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The time of the year

It is that time of the year when:

The wait to be in your home town becomes longer than ever.

Be in Kolkata or anywhere, the two flowers which captivates your mind are kaash & shiuli. You yearn for the fragrance of the latter over the most expensive perfumes.

You look up towards the sky during the day to find a brightly lit up space with clouds lighter than feather floating around. Some resemble a ship, some resemble a rabbit, some an ice cream cone or some an old laughing lady with open hair flying!

You don’t care about how much or what you shop & eat before or during the event.

You get loads of gifts & money from family and dear ones.

Grab all the pujoshonkhyas together and start looking for the novel/short story by your favourite authors & can’t wait to start reading them.

During the D days, it’s a madrush marathon. You start from early morning for the pandal hopping till afternoon, halt for lunch, start again, take rest, change to look your best and go for another round till dinner and if luck is on your side, you may be out throughout the night! The strategy is made for the past few months with the aim to cover north, south, east, west & central part of the city of joy! The plan often changes based on the reviews & suggestions from friends.

You get to hog the street food like never ever! Starting from fuchka & churmur followed by fish fry/finger, chicken roll, kebabs and biryani/chinese for dinner!

You never really admire the artistes & creative extravaganza of your city and the fashionistas throughout the year apart from this time of the year.

You would never really buy those heart shaped red balloons or bubble making things or red glowing devil horns any other time of the year even from India Gate.

Would cheer for your para/housing society pujo to win that award by The Telegraph or The Times of India.

Would play with vermillion like crazy with mother, grandmom, aunts and the married ladies and touch the idols for the first time in the season.

Would eat sweets & nimki like a drought torn person and touch each & every elder person’s feet till you get spondelitis and reach out for that tube of moov/volini to soothe yourself.

Run from hall to hall with your cousin bro who is more of a friend to catch the latest movies.

Before you realize it’s over for the year and time to go back to the mundane lifestyle.

The mantra for your life becomes Aschhe bochhor abar hobe! (Waiting till next year) Chant it till Diwali.

Happy Puja folks! May this year bring you lots of joy, fun & extravaganza! I’m going home! The time of the year is here!

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Why is it a big deal?

To buy something exclusively meant for a woman? No, I’m not talking about cosmetics but sanitary napkins. Especially when the shopkeeper is a male and there are other male customers around?

It may not be a big deal for several women or even men who regularly buy the above mentioned things for their partners. Unfortunately I still feel awkward in buying these things of necessity for myself. No, I have no problem if the shopkeeper is a lady or there are female customers around. It’s the male gaze which perturbs me to no end.

I still remember the day/moment when I bought the first pack of sanitary napkins. I was coming with my father from my grand parents’ place while mom was at home. I had informed her that I needed it but it wasn’t there at home. She instructed me to take money from dad & buy it. I was embarrassed to bits. Asked her why can’t dad buy it for me? He buys it for you! But the verdict was passed. I went inside the shop & whispered the noun form of this very word to the uncle. The uncle shouted the name to another guy to ensure that the entire shop & the people present there know what I’m there for. I think I also saw the guy flashing a wicked smile! Awkward & embarrassed, I sulked to mom. She said they do it everyday & they don’t even bother who is buying what! I wish! From then onwards, the pack was always available at home and I never had to buy it myself, at least while staying in my home town Kolkata.

While shifting to Delhi, mom gave me enough packs to last me for at least the next 3-4 months. My stock was refilled everytime I visited home during my vacations. After my hostel life was over and I started office, I had to come to terms with the situation and started buying it on my own & quite confidently, without making it a big deal!

Generally I club buying sanitary napkins with other stuffs, sometimes they are not necessary, still I buy them, trying to kind of camouflage the main purpose. Why do I do it? Perhaps this is the reason…

Once I could not think of anything else to buy. Absolutely nothing! I just picked up the pack & put it in the cash counter. The guy in the looked at me & asked, “That’s it? Nothing else?” Arrghh! Again that awkward moment & I could feel other customers’ gaze on me.

Another time when I asked the shopkeeper for the brand, he got it but I wanted a different one of the same brand. I told him not this one but that one. He smiled & got it. It wasn’t a big deal but still the feeling of embarrassment didn’t leave my mind.

Why? Why does our society treat menstruation as such a taboo? This has left this innate stigma in my mind related to menstruation & I’m finding hard to get rid of it. It’s just a sign of puberty when it first starts and an ensurance that the girl is capable of bearing children. Why can’t it be treated normally? Why can’t our education system include the chapter in biology in the syllabus & don’t skip it just like that? Why is it always talked in hushed tones so that our fathers, brothers & male friends don’t know about it? If we can freely talk about the Adam’s Apple or beard & moustache, why do we have to treat it as such a national secret? Everyone knows about it, but nobody talks about it. While we buy female deos, soaps, hair removing creams, we are not half as conscious. Why now?

Same happens in the case of buying condoms or other contraceptives, pregnancy test kits & related stuffs. Though I haven’t had the experience of buying them but I can very well understand the apathy of the people who have been there & done that. I heard this incident from a close friend. In our college, a girl went to a medical shop to buy a pregnancy test kit. The aged shop keeper asked her, “Why do you need it? Must have done something naughty eh? Why didn’t you take precautions?” He had no right to ask these questions to her. Such joke of shopkeepers/salesmen make things even more difficult for girls. They make people feel guilty, embarrassed nonetheless. These are anything but natural. Why can’t they take a chill pill?

But there are some good salesmen as well. I really salute their professionalism. They don’t give any awkward ‘I know what’s going on’ look or ask twice or clear throat or ask if that is all what I want. They just do their work & respect the customer and his/her privacy. I wish there were more such people who treated the chumming/about to chum women in a little more respectable or at least normal manner, not adding the woes to her already miserable state!

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