Coffee with Kamala Das: Right to pleasure for Indian women?

Soulful conversation 

One of my friend recommended me to be a part of a discussion which was about the exploring of sexuality, by reading of Kamala Das’s poem ‘An introduction’. She told me that it was to be held in Atta Gallata, Koramangala. I really didn’t know if I should go or not. I mean I was too confused but later on I made up my mind to go and be part of the discussion.

In case you are wondering, why did I go there or what made me go there . To be honest I didn’t go there because I am a feminist. I went there for poetry. I mean poetry is said to be something that moves our souls beyond this world and helps us to connect overselves with the cosmos. I am a huge fan of poetry. I love reading and writing poetry. I often sit in my balcony, sipping coffee and I write or rather I should say I spill  the ink. Poetry, for me its magic. It’s a living, breathing presence in my life. People often tell me that I write well. To be precise I write a lot of Urdu poetry. It carries huge amount of value . It’s deep, sheer and perfect. And rightly so.   But I panic a lot . I have social an anxiety so I don’t have the nerves to face the stage or be a part of any discussion.

 

When I came to know about the fact that Hidden pockets is organising a program about poetry, and its about Kamala Das. I was really happy to hear about it  but as soon as I came to know that it is not just a session but a discussion and each one of us have to speak and talk, I was really anxious. I mean I wanted to go but then the fear of facing the audience made me worried. 

Somehow I made my mind and went there. To be frank enough to say, I was little shivering as I sat under the spotlight. I didn’t know what to do though I was familiar with the poem ‘An introduction’. I mean it’s one of my favourite poems. After a while people came and one by one all the empty chairs were filled. People who were unknown to me, totally strangers. I became nervous, yet again. I told the organizers beforehand that ‘i am going to talk less ‘ and they were approachable enough . 

 

Kamala Das : An Introduction 

“Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit..”

 

So here it started. We all introduced ourselves. Some of them sang, which was an ice breaker for the discussion. Everyone had that broad smile on their faces. And once we started of with the poem, I was the one who started to put give opinions and  interpretation on the opening stanza or lines. I was actually moved by the lines she has mentioned in her poem. It’s so good. Shamelessly she is talking about sexuality and things which are a taboo in our society. My opinion was that why not? Why not to be fearless enough to love someone we want to. Why not to have sex or feel the pleasure even before marriage. Why not to wear crop tops and walk in the deserted or even the crowded streets. Why?

  One by one everyone read the different stanzas of the same poem. Many different interpretations came, there was no right and wrong. Everyone was putting their words and pouring out their thoughts without any fear. 

I was surprised, not only I was speaking but I was fully indulged in the discussion. I mean i spoke a lot. Gradually my fear became my strength. I no longer was a weak or other sex but felt equal to other gender too or maybe same gender but with lot of energy and enthusiasm. I  was full of zest and full of energy too The session turned out to be a “Soulful Conversation” for me.

Kamala Das and her poetry was a living breathing presence for me at that time . We all spoke about exposing our sexualities, we discussed orgasm, what is it to be a woman and what not. It was so great to be part of such discussion. I don’t think I have ever had such good time with people whom I don’t even know. And I’m glad that they didn’t judge me were listening to what I was saying . I feel that talking about anything or everything in front of unknown crowd or strangers is better. I mean I don’t know about others much, but I  comfortable enough to open up before strangers other than the people I know.

Some people who were familiar with Malayalam language, read out the original text by Kamala Das. As the discussion ended. We all just like a new family, spoke to each other. One on one . Shook hands, laughed, smiled. To keep up with the funky trend we also took a selfie. 

I’m sure I ain’t going to forget this discussion ever in my life. I am looking forward for such discussions more and more . 

Hidden pockets gave me a gift ‘ To Face My Fear’ and I will always cherish this gift ! Thanks Jasmine, Aisha, Sekulu and Aren.

-Nashafa Firdous Mir : I am a very moody and choosy kind of person. I am a weirdo and hardly I am comfortable enough to indulge into a discussion but this discussion was so good that I didn’t even feel uncomfortable for once.

 

Photo and video courtesy : Kiran Sopanam and Shikhil.

Whose baby? Women, Men and Contraception

I got this amazing chance to attend “A workshop on Contraceptives” conducted by the CT Innovation lab. Does it sound exciting? Yes it does. For a young woman who has never heard about anything other than condoms, a workshop on contraceptives would be fascinating. And the best part comes when after learning about the contraceptives, one needs to design it for the users. Here user being you and me.

For those who are not familiar with the term “Contraceptives”. They are methods or devices used to prevent pregnancy. It is also called Birth control techniques. How do they work? The basic principle is to prevent the sperm from getting to and fertilizing the egg. The contraceptives act like a barrier between the sperm and the egg.

There are different kinds of Contraceptives. Condom being the most popular one. Some of them bring hormonal changes and few of them dont. So it is very important to understand what kind of a contraceptive one should use, depending on one’s preferences and likings. However, the biggest challenge here is that not all are aware about contraceptive methods. In a country like ours (India), only married women get to know about contraceptives that to when they are planning for a child. Many a times even married women are not aware about the different methods and the choices available. So the awareness about contraceptives is close to zero.

 

Again for those who have no clue about methods of Contraception, let me give a brief on it. We can divide them in two categories, Hormonal and Non – Hormonal methods. Under Hormonal methods we have the Birth Control Pills, Vaginal Rings, Birth Control Patches, Implants, Injections and under Non – Hormonal methods mainly we have condom (male/female), cervical cap, diaphragm, copper IUD. Imagine there are so many options and we are hardly aware about them. For more information related
to how these methods function and the pros and cons of it, do stay tune for our podcast on contraception.

It was an amazing experience to work with so many experts. Researchers, innovators, biomedical engineers, professors of biological engineering, illustrators, podcaster. The main aim behind this workshop was to create a contraceptive product for women. A contraceptive that was easy to use, simple to understand and also non hormonal in long run. The ideation process was extremely challenging as we were trying to come up with a product which is layered with taboos. The aim was to cover all the women who are sexually active.

CT Innovation lab had an interesting research to share. They had spoken to many women and it clearly showed how these women were highly fed up with the methods. From condoms to injectables all had their own flaws. Some of the male partners refused wearing condoms, the women who got IUDs inserted developed infection and many were unaware about injectables. Many spoke about how it is the mother in law who decides on the method. There were women who got sterilized at the age of 25-27.

Now the question came what are these women looking for? And the response was very interesting. Many of them wanted something which can be worn on the body, such as a toe ring, a duppata, a nail paint, a bangle. Something which is easier to wear and looks very familiar and normal. Something which the mother in law cannot find out and the women can use it as and when she needs it. Many said anything which doesn’t bring hormonal changes or has side effects, few said they want all the tests to be done on male partners now as they were fed of trying new methods.

 

So we have a huge challenge now! First to make women aware about different kinds of contraceptives, how they work, the pros and cons. To Make them aware that one has bunch of options from which she can select depending on her preferences. Second to keep working on how can we come up with a better contraceptive method, which is affordable, easy to use, less of side effects and suits one’s body. And last how to make the women aware that it should be her choice what method to select and not the mother in laws. She needs to take control over contraceptive methods.

 

So finally, I came out as an experience designer as part of this workshop. I saw, I touched and I conquered some of my own myths and fears. There is so much to learn more, but really excited about sharing my experiences with you all.

What happens when a gynaecologist, a poet and a man walk into the room?

If you are unable to find the service, please do write to us.

Write to us at hiddenpocketsinfo@gmail.com
Call us at +918861713567

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With four lovely performers and three speakers, Hidden Pockets and Krantikalli for #Sep28 campaign took this initiative to bring young people together and talk about Women’s Health and the City. The best part was that we had a gynecologist with us as a speaker. Dr. Suchitra is a medical officer for Family planning Association of India at the Delhi branch. Having a gynecologist among us made the audience very excited. The youngest in the crowd was a 16 years old performer.

The event was conducted at the Playground Creative House in Defense Colony, Delhi. The event started with two of the lovely performers reciting their poems. Brindalakshmi through her poems voiced the need for Red Lipstick, as if every women in the room was dying to put the red lipstick but was scared.  Anuradha recited her poetry in Hindi wherein she connected various different women and their struggles with health. Ankita spoke about body shaming and loving our own bodies while Amia brought a young adolescent’s anxieties into the room. The room was filled with an aura where we all had some questions to be answered. We all could connect with the poems, and we all connected with each other.

To the make the evening more interesting, we had our speakers next.  We had three speakers, Aisha from Hidden Pockets Collective, who mapped public health centers, and is a single women staying in a metropolitan city, went first. Second was Nitin, a man in a women’s meet, who spoke about how important it is to be a part of such discussions. As a partner, a brother and a friend, he wanted to be more engaged in these issues and be more sensitive to such issues. And third was the gynecologist, Dr. Suchitra.

 

 

The conversation was mostly focused on discussing public health centers and how difficult it is for women to access health centers, followed by sharing of experience on how it felt to visit Family Planning Association for the first time. Nitin shared his experience about visiting clinics and understanding how important it is to visit these centers with your partners.  And then we had the gynecologist talking about safe abortion, about how it is a women’s right to get a safe abortion and also about myths related to abortion.

Slowly the audience in the room started opening up. And then one by one we had the women asking questions. There was an excitement as well as seriousness in the room. Excitement because women were finally asking questions directly to a gynecologist and seriousness because all were paying attention to what the doctor was saying. The questions were related to periods, methods to contraception, pregnancy, safe abortion etc..

The audience also got to know about FPAI (Family Planning Association of India).  FPA India envisages sexual and reproductive health for all as a human right, including gender equality leading to alleviation of poverty, population stabilization and sustainable development. They have clinics around India such as in Delhi, Agra, Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. We got to know how  FPAI follows ‘No Refusal Policy’ and also about how it gives importance to “after care” post having abortion and helps the person in understanding choices to contraception.

To sum up the beautiful evening, we had our performers recite their amazing poems. By the end a few still had questions, few looked content and while a few others were still in that fascinating aura.

Hidden Pockets Collective would like to thank out host partners @Krantikaali for helping us conduct this event in Delhi.

Pic credit: Riya Singh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast: What is pleasure for you – Tanzila Khan

Has anyone ever asked you what is pleasure for you? Tanzila Khan gets personal with Aisha Lovely George and shares her stories on this podcast. She tries to reclaim the word “pleasure ” from the sexual connotation. For her it’s success. She discusses her idea of body, idea of sexual fantasy and what all can be done with it.

Can you get pleasure without a partner? Can we have conversations about it without sex? Can it be about food? What all options do we have? Does sex restricts the idea of pleasure for some groups? Can woman talk about pleasure? Is there a guilt element that prevents women from engaging with the idea of sex? Is there a class angle, can it only be enjoyed by people from certain class? Do we all long for pleasure?

These are some of the questions with which Tanzila in this podcast asks us to expand our understanding of pleasure. A woman with disability tries to take back the idea of pleasure and fight for it.

Kishmish Products

Podcast: Let’s Make Abortion Safe: Women’s Reproductive Health

Welcome back to our Podcast series. As women, it is very important for us to know our rights and own decisions that are to be made about our individual bodies. But, have you wondered about how challenging that can be at times? There can be many reasons that make women’s reproductive health and rights a difficult area to talk about, let alone owning it.

Team Hidden Pockets discusses this issue with our team of specialists from areas such as Roopnagar district, Faizabad, Aliganj and Pune; who help us understand the importance and the need for women to own decisions around safe abortions. This podcast is specifically created to talk to women who have been working in the area of women’s health and reproductive rights for a while now. Listen to them share their personal and professional experiences with us.

We begin with Video volunteers from Pune District, move onto Arpan Society from Punjab, to Janvikas Kendra from U.P., and finally to Mahila Atma Suraksha Sanstha, U.P. Each of these women share the heroic work of their organizations that work in the area of safe abortion, women’s rights and providing services. Listen to them discuss how important The Right to Life and Respect of one’s body is for women.

Women today and since time immemorial have been struggling with knowledge around safe abortion techniques, breaking free from the shackles of patriarchy and making informed decisions about their bodies and even just doing what is good for them. Our specialists relentlessly work each day to make the lives for thousands of women who are struggling, better each day. Their only message is to empower yourselves and take ownership. Don’t let anybody make these decisions for you. Go to your nearest public health clinic, access non-profit organizations around you and make your abortion safe. Let’s not be afraid anymore to discuss Safe Abortion.

 

A special thanks to CREA for introducing these wonderful women to Hidden Pockets.

Host: Aisha Lovely George

Pic Credit: canva.com

Music by Audionautix.com

 

Podcast: Own your city: Pune #makeyourcityinclusive

What are some of your favorite spots in the city? Which places do you enjoy going the most to in your city? Hidden Pockets presents,”Own your city.”

This is the first of a series where we will talk about unique and exciting spots in a city that happen to be favorites with the women living in those cities. So where will our first stop be? It is none other than Shaniwarwada: Pune.

“Kaka, mala vachva”, “Kaka, mala vachva” are the first words you’ll hear as you enter this haunted palace called Shaniwarwada. For everyone, who is wondering what these Marathi words mean, it simply means, “Uncle, save me”, “Uncle, save me.” This is the first piece of information our intern, Aishwarya shared with us. Mind you, Pune is her most cherished city. You’ll see how she does a great job of proclaiming her relentless love  to Pune and Shaniwarwada all through this podcast.

This spot has been popular for centuries altogether and it continues to attract people of all generations and from all walks of life. If you are a history buff, an arts enthusiast, an architecture lover, a tourist or simply a seeker of knowledge, this is your go to spot.  If you haven’t already made this trip, don’t worry! This is your chance to get onto a virtual trip by listening to Aishwarya and transposing yourself to this mansion; feeling no less than our Mastani leaping out of the saga Bajirao Mastani.

Stay tuned to listen to Aishwarya describe the scintillating beauty of this mansion and the enamor exhilarated by the edifices therein. Don’t miss a moment of this talk if you want to have this fun filled virtual tour. I am excited to make this trip. Are you? So fasten your seat belts and let’s get ready for our very own city, Pune!!

Host and Voice Artist: Aishwarya Chordiya
Pic Credit: Being Punekar.
Music Credit: Audionautix.com and Bensound

 

P.S.:  Every 2nd Friday of the month we would take you to a different place in your city.
Join us to explore these places 🙂
Contact us if you want to narrate your city’s stories @ aisha.george@hidden-pockets.com

Where do you feel safe in Ahmedabad? #pleasurepockets

Dhaval from Ahmedabad on behalf of Hidden Pockets, asked residents of Ahmedabad, where did they feel safe and why. Most of the respondents were women and it was interesting to realize though they loved some of the spots on this map, there were places they would have loved to visit, if only the narratives around those spots were different.

For most of the residents of Ahmedabad, food was a great source of pleasure, and it also justified the presence of so many women in public places; for their love of food, brought them out.

#pleasurepockets walk in #Ahmedabad

When you are a stranger in a new city, the best way to get a feel of your new neighborhood and to map out interests close to you, is by foot. This essentially means long walks through a maze of streets, buildings, bazaars and the works.

Many cities in India have a reputation for being ‘unsafe’ post sundown. Walks and vigils have been conducted across the globe by professionals, student bodies and others alike who, like us, believe that the streets (no matter what time of the day) must not be feared in any respect. These streets were made with a sole intention of public use in mind and if that purpose expires with the setting of the sun, it is lost and the forces in play that perpetuate the visage of it being unsafe automatically get the upper hand. This is what we aim to stop. Reclaiming the streets is more than just speaking out for our rights to use them at any given time, it is also about us debunking the myths that surround certain spaces. This is a problem that affects both women and men.

 

Hidden Pockets is back to its walking spree and this time we are busy reclaiming the streets of Jaipur. Join us as we walk the streets of Ahmedabad and enjoy these streets 😉

#pleasurepockets walk in Jaipur

When you are a stranger in a new city, the best way to get a feel of your new neighborhood and to map out interests close to you, is by foot. This essentially means long walks through a maze of streets, buildings, bazaars and the works.

Many cities in India have a reputation for being ‘unsafe’ post sundown. Walks and vigils have been conducted across the globe by professionals, student bodies and others alike who, like us, believe that the streets (no matter what time of the day) must not be feared in any respect. These streets were made with a sole intention of public use in mind and if that purpose expires with the setting of the sun, it is lost and the forces in play that perpetuate the visage of it being unsafe automatically get the upper hand. This is what we aim to stop. Reclaiming the streets is more than just speaking out for our rights to use them at any given time, it is also about us debunking the myths that surround certain spaces. This is a problem that affects both women and men.

Hidden Pockets is back to its walking spree and this time we are busy reclaiming the streets of Jaipur. Join us as we walk the streets of Jaipur and enjoy these streets 😉

 

 

The Crisis of Tamizh Identity politics; what this means for women

 

Who am I? I am a Tamizh woman. I was born in the capital city of Chennai and I spent 20 years of my life there. I am characterised by that typical Tamizh Pride that India knows too well and, like every other one of my fellow Tamizhs, I hold my language and culture in the utmost regard, wear my identity on my sleeve and do not hesitate to school anyone who dares to pronounce ‘Dosai’ or other references that are stereotypically associated with Tamizh culture, incorrectly. It has been endearing to witness youth in Tamizh Nadu, lead the movement and claim the shores of Marina in peaceful and organised protest; It was elevating to see youth categorically refuse to accommodate film stars or politicians lest they dilute the debate with their side agendas; It was heartening to see the shared accountability of the protestors as they tirelessly clean up public space even as some others retire due to physical and mental fatigue. Despite the violence that ensued on the 23rd of January, we must sustain the momentum of our solidarity. There is much to take away from the movement against the ban of Jallikattu: but there is as much to interrogate, as much to transform and so much more to be brought into similar, if not more critical focus.

In the last couple of weeks, our own articulation of our identity politics has been reduced to a dismal state of impoverishment. Granted, there is a trickle of emergent discourse that has efficiently utilised this opportunistic moment to both: critically reflect on the practice of ‘Jallikattu’ as well as deepen the imaginary of “Tamizh” identity: subtle but deliberate efforts to subvert an increasingly monolithic rendering of Tamizh culture, in an effort to widen, even diversify, the floodgates of Tamizh compassion. However, the dominant discourse of dissent seems to be in diametric opposition to this trend. For instance, in the past week, there has been a selective privileging of issues that were raised against the sport. As a result, one now finds – scattered across the interwebs – numerous counter-arguments that go out of their way to clarify our love for the native breed, our staunch compliance with the safety regulations mandated by the Act of 2009, the great goodness of A2 milk etc. However, in stark contrast, there has been an insidious lethargy to address questions around the missing women and Dalits from the primarily male caste-exclusive sport of Jallikattu. I will attempt to wrestle with the former question, as I am unconvinced that my theoretical knowledge or experiences equip me to effectively address the latter.

 

Kaalaiyai adakkunaatha, Kalyananam kattikkuven” (“Only if the bull is tamed, will I marry”)

 

 

One only has to look as far as the language of the plaquards, speeches and the sloganeering on ground to detect the secondary status that the sport accords to women. Young girls are spotted carrying banners bearing slogans that reinforce passive femininity – “Kaalaiyai adakkunaatha, Kalyananam kattikkuven” (“Only if the bull is tamed, will I marry”) – and younger boys in turn carry posters sporting slogans that enhance their machismo and strips both women and bulls off all agency, in the same breath – “Kaalaiyai adakkurom, Kalyanam panrom” (“We shall tame the bull, we shall marry”). The symbolism of the imagery evoked is stark in its irony. Women calling upon men to evince their capacity to ‘subjugate’ another being, after years of women having been ‘subjugated’ at the hands of men, themselves. The imagery is further disturbing as it points to the ominous indoctrination of the unsuspecting present and future generations into a culture, which is in dire need – not of banning – but of critical self-reflection and transformation. Meanwhile, news narratives that huff and puff to highlight the ‘involvement’ of women in the primarily male sport of Jallikattu are essentialist to say the least, as they persist to unquestioningly recast women in the stereotypical mould of the domestic ‘nurturer’ whilst reinforcing men as alpha ‘conquerors’. Women nurture the bulls, just like women nurture the man, nurture his family, their children and then, if energy permits – themselves. Evidence suggests that a healthy percentage of the household budget (sometimes 4500 INR, sometimes more) is dedicated towards the maintenance of the stud bulls who are well nourished and cared for, which is more than can be said about the plight of too many women across the country whose health is barely budgeted for: by neither patriarchal state nor family.

The online public sphere is just as lopsided. Social Media is rampant with images of male icons conquering bulls accompanied by text that appeals to a narrow vision of #TamilPride: “Veeram engal thaai thantha thaalattu, maranam engal veera vilaiyaattu” (We derive valour from our mother’s lullaby, and death from the brave game). But, what happens if the bull conquers the man? (‘aanal, kaalai aalai adakkunaa?’) What happens if the man dies like Karupaiyya from Kalathipatti ? Were a man to die a hero, what becomes of his family? Does the legend of his virility or bravado serve as sufficient compensation for the family? Or does the demise of the primary wage-earner thrust additional burden on the woman of the household? These are all critical questions to raise – fundamental even, to the foundations of ‘Tamizh identity’ formation. Yet, we find that such questions have been tactically circumvented, lest they disrupt the ‘solidarity’ of the recent protests. Dalit scholars and activists who have formally highlighted the sport’s exclusionary designs have been written off by citing meagre instances of tokenistic participation. There is generous guilt being meted out to even the most cautious of critiques being offered on social media, which comes in the way of directly challenging this hegemonic hyperbole, which is fast spiralling out of control.

It is worrying that a staggering majority of the Tamizh public are geared towards reclamation without simultaneous introspection: a resolute regurgitation of history, of cultural practice, in the name of ‘conservation’. Let us take a moment to reflect. Why is it that we resist critique so? Does critical self-reflection diminish our collective identity or lend strength to it? In critically examining ourselves, do we diminish or in fact, resuscitate? Is not resuscitation essential to evolution – to retain relevance in, or correspond to a constantly changing context? In fact resuscitation, can be crucial for a culture to become more inclusive. Time and again we find that any critique posited on the identity debate has been indefinitely parked, and marginalised identities have been told to wait their turn. Until when will ‘being Tamizh’ mean usurping the experiences of multiple cross-cutting identities who constitute the state only to forge a singular myopic narrative?  If a movement fails to integrate the experiences of women, transgenders, Dalits and other marginalised groups interpellated by multiple subordinate-group identities – what kind of ‘solidarity’ is it really achieving? As long as ‘we’ conveniently unite against the external ‘other’ whilst simultaneously turning a blind eye to the ‘othering’ that ‘we’ perpetuate from within, than ‘we’ cannot sustain. Let us be the authors of our own critique, so that we can reflect and transform towards an intersectional, inclusive and sustainable Tamizh Identity.

 

Article by: Manasa