In praise of the Menstrual Cup

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Very often, when I’m going through the motions of the day, I stop to marvel at the ingenuity of some human invention. Sometimes, it is the hot water geyser (is there anything more luxurious than a hot bath?), sometimes the steam iron (like when did we humans decide that it was important and possible to get rid of the creases in our clothes?) And these are not even the most brilliant of inventions but just looking at these things makes me revel in the joys and possibilities of being human (because sometimes just the news is enough to make me despair about the lowly nature of humans).

And so a few months ago I stumbled upon the humble menstrual cup, which, from the details on the box has been around since 1932! My friend Priyanka who is always the first one to summon the courage to try anything new, told me about it and about the website hygieneandyou. This is a fantastic website that recommends a brand for you based on your body type, activities etc. and has many useful videos on the insertion, removal use and so on.

I went with the ‘Me Luna’, a German make and chose a cup in my favorite orange. Since I am a big scaredy-cat with a low pain threshold, I made sure the husband was around (Mummy will give me a withering look at this and say “Aaj kal chya Mulina saarkhe navre lagtat!” and it’s true haha).

I almost could not bring myself to insert it but I grit my teeth and thought of Rumi and of birthing her (my favourite fear-beating trick) and went ahead. And it really was not hard or terrible at all. It took a few attempts to insert it completely but once it was inside, it was amazingly non-intrusive and comfortable. And the best part came later with a comfortable, leakage-free night’s sleep where I could sleep on my tummy as opposed to the stiff ‘saavdhaan’ stance that I am forced to normally torture myself in. Because of my heavy bleeding, I invariably have to wake up feeling sticky and wet and thoroughly uncomfortable, only to face another long day in washing, cleaning, avoiding sitting down anywhere and looking for Rumi’s rubber sheets to spread on the bed but all that felt like ancient history with the cup!

I could move about freely, dance, hop, skip and jump and did not have to bother removing the cup for about 8 hours. Removal is fairly straightforward, once you get that technique of pinching the side of the cup to sort of ‘pop’ it and break the vacuum. I did have one sort of malfunction where I had confidently pushed the cup quite high and could not locate the stem to remove it. But the trick is really to stay calm so that your muscles are relaxed, and it does get easy with practice.

Women, I cannot recommend the cup enough! And as I repeatedly say, if I can, you definitely can! Just make up your mind to move past the initial trepidation and be willing to practice a few times. It will change your life and cycle! From being that week of the month that I dread, my period became something very comfortable and unobtrusive; something that did not interfere at all with my day (no more scrubbing clothes in the bathroom, yay!).

I was willing to give the menstrual cup a chance for the sake of the environment but I was bowled over by the comfort and convenience. Some tips and tricks that may make things easier for first time users: being in the shower helps. The idea is to relax your muscles as much as you can and use the water as a lubricant. Squatting on the floor works best for the first time attempt. There are loads of videos on YouTube and persistence is key. Please do give the cup a chance and see how it changes your life; join me and become a Cupvert!

Should Kareena Kapoor Khan really be the poster girl for pregnancy, delivery and post-partum recovery?

The title obviously suggests that I think the answer should be ‘No’. For the record, I adore Kareena Kapoor. Right from her silliness in films like Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham and Mujhse Dosti Karoge to her characters in films like Yuva and the more recent Udta Punjab, I think there is definitely something about her. That oomph, that elusive star quality, that amazingly sexy self-love and confidence.

For the last one year, the media has been ODing on her. From speculations about whether she was expecting a child and the confirmation ‘announcement’ to her maternity wardrobe and the fact that she kept working throughout her pregnancy and treated it as completely normal and natural (millions of unacknowledged women continue their work till the last day and quietly give birth in the fields and carry on matter-of-factly with their chores) , fans lapped up every article and photo and could not get enough of her. Parenting portals were rife with her videos and articles speaking ‘for’ a girl child or flaunting her bump proudly. Her diet and wardrobe were widely discussed, compared to Kim Kardashian, and Twitter had a field day with the name of her baby boy Taimur.

I understand that it is Kareena’s job to look fabulous and set trends and that she gets paid for her brand and image, and she did a wonderful job of marketing herself with her bump. But what I sorely missed in every story that was written about her and every picture clicked during pregnancy, is any REAL pregnancy story or anecdote. And I am the last person to say real must mean negative or ugly because I always object to ‘reality’ cinema by saying “Why do they always equate reality with horrible, ghastly, dark images of society?”

What I mean is any story at all of morning sickness, of swollen ankles, of painful stitches; the list is really endless. Any pregnancy story that talks of how OK and normal it is to experience discomfort, to not look like a million bucks when your tummy is stretched like a drum skin, to take all the time you need to recover after giving birth. Whenever we talk of celebrities at home, Mum always says very definitively “Tyancha veglach asta. They have 50 people around to help with everything”. Yes, help. But didn’t this woman just give birth? Irrespective of whether she has the best staff around her or not, she would definitely have had achy breasts post-delivery, no? And I don’t think any ghee and chawal in the world is going to immediately erase out your dark circles or make you ‘glow’. (Why are we highlighting the pregnancy ‘glow’ so much anyway? What if you break out during pregnancy?)

Again, we come back to talking about looks. How things appear.  When will we stop giving others (especially women!) this message? Why can’t we be told that it is OK to have uncombed hair and to look completely exhausted during and after your delivery? Why won’t Kareena Kapoor Khan for once, look tired, talk about feeling overwhelmed or about how it is sometimes an effort? Obviously because she has invested so much in appearing ‘effortless’. But thousands of women will cite her workout sessions as ‘inspirational’ and then feel horrible about themselves when they do not shed all those kilos as quickly.

Sometimes, there is nothing like a fellow woman’s success story to make you feel like shit. Because if she can do it, why can’t I? This is the question that all of us ask ourselves in our insecure, sleepless moments. And the answer to it is simply that you do it at your own pace, in your own rhythm and beat. If you know inside (and you ALWAYS do!) that you are doing the best that you can, that is really more than enough already! God knows birthing and raising a child is hard enough, without the added pressure to ‘appear’ a certain way. By juggling that job and all your household chores, by walking the tightrope between what your parents think best and what your in-laws think, you are already amazing, beautiful and glowing. You don’t need to spend any more on that fantastic maternity wardrobe, trust me.

Women who run with Milind

Things have been unusually quiet on the blogging front because I have gotten very busy with other exciting work assignments. I have been meaning to write about my experience at the Pune Pinkathon (which has really served as a kind of life-changer for me; I have been running regularly since that day) for two weeks now, but I finally found some time today to sit and open my laptop.

On Sunday morning, it felt wonderful to wake up in the darkness, with everybody else asleep; it kind of reminded me of the excitement of travel and picnics from childhood. I could, and should, have gone on my own as the Pinkathon is only for women but the husband being the man that he is, insisted on coming along and dropping off and standing and cheering and all that (I agree with my mother when she says “Abhi tu khup bigdun thevlay Alisha la”: Abhi, you’ve really spoilt Alisha!). He was even more excited than I was, although I told him that 3 km is not a big deal.

Though it was all quiet when we set out, there was a lot of buzz in the air as we drove closer to the venue. Some runners had already started! The event organization seemed to be one of the best I have ever been to. I generally dread going for events which draw such a large crowd; I expect chaos and noise and a feeling of claustrophobia. But all the volunteers were cheerful and upbeat and really helpful when they directed us to where we could park and all of that.

When I walked to the huge field, where the marathon would be flagged off, there was some Zumba happening in full swing. I have seen Zumba many times at many different events but this was hands-down, the best Zumba ever. I would never, ever have thought that I would be taken in by a guy wearing a fitted neon shirt sporting a bronzed braid down his back, moving his butt to the beats but I was enthralled! Not many guys can pull off Bollywood Thumkas like that so I was really impressed. I also totally dug the guy dancing behind this main guy (so, so cute!), so I got a few pictures of him!

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The best Zumba instructor ever! And do not miss the cute guy to the left!

As I watched ladies completely losing themselves in the music and taking selfies and screaming, what Milind Soman had said the other day really hit home; women need such spaces to feel safe and unselfconscious and really let go. Not so much women of our generation who are comfortable in their own skins but women like my mother, who need to be coaxed into wearing jeans. With no men around, women could and were just letting themselves go and actually dancing like no one’s watching. It was wonderful to watch. There was an amazing Ajji who was having the time of her life! These are real heroes; women like this petite white-haired darling Ajji who had not only showed up on this chilly morning but was dancing with full gusto!

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Amazing Ajji!

There was a ripple of excitement when Milind came on stage and soon the 10 k run was flagged off. The excitement was really contagious and the organizers have left no stone unturned in making women feel like stars: there were drum rolls and male cheerleaders and volunteers at every junction who were clapping for us and egging us to go on. The route itself was very scenic and it was wonderful to run it that pleasant winter sun, though I broke into a walk after 500 meters, after which I only ran whenever the next volunteer bucked us up!

The 3k run was over before we knew it. I would have liked to meet Milind again and thank him for the whole experience but he was buried under a pile of women taking selfies and I could not wait to see my patient champion of a husband and regale him with details so I rushed out. We indulged in a big breakfast at Le Plaisir. Lots of other Pinkathon runners came there as well and the mood was celebratory and upbeat.

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Can you spot the Milind? He’s in there somewhere!

Now to the part that really saddened me about this amazing event. On the way back from the 3k run, the route was completely littered with plastic mineral water bottles and Tetra packs of soy milk. They were strewn all over the road, which had been clean just an hour earlier. I just don’t understand this. All you runners, you beautiful, inspirational, empowered women who are taking a step towards health and fitness, do you not care about the health and well-being of our planet? The very same planet on which you are birthing and raising your children? You, who run with children on your back, does the weight of a tiny bottle in your hand bother you so much that you cannot wait till you see a dustbin? Just as you have decided to take charge of your fitness, can you also not take responsibility for your trash?

I really cannot fathom it. I don’t understand the place it comes from, the casualness with which a car window is rolled down and a piece of paper is chucked out. This part really soured what was an inspirational event for women from all walks of life.