Worshipping while Menstruating- Why not?

WHY EVER NOT?

Its amazing to realize how, sometimes, your beliefs can rule your life. Even when those beliefs border on the lines of superstition, you still allow them to take over you. I’m not talking about person A, B or C. I’m talking about myself. I’m frustrated to think that I’m allowing my religious beliefs to clash with my superstitions because of which my decisions are being influenced.

I had a long and fierce discussion with R & my mother about the same. While I voiced my inhibitions, they were constantly urging me to shed them and go by what my belief and faith ask of me and not what some ridiculous ideologies/ superstitions want me to do.

I’ve been wanting to initiate Namnam to music for a while. And since she had been showing an inclination towards it lately, I thought I’ll introduce her to the world of music this year on Vijayadashami.

Vijayadashami is considered to be an auspicious occasion to start formal education of any kind. On Ashthami, the eighth day of Navarathri, children keep their books, musical instruments, etc. for pooja, which are taken back and used after pooja on Vijayadashami, the tenth day.

Now there is a slight glitch here, which is making me withdraw my plans, much against my wish. And that is the clashing of Vijayadashami with my menstrual cycle.

According to Hinduism, the religion I follow(sometimes blindly, I wonder), a woman is not allowed to take part in any kind of religious ceremonies for the first four days of her menstrual cycle. She cant go to temple, do poojas, eat prasadams or offerings from temples, churches, or mosques. Partake in festivals. She cant enter the kitchen. In a nutshell, she is ostracized. So much so that she is made to feel like a sinner if she goes against such beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.

This has been going on for ages, for generations. Those 4-5 days women are considered ‘impure’ or ‘polluted’. Its so disturbing to even write about it.

In some parts of our country women are confined to a shed/hut and allowed to eat dry foods, salt and rice as though they are being punished for some crime. Preposterous!

And this is where I’m frustrated. I know how ridiculous it sounds to me, and yet I’ve been following it blindly for as long as I can remember. Why? Because all my life the reasoning that my religion presented to me was that God doesnt approve of women worshipping Him during their menstrual period. And if I wanted to defy that reasoning, I couldn’t because I didnt want to invite God’s wrath.

When I hit puberty, I remember very vividly how disturbed I was , when I was told that I’ll not be taken to the temple or allowed to light a diya. I could very clearly see the agony, the pain in my mother’s eyes as she forbade me. I was so shaken up that I had cried into my pillow that night- something even my parents dont know about till today.

I remember an incident when we had gone to Kerala on one of our summer vacations. The entire family had planned a temple visit and as my luck would have it I got my period. My Ma, the rebel that she is, decided to stay mum about it and take me to the temple, come what may. Of course I was asked to keep mum about it too. But one of the aunts overheard us and word got around just when we were about to reach the temple. Oh dear, the accusing glances that my mother & I had to endure!! As though the whole town had got polluted! I could sense how helpless my mother felt at that moment. As expected I was not allowed to go the temple :(. I’ll never forget this incident as it brought forth the regressive and backward line of thinking of my society.

Thats how it is isnt it?? We steer clear of questioning any illogical reasoning for the sheer fear of being shunned by the society. So we bind ourselves to the ridiculous customs and let our lives be taken over by them.

I’ve wondered all my life why does a woman have to be ostracized for something that is one of the most natural and important functions. Ok agreed, in olden days it would have been hygienic. But today, we have sanitary pads, we have other clean ways of handling the situation. Then why this need to seclude women?

If God is the one who created us, as is preached universally, then He would surely have thought about this particular function well enough to understand it to be an important aspect of a woman’s body and NOT something to be shunned , right? If He were to disapprove of us women worshipping Him, then why would he give us this function in the first place, while creating us? If we have faith in God, then cant we believe that He will be reasonable enough to understand us?

What I’m trying to say is that such beliefs are nothing but brought about by some religious fanatics to propel their ridiculous ideologies. And sadly such beliefs are still being practiced by fools like me.

Today, I feel overwhelmed as a mother, when I think about the situation when in a few years Namnam will reach her puberty. What do I do then? What do I tell her then? Can I tell her that worshipping God can never be wrong, in whatever circumstances one is in? Can I tell her that so long as she and her God know she is ‘pure’ and her devotion is pious, no society can forbid her or decide for her when she should worship or why she should or should not worship? I hope to God I can. I hope to God I do.

After a constructive discussion with R & my Ma, I’m seriously driven to defy these very illogical beliefs and go ahead with full faith in my God and initiate Namnam to music.

Maybe I should. Maybe I will, if I want to raise my child in a prejudice-free environment.

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EDITED TO ADD: Here’s wishing one and all a wonderful, joyous and blessed time this festive season. Happy Dussehra to everyone!

Tag time

Its been a while since I’ve done a tag. I normally reserve it for occasions when I dont have anything interesting to share otherwise. And this is one such occasion :).

Amrita has tagged me to share a few tidbits about my life. So here’s how it goes…

1. Indebted to someone for life:

Jayanti, without a doubt. Many of you know who she is. In fact I’ve even written a letter telling her how indebted I’m to her. She has been with my parents for close to 4 years. She is not just a care-taker or a helper to them, but a daughter in many ways. Someone who is very sensitive to their needs, who knows what their likes and dislikes are, who looks after them like her own parents.

Everytime I leave Delhi with a heavy heart, my only concern is Achan & Amma’s welfare. But its her ever-smiling face that gives me an assurance that I’ve nothing to worry.

No amount of thank you’s will be enough for what she has been to me and my family. I’m eternally grateful to her for being there for us.

And today and everyday I pray to God that she is blessed with all the happiness in the world that she so rightfully deserves.

2. A gesture that left me speechless

This was in August 2007. We lived in Muscat. R was away on a business trip. Namnam was suffering from fever. Although she had a history of febrile convulsion, it had been a while since it had relapsed as we had been able to regulate the temperature whenever she had fever. So it never struck me that she could have her bouts again.

I still don’t know what went wrong that day, but she had her convulsions again. It was late evening. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to drive, who to call for help as some of our friends were either out-of-town or lived away. I was as helpless as could be. I took her in my arms, ran to the next door and rang the bell. I couldn’t even wait for the person to answer the door. I rushed to our landlords’ house who lived in the ground floor.

To tell you a bit about out landlords, they were not a very favorable bunch of people to be around. They were a rude lot who had had at least one altercation with whoever came in contact with them. They were very difficult people to handle. Our friends from Muscat would vouch for that.

But your landlords’ behavioral problem is the last thing to cross your mind when your child is convulsing in your arms.

Anyway, when I went down for help, what I got to see was not the rude, brash side of my landlord, but a noble and kindhearted one. When he saw Namnam’s condition, he immediately called for his driver(who, thankfully stayed in the same house), and asked him to take us to the hospital. He even told him to wait in the hospital so he could bring us back home once she was treated.

That one gesture has stayed with me ever since. Thats when I realized the true worth of having good neighbors. They were truly God-sent for me.

3. Say ‘Sorry’ to someone

To all my friends from whom I’ve drifted apart for whatever reasons- be it my childhood friends, friends I made in school, college and at work, those I made in Muscat and Doha, all of them. I want to say sorry to even those virtual friends who I ‘met’ through the beautiful medium of blogging, but with whom I lost track as I moved on in this journey making newer friends.

I want them all to know that even though time and circumstances may have drifted us apart from each other, yet I treasure each of the friendship close to my heart.

4. Say ‘Thank you’ to someone

To God for giving me the most precious gift. My Namnam. My family and most of my friends know how much I yearned to be a mother. I remember spending many a nights crying my heart out for not being able to conceive. There were days when I’d pray endlessly for that one signal from Him that would quash all sorts of unpleasant doubts creeping into my mind.

And then after much yearnings and prayers Namnam came into our lives as the most precious gift from God.

5. Most cherished possession till date

It’s a wrist-watch gifted by my father when I passed my 10th class board exam which was way back in 1992. And it has been with me ever since.

6. A special moment that brings a smile to my face

Now that’s a tough one! Only recently I was going through some of the old snaps of Namnam and I realized each one of them made me smile. So let me share one of them with you.

This was taken in when Namnam had just turned one. She was at a stage where she had begun to identify her body parts. We had taken a whole sequence of pictures where she identified her ears, teeth, eyes,etc.

The image I’m sharing below is one where she responds to us when we asked where her nose was 🙂

Did that make you smile too?? 🙂

I’m leaving this tag open to anyone who would like to take it up. In case you do pick it up, please share a link too 🙂