to release the air suction and gently pull out the cup. Try it pull it out straight, so that there are no spills. This will take some practice again, and should you spill a few drops of blood, it is easily cleaned up with water of tissues. And in a few times, you will be, ahem… pushing and pulling like a pro!

Once the cup has been pulled out and the menstrual fluid emptied into the toilet (and flushed down), wash the cup with anti-bacterial medicated soap. Wash your hands too before re-inserting the cup to minimize risk of infection. A freshly-inserted cup can easily serve its purpose for close to 8 hours (yup, you do not bleed THAT much), but of course it will change from one woman to another. At the end of your period, sterelise the cup in boiling water for about 10 minutes, and put it away until the next month in a soft cloth pouch. DO NOT STORE IT IN A PLASTIC CONTAINER – plastic tends to harden the cup. Stored and used properly, a silicon menstrual cup is said to last up to 10 years. However, the recommended change time is 1-2 years. Even so, it is highly cost-effective, considering a cup costs you only around INR 800.     

I strongly advocate this product, and think more women ought to know about and use it. It is discreet, comfortable, DOES NOT LEAK, medically safe, eco-sensitive, reusable and generally, a little boon. If you would like to know more, there is plenty of stuff online. And if you have any questions for me, I would be happy to answer them. Just DM me on Twitter or write to me on

Stranger to History by Aatish Taseer: Impressions

Many times during the course of 'Stranger to History', I admit trying to find Aatish Taseer's Twitter profile (with no luck). The more I read this book, the more curious I became about the author whose life seems to be an extraordinary case of ironies. I sought inane little details – as a person is wont to give away on Twitter – about Taseer, if only to humanise, 'normalise' him a little. Because going by the book, internal and external conflict is all he has ever lived by. Picture a set of parents belonging to different religions, living in different countries and divorced. Picture a little child who has only just known shadows of his father, forever clutching at straws of identity. It all befell Taseer's lot, and 'Stranger to History: A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands' is his story.

Born as a lovechild to a rising Pakistani political activist and an Indian political journalist, Taseer's destiny seemed to bear the fault line of the Indo­Pak border. While his parents got married for a while, they divorced soon after, owing his Muslim father's political ambitions in Pakistan. His Sikh mother raised him in Delhi, with help from a host of Sikh relatives. Once a young man, Taseer is driven by a need to know his father and to truly understand what being a Muslim is. He sets out on a journey that takes him from Turkey to Syria to Saudi Arabia to Iran to finally his father's doorstep in Pakistan.

Taseer samples the unique flavours the religion of Muhammad travelling through these Islamic states. Through his journalistic lens, he shows you the undercurrents of radical Islam in the largely secular Turkey, the monied 'Sheikh' culture of the Saudi, the oppressive religious regime in Iran, the constant political unrest in Syria and finally, the imploding state of Pakistan. It's a great bird's eye view of the current state of affairs in these nations and an eye­opener for people like me who do not follow global politics; especially the politics of religion. Because he is a journalist, Taseer's writing is analytical, but it is also delightfully lyrical in places. Through the people he meets during his travels, he personalises the account, without ever getting emotional.

That's not to say the book is devoid of emotion. The book is an intensely personal account of a search for identity. It is hard not to be moved by Taseer's confusion, occasional jubilation and often, rejection. The point of strife between Taseer and his father is the question of identity, with Taseer being Indian yet not, Pakistani yet not, Muslim yet not. His father's reluctant acceptance of him after many years, and a fresh rift owing to difference of opinion are painful to witness.

It is hard not to feel sorry for him, for ourselves and for our Pakistani neighbours, who live in this milieu of political mistrust. Taseer's life could well be an exaggeration of the conflict all of us, who live in the post 1947 world, feel. Pakistan's children, are perhaps in a worse place, having rejected all their shared history with India. It can't be nice growing up with a big black void in the collective social consciousness. Reading this book causes one to ask many questions about one's religious and national identities. These are important questions that need to be asked and for that, I thank Taseer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father's Day

I call this quick graphic tablet sketch Father's Day, what else? :)

And here the reference picture I used to make it. Features the two most important men in my life.