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This refers to your “issue of the year” on menstruation, I Bleed for Life (January 14, 2019). Without menstruation, there can be no motherhood—hence if menstruating women are impure, then so is all humanity. Kudos to Outlook for taking up this very pressing issue of the day. Our real national character is misogynistic, with valorisation of masculinity and patriarchy. Little wonder, women are treated as untouchables even in the 21st century in the name of protecting Indian culture, tradition and honour, and are routinely harassed, ridiculed, molested, raped and killed. The happenings at Sabarimala are just symptomatic of this all-pervasive misogyny cutting across the religious and cultural boundaries. That’s what makes India the most dangerous place for women in the world.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
With many well-researched and informative articles, your ‘issue of the year’ is an eye-opener, presenting the topic from various perspectives. Kudos to the Outlook team for bringing up a topic that is considered taboo in many societies, including ours. Here is a poem I wrote on the same theme.
Bleeding life, at times death Shakti retains her fertility When the earth bleeds Witnessed by literature and sculptures Bleeding liberates, does not confine Why not revamp our values and faith?
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
This refers to Profane Marks of Sacred Blood by Nalini Natarajan, who writes: “Grumbling about being excluded during the ‘curse’ is one of the staples of female bonding across castes and classes. This is more so in societies like India where this most normal higher-mammalian occurrence is treated as a polluted, untouchable, shameful state.” This generalisation cannot be justified with facts, at least in the context of Kerala, where Sabarimala is located. In almost all the Hindu communities in the state, the first menstruation of a girl, when she is hailed as “pushpini” or “rithumathi”, is celebrated not just by her family, but also by others in society. The girl is decked up in the fineries of an adult. There are special songs for the joyous occasion and the entire neighbourhood is invited. In Brahmin households, ukkarai, a typical Diwali sweet, is prepared. In the typically matrilineal community of Nairs, this event is even more elaborately celebrated. It is not embarrassing for the girl to be the focus of all attention, decked out beautifully as an adult, which gives her the proud feeling that she could from then on become a mother.
Even goddesses are worshipped because they menstruate. At the Ambubasi Mela during monsoons in Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, lakhs of devotees, almost all from the marginalised sections of Hindu society, gather to witness a phenomenon they consider sacred: The goddess bleeds! She undergoes ‘menses’ and rejuvenates her menstruation cycle. This period is considered auspicious for all those immersed in Shakti worship. What looks like a primitive ritual is actually a larger celebration of a profound concept in nature. The goddess is prayed to for her power of rejuvenation and revitalisation—the closest possible metaphor for nature being worshipped as mother. Menstruating women are potential mothers and are thus objects of worship.
C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Yours was an exceedingly empathetic issue about the cause of poor and marginalised women, and their travails due to baseless traditions and dreadful customs on menstruation. It has broken the Gordian knot of prejudice by cogently arraying the scientific realities on physiological facts boldly and convincingly. It covered the whole gamut of mythological musings to negative mores, and underpinned the necessity for valiantly rising above the folly of ostracism. The corporal actuality, biological reality and medical verity of women make them the victims of temporary exile, exclusion in dwelling areas, negation on social occasions and banishment from partaking of growth in all avenues. As the majority of people live from hand to mouth, it makes the sanitary napkin seem like a luxury even though it is a necessity for women. The Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equality of men and women, but all the governments so far have not taken the gender-related needs of women seriously. Policy-makers must walk the talk by crafting reoriented policies to lift women out of the quagmire of regressive social attitudes. Women demand freedom from norms and prejudices that hamper their functional liberty.
B. Rajasekaran, Bangalore
Sabarimala reminds us of absurd ideas of purity on which the caste system is based.
Samuel Joseph, Rayagada
This refers to your story Money Trail Gone Cold (January 14), which shows the extent to which our judiciary finds itself beleaguered when it comes to improving the abysmally low conviction rate in high-profile scams. The legal procedure before reaching the stage of conviction is so cumbersome, involving collection of evidence, submission of investigation reports and a series of court proceedings, that the gravity of the cases gets diluted with time and immunity is accorded to the accused. Sometimes, before the final judgment arrives, the influential criminals would have reached powerful positions where they make the rules and turn the tide in their favour. Courts, therefore, need to devise methods for reducing procedural delays in cases of national importance.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This refers to your story on loan waivers for farmers (Seeds of Politics in Debt-trap Farm, January 14). In the wake of victory in three heartland states, Congress president Rahul Gandhi coming out strongly in favour of farm loan waivers across the country is regressive. It’s an idea that penalises honest farmers, encourages defaulters and sets the country back in the development race. It does not benefit all farmers in distress as only a fourth or so get institutional credit, and tenant farmers, who form a sizable percentage, are outside the purview of the waivers. Pre-poll waivers are a means for political parties to score brownie points with farmers in election season rather than actually improve their lot. In contrast, schemes framed by the Telangana government to mitigate agrarian distress have benefited farmers in the state. It would have made sense if other state governments followed the Telangana model instead of announcing waivers.
K.S. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to The Loud Sound of Silence (January 14), your story on the arrest of Suman Chattopadhyay, editor of Ei Samay, a Bengali daily from the Times of India stable, by the CBI. After hearing the news on All India Radio’s Bengali news bulletin, I tried in vain to find details of the scam in which Chattopadhyay is allegedly involved. As a regular reader of Outlook, since its very first issue, and also of Ei Samay,
I was happy to see your story. But you too avoided mentioning the name of the correspondent. It was your only story without a byline.
Bipradip Bandyopadhyay, Delhi