3 out of 5 for my scan

Going for any sort of medical, diagnostic procedure in India is an experience by itself. With there being a sea of humanity waiting to be tested, screened, scanned, poked or probed; the staff doesn’t really care about small first-world things such as feelings, discretion, propriety etc.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no grand illusions about me being a snowflake but at the same time I do get awkward if you are drinking chai or discussing which Shanti Sagar has the best chutney with four other people in the room when you are moving an ultrasound probe inside me.

I was undergoing my follicular study which basically means I was having a transvaginal ultrasound every week. Going to the same diagnostic center each week, establishes a strange relationship with those there. You don’t want to wave and shake hands in greetings of course, but neither can you waltz in with a poker face. So with awkward smiles, you sit and wait your turn.

Since the wait time typically for each of the scans is a minimum of two hours, I carry my Kindle and my laptop. I have been a silent listener to conversations around the modern day evils of technology, women in cities and the rise in infertility because of the use of laptops. I have no idea how laptops cause infertility in women unless one placed a searing hot Macbook on one’s abdomen and singed an ovary.

After about 10 pregnant women have gone in before me, I get called for my scan. Like a pro, I drop my pants and lie down waiting for the diagnostician to do her magic. The staff by now knows that I have been married for seven years and am sexually active therefore doesn’t feel the need to let me know before inserting a cold, lubricated probe inside me.

As I lie there being probed, my mind travels through a zillion places – why are there 4 additional women in the room (apart from the doctor and the lady who types up the report)? What kind of business model allows for it? This is like having that guy in the mall press a button for my parking ticket or like that guy who punches a hole in my receipt as I exit the department store. Oooh…I need to go to the supermarket to buy milk.  Suddenly, the diagnostician says I have one follicle on my right ovary that seems to have grown well. I swell in pride as though I personally watered it and raised it to good health.

After a few more pokes and prods, I am sent my way with my follicle report card and me red with hope and pride about my ovary’s superb performance.

The next day I receive a call from a call center associated with the diagnostic clinic asking me to rate the experience of my procedure on a scale of 1 – 5. I incredulously asked the woman on the other side, if she was aware of the procedure I went through. She said, “Yes madam, this is to get feedback on your TVS scan on xyz date.”  I thought back about the coldness and vague aches due to the prodding but I also remembered that’s about as much action I was getting that week since husband dearest was busy trekking the Himalayas then.

I replied with utmost seriousness, “Since my husband wasn’t in town this week, I will give you a 3.” The woman completely unflappable made me repeat it and typed the score and my comment. She thanked me for my positive feedback and hoped that I will continue to avail of the services in their clinics.

I still don’t know if this is being aired on some radio channel or some TV network as one of those prank calls. So if you do hear of it on air some place, let me know.

If it is not a prank, I am seriously amazed by the customer centricity of this chain and weird as it is, feel like a valued customer. Maybe they have a Facebook page I can Like.

 

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Why am I talking about this?

Apparently 1 in 10 couples in India struggle with infertility. It shouldn’t be surprising given that we see as many or more number of IVF clinics as Dr.Batra’s hair transplant hoardings. But what is also interesting is that given how common it seems to be, it is incredibly hard to talk about. Let me rephrase that – it is incredibly hard to talk about to someone’s face. I am pretty sure any couple married for over three years with no kids is being discussed in some Indian household.

But for the couple in question, it is hard on so many levels! How do you explain constantly going missing for a few hours from work?  How do you explain that ugly adhesive square on your arm caused by the square sticker after countless blood tests? How do you explain cancelling weekend plans because you need to go get shots? How do you explain being broke with no visible sign of the money spent?

I am talking about this because I am sick of not being able to. I have the ludicrous privilege of having a husband who is both supportive when I have to cry and can also laugh in equal measure when you cannot do anything but just that.  I have parents on both sides who have been incredibly kind. I have friends who allowed me to crash at their place when treatments failed and I didn’t want to go home. Not everyone is this lucky.

I am also talking about it because for all my gratitude I am also deeply aware that literally 14 people in my life know about the struggle. I have been in forums (the Indian ones) where everyone sounds sad, plaintive, beseeching to gods and I was left wondering why I am not experiencing any such extremes. I stalked UK and US forums and was left scratching my head when they spoke about mandatory counseling and therapy whereas here there is no such thing. I heard some really funny jokes about ultrasound probes (which I thought were only in my head) from women I admire and I wondered about why aren’t we reading or hearing more of these!

And you can ask me why on earth should this be everybody’s business and I will tell you that in most cases, the silence is not by choice. The stigma, the insensitive questions, the ridiculous solutions people offer, the pity, the gossip, dealing with the idea that your body is failing you, worrying about what it will do to your relationships – professional or personal , one or all of these are deterrents. There is no “normal” in this conversation.

Also I am doing this because I find listening to stories helpful and I cannot keep these many jokes in my head. So here we are.

One more thing – my husband is a rock star (my rock and a star ha!) and also struggles, feels confused about many of these things I will be writing about. But his story is not mine to tell. That’s why what I am sharing will be mostly me (except for some of his unmissable jokes)…not because we weren’t in it together but because he should be free to hold the pen if and when he chooses to.

Sometimes just being in a place wipes you out…

Maybe a childhood home, maybe a café where you have had a lot of difficult conversations or a work place you never want to go back to. What is strange is when the heaviness comes from a place you have never been before.

I have never been to Nepal before. I have seen pictures of the Himalayan ranges and then some of the city in the news during 2015. But as I walked the streets, along with the smells and sounds was a wisp of sadness. Something I couldn’t put my finger on but I could feel in the crack of every broken building, every electric pole with mangled wires and every pothole along the way.

It makes me sound like I am from some developed country where none of these exist. But that is not true. Where I come from, the cracks in the buildings somehow feel like they ooze anger, the mangled wires shock enough to tell that they are live and the potholes, well…they are filled with the curses of those who drive over them.

Maybe it is me who brought that wisp of sadness. Asking questions on why it feels calm when there should be rage. Is what we see contentment or resignation to fate? Was that laughter or was that a sigh? If there are enough prayer flags and wheels does it bring peace? Is it peace or is it apathy? Does seeing grief in someone’s tired eyes, remind me of happiness within reach back home? Shouldn’t there be guilt if someone else’s arduous life makes me feel more than a twinge of gratitude for my own? Why am I constantly scanning faces for some extreme reaction? Am I seeking validation for screams ringing in my ears?

Sometimes just being in a place wipes you out. But most of the times, being in my head does the trick.

The Day After

It is the next day.
Pink pamphlets torn,
Full price mani-pedi &
Fewer floral messages
On my phone.

Their job has been done,
Their purpose served.
What more do you want –
A pat on the back or
For me to lower my gun?

Stop whining and playing your card,
Waving your flags fighting for a cause.
You have it easy at every turn on the way-
Climbing the ladder,
Sleeping your way.

Go back into the box I drew for you
Say the words I spoke for you
Feel the feelings I told you to feel
Give me your body,
To choose for you.

You are afterall defined by me
A wife, sister or daughter
Or a slut if you are free.
Come on my dear, don’t ask for more
You have a whole fucking day that I don’t.

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The hurt of being a woman and seeing the results of the U.S elections

I spent an entire day yesterday in sadness and quite frankly bewilderment. I was torn between thinking about writing this and wondering if it is my place to do so – considering I am an Indian citizen, an able-bodied, cisgender, Hindu, upper-caste, heterosexual woman in a same-race relationship where both of us are college educated, employed and come from privilege in a country that is going through its own tumultuous growing pains.

I am writing this from the core of my identity as a woman because that is the part of me that feels most beaten and bruised right now. I am at a stage where I am yet to get to thinking about how we will explain this to children in schools or at home because quite frankly I do not think I understand it enough for me to be able to explain this to anyone else with that level of conviction or hope.

I am feeling a deep rooted sense of disgust by how this win has legitimized sexual assault. It makes my skin crawl to read Nigel Farage’s statement which mocks at the idea of Trump being a sexual predator when he says, “don’t touch her for goodness sake” when talking about meeting with Theresa May. It is NOT amusing to hear this when you are a part of a group that experiences microaggressions each day around touch, consent and space. I am not saying that all of this didn’t happen before this election but it has now become the new “normal” and that makes me sick. I am appalled by how “guy talk” is now an openly acceptable defense for conversations that actually could be construed as criminal offense. I am extremely worried for friends who may now need to think of getting an IUD before January 20th

As someone ensconced in their own bubble of beliefs and values, I take full responsibility for not connecting with the other side and being blindsided by the ideological divide that runs so deep. But I definitely do not shoulder responsibility for signing up for this – I was ready to have arguments about pantsuits, being “emotional”, how being a woman doesn’t excuse you for corruption, on why anyone should not be expected to smile more to be “likeable” and more such. I was not ready to go back redraw the basics tenets of decency.

To all those in India who are reading this and wondering why I am taking all of this so seriously considering I don’t live in the U.S or to those who take pride in us electing Indira Gandhi and therefore do not see this as our issue – I am equally disgusted and sickened when Mulayam Singh Yadav makes comments on how boys make mistakes (while referring to rape) or when I hear senior members of the police force talk about how if during rape fighting back is not an option, it is best to lie back and enjoy the experience. It is just as bad when you express a political opinion not aligned with the popular view and the trolls immediately threaten sexual violence or begin the diatribe with body shaming, slut shaming or any form of abuse that belittles who you are as a woman.

I am not one of those who looks blindly to the West in aspiration on issues of gender but it truly sucks to be a woman and see all of this play out across the world in far harsher degrees than what it ought to be in 2016.

Fuck breaking the glass ceiling – it is back to feeling grateful if your body, your voice, your intellect, your being is respected as human and not some second rate “creature” and if you can escape each day feeling unscathed or a little less dirty.

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More parents bother me than their kids do

Before I begin, let me state that I do not have kids yet and I disallow you to dismiss me off as a carefree, millennial with no responsibilities, tons of cash to spare and probably a frigid soul. I honestly do respect your decision to have children, I really do and I expect you to return the favour.

Now that we have that out of the way -let me share my two cents on this whole Indigo “child-free” zone fiasco.

Over the past few months, I have been irked multiple times about Indigo’s need to monetize every single seat, leaving only terrible middle seats on the rear end of the aircraft. I also think that this whole zone idea in a budget airline in India makes no sense considering there aren’t any physical barriers to block sounds and neither is there any distinguishing service (no, getting a dried out sandwich and a MinuteMaid doesn’t count). Lastly, I do think it is discriminatory if you are a parent, who is willing to pay and still doesn’t get seats with more leg room. If you have a toddler or an infant, you deserve to board first and get the necessary space to feed and rest with the child.

But there is a slightly different issue here – I have been seeing responses that talk about how adults aren’t any better and there is a litany of woes about mobile phone usage, manspreading, getting up from seats before the plane is done taxiing, misbehaving with women passengers and the crew,  leaving toilets unclean and what not. Yes, it is true and it is terrible but that still doesn’t make the behavior of many kids on flights any less awful.

Cross your heart and tell me that you really believe that ONLY kids who have earaches or any other physical need cry on flights. I have been on multiple flights where I have had my seat being kicked by a child constantly. When I look behind, I see the parent either completely disengaged or worse look at the child with eyes filled with pride and joy. I have had conversations with parents who think it is really cute when their kids pull my hair and I think otherwise. I have had moms who say “Beta, why is this aunty not smiling at you? Let’s make her smile! <insert strange baby talk and face touching> ”  I have seen kids mashing bread with water and then spreading it on the seat – this maybe a great kindergarten activity to build motor skills but it is disgusting when you are on a non-stop 12 hour flight. Once again, conversations with parents lead to shrugged shoulders, quick assertions on how “kids will be kids” and worse an argument about how they have paid equally for the flight and therefore anything goes.

You recall the never ending list of terrible things that adults do? Well yeah, when those very adults have kids and their kids behave like mini versions of their parents – being callous, discourteous and conceited, I have a problem with that. When I hear the idea of a kid-free zone, I get dreamy because I envision a zone where both those adults and their kids are not around when I am crammed in a wafer thin seat.

Also you cannot possibly believe that my existence centers around you and your child. So when I pull out a laptop and am furiously typing, it is not to show you up but to finish some work before a crazy deadline (Also side note: check gender bias when you rant about corporates and working people. It may not necessarily mean men or black suits).

Flights are hard for kids and I am happy to help with reading a book, figuring out a quiet game, walking the aisle or just holding a baby while the parent on the adjacent seat needs to use the restroom or eat. I have met amazing kids while travelling but I most often see them with parents or guardians who are considerate individuals themselves.

When space is so less, we are bound to get into each other’s nerves. Being less obnoxious whether you are a parent or not can help go a long way.

Would I pay Indigo more for a kid-free zone seat? Absolutely not! But would I pay to get away from obnoxious adults and their kids? Hell yeah! If I can afford it.

Notes for the movie Pink

I watched Pink last evening and more than the movie itself, I could not help dwell on the snatches of conversations I overheard during and immediately after the movie as people were leaving the theater. I made some notes for those who saw the movie and for those who are thinking of seeing it soon.

  • The movie is a bit too close to reality for many urban, working women at some point in their lives (especially if we are/were from the NCR region). So when you sit in the theatre and say things like “bahut social hai yaar”, “thoda aur entertaining hona chahiye tha”, “slow hai” etc. it is hard not to take it personally and wonder if you want our struggles to be more fast-paced or glamorized
  • If you feel like the movie makes a bigger fuss than necessary, talk to the women in your life. Just have the courage to ask them what goes on typically when we go out for a run, when we go to get dinner with friends, when we are at work, when we are just trying to be. Don’t be surprised, if you hear some really raw, jarring stories. But also don’t be surprised, if you hear the echoing of your sentiment of how it is too much of a fuss really. Many of us women don’t even realize or choose to be numb on how we construct all of our actions around not getting raped.
  • If you feel like you keep circling back to the question “did they take the money or not”, just pause and remind yourself that you are probably missing the whole point of the conversation
  • If you think “No means No” is too complicated a message because many times of course women just say things and don’t mean it. Take a pause – it is hard to dismantle decades of indoctrination through movies and every other system of information dissemination. You don’t need to be transformed at the end of 2 hours 15 minutes, you need to be able to have the capacity to accept the hypothesis that women do mean what they say and try to see what it could mean for the interactions with those around you. Treat it like an experiment if you will.

Lastly, I know it is just a movie, there is a lot to be done, of course the “system” needs fixing and of course “some women also sometimes really exploit the situation to make the most of it”, which makes for great post movie auto/car ride conversation. But also remember the following:

Right from the time in the morning we have the momentary hesitation of going downstairs to collect the newspaper without a bra under our t-shirt, to the way we hold our bags in public spaces when we go to work/college, to telling a joke and then replaying it at least a few times over wondering if it was unnecessarily “forward”, to looking at a picture of ourselves and think if it can be misused or morphed easily, to making sure different guys drop us back to our PG because we don’t want to be linked with just one but at the same time making sure it is not too many different boys lest someone thinks you are not the ‘right’ type, to quickly scanning men around you in elevator spaces and check off if you are feeling safe or should you get off on the next floor and just take the stairs – all of these are few of the many many thoughts that are fleeting, unconscious and so natural to us as women that it doesn’t even seem crazy  to have them.

Pink could be many things and I don’t mean to rule over your movie choices but the one thing to remember – it is not exaggerated.

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