Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Why add pronouns to our bio?

 She/ her

I added pronouns to my bio a couple of days back.

As a cis het woman, my gender identity was never in question. Why, then, did I feel the need to do so?

It was to show solidarity with non-binary and transgender persons, but it was also more.

To step back a bit...


Most of us have grown up thinking sex and gender are the same. But they are not.

Sex is what is assigned to you at birth based on your sexual organs.

Gender is what you identify as, regardless of what was assigned to you. Gender, unlike sex, is non binary.

There are non-binary people who do not identify as either male or female.

There are transgender people who's gender may be different to the sex assigned at birth.

Their preferred pronoun may not be obvious just by looking at them, which is why, to avoid being misgendered, they specify.

Why then, should a cis-ally add pronouns to the bio, when the gender is "obvious"?

It is essentially to display a symbolic solidarity. To tell non-binary and transgender people that they have our support, that they are normal. And to prevent misgendering.

But there is more.

Non-binary and transpersons are often the target of hate. By putting up pronouns in the bio, cis people destigmatise "otherness" and help create a community where it is harder to identify a non-binary or transgender person from a cis person.


Putting our pronouns in the bio is a small thing we can do to make non-binary and transgender people feel more accepted, and to destroy myths around gender identity.

June is #PrideMonth  

Monday, May 10, 2021

Why I do not celebrate Mothers' Day

 If I define myself at all, it is as "mother".


Becoming a mother was a life altering experience for me. It was not easy for a Type A personality to accept that precisely nothing was in her control.

Someone who stomped through life with the casual arrogance of one who believed she could do anything soon realised that practically every woman she encountered knew more than her.

It was humbling to know that babies don't come with instruction manuals. Initially, I made flow charts to determine why the baby cried- is he hungry, wet, hot, cold....., or plain fussy. But I soon surrendered them, and started relying on that most in-exact of things-instinct.

Becoming a mother taught me humility. It taught me fear. It taught me compassion.

It made me who I am.


YET, the only thing I do on Mothers' Day is wish my mother and thank her for being my mother.

Because there are many who are not mothers.

There are women who choose not to be mothers.

There are women who want to be mothers but are not able.

There are women who crave to be mothers but their situation forces them to delay.

There are mothers who lost their babies.

There are mothers who lost older children.

There are mothers who chose to abort a child, but still live with the guilt of doing so.

There are children who lost their mothers.

There are adults who lost their mothers.

There are mothers who were never there emotionally for their children

There are mothers who are disappointed in their child

There are mothers who disapprove of their life choices and keep away

Even a relationship as romaticised as the one between a mother and her child, is not always what it is made out to me.

To all those people, Mothers' Day is a travesty. It is a reminder of what they do not have. And a celebration which isn't inclusive isn't worth celebrating.

But, to all the mothers suffering from self doubt (and I doubt if there are too many who do not), I will just quote -

"There's no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one." 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Can we even Lockdown now?

Given how the number of cases is rising, it is tempting to demand a Lockdown- even Dr. Fauci recommends it. But clearly, those asking for it have no idea about the ground reality of the country.

Our healthcare system has totally broken down. We do not have sufficient hospital beds, we do not have sufficient oxygen, we do not have sufficient life saving medicines. The State does not have the resources to treat everyone who needs to be treated. In such a situation, how will Lockdown help?

Take the hypothetical case of one 47 year old who tests positive. The person is kept under home isolation, but the moment her SPO2 drops below 90, the drama begins. Her family starts the hunt for an oxygen cylinder which will keep her oxygen levels up. They run between dealers to procure oxygen and/ or medication.

When there is a Lockdown, will they be allowed free movement? Will the resources magically get procured and delivered in a contactless manner by vaccinated delivery staff?

The patient’s oxygen levels continue to drop. The family hears of a potential lead in a hospital, and bundles her and her oxygen cylinder into an auto to take her to the hospital. If she is lucky, she is given a gurney and with her oxygen cylinder she waits for a bed to become available. Her family is with her, waiting.

As long as the hospital infrastructure is absolutely inadequate to meet demand, and there remains a severe lack of confidence in the medical system, will a Lockdown prevent people from rushing their severely ill relatives to hospitals, and waiting with them till they get support? No Lockdown will contain people indoors while their relatives are dying.

The patient doesn’t recover. There are 24 hour long queues at crematoria.

Will a Lockdown help? Can mourners be kept away from cremating their own?

In the current situation where numbers are rising drastically, and the public doesn't have confidence in the system, even Lockdowns will not keep people indoors. And these are the people who are in contact with the severely ill patients, and are therefore most likely to be spreaders.

By declaring a Lockdown, all that will happen is that the families of those who are sick will be harassed even more than they are now. Last year, we saw how the Lockdown affected the socially and economically marginalised. Does it make any sense to repeat that, when the category of people who are most likely to be spreaders (the family of severely ill patients) cannot be contained by a Lockdown?

At this point, the best that the government can do is to mandate that all business that can shift to a work from home model do so. Exams can and must be cancelled. Restrictions placed on all unnecessary gatherings. Greater precautions be taken on public transport. A lockdown is neither feasible, nor possible- we need to do the best we can.

Friday, April 30, 2021

I can't breathe

 


She trashes underwater

Clawing for air

Feet weighed down. 

Sinking.

She can see the surface-

Her children, their dreams.

Nani. She wants to be a Nani.

She doesn’t want to go.


Her husband makes calls.

She needs but a simple molecule-

Two atoms of oxygen in an eternal waltz.

The bottom looms closer.

She sinks.

Gasping

Crying

“I can’t breathe”.


Her husband punches numbers.

The phone rings, unanswered.

Powerless to cut the call, he hopes.

There are no numbers left.

Helpless, he dials again.


He can’t meet her eyes.

He’s failed her- 

She who he promised to protect.

Her eyes seek his out. 

Her wide, terrified eyes.

“Save me”, they plead.

He can’t.

She’s gone.


Guilt.

Rage.

Emptiness.

Grief is a Bloody Moon.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Batch of 2021

Saturday, March 14, 2020 was like any other day for my son. He went to school, took his exam, and returned home. Some of them planned to celebrate the end of the exams on Tuesday by going out for a milkshake, so the good byes were rather hurried. Little did any of them suspect how long it would be before they met again.

That weekend, the Telangana Government declared that all schools would be shut for two weeks. The exam was hastily postponed to March 31, and my kid grumbled at having to revise Science for two weeks instead of two days. Then lockdown was announced, and extended. Somewhere, the school authorities decided to promote the entire class.

Grade 10 started with online classes. A few weeks dragged into a few months, and then into the entire year. There was a project they were working on, which lay in school abandoned. Even if we wanted to rescue it, we couldn’t have.

My son never really spoke about his classmates, but you could see he was missing school. “I wonder if someone is feeding the rabbits?”, he asked once. We concluded that it would be the goat that most missed the students and the staple diet of cold rotis and subji that they fed it.

Mid term exams came and went. The second semester began. There was talk of Practical Classes being conducted in school, but to the delight of the teachers, the parents vetoed it. Instead they were given substitute experiments they could perform at home.

We had to go to school to fill up the forms for the Board Exams. There was awkwardness when they met their classmates. It was as if the masks established barriers of formalness, and they could only be themselves while interacting online.

The curriculum got over. The online classes were for revision purposes only. This was the time when they should have been having farewells, both formal and informal. When they should have bunking classes and playing their last basketball games in the grounds that had been home for six years. When they should have been watching the last cycle of tadpoles metamorphosis into frogs in the lily pond. When they should have been reading the last books two books left unread in the school library. When they should have been reliving old memories and creating new ones what would last a lifetime. They were isolated at home, instead.

My son’s batch has been luckier than most. None among them tested positive for Covid. The parents that did were largely asymptomatic. There were no major upheavals in any of their lives. Very few of them lost family members from the extended family. But a year back, would we have considered that ‘lucky’?

The batch was supposed to have their Board Exams this year- that rite of passage that marked our graduation from kids to young adults. Despite an academic year like none other, the Board Exams were going to be as conventional as they had always been, with the addition of face masks and sanitizers.

Then the Exams were cancelled. People said they were ‘lucky’ because they passed the exams without having to take them. But is that really luck? Despite all the uncertainty, they worked hard throughout the year. They self-motivated themselves and attended the classes even though they knew the teacher would not find out if they didn’t. They adapted to a teaching methodology as unfamiliar to the teachers as it was to them. They figured out ways to seek help from each other, despite being miles apart. They were denied a ‘normal’ year, yet they did what they had to. They were also denied a logical culmination to the year- despite having prepared for them, they would have no Exams.

They should have been chilling after taking the Board Exams, trying not to think about the results. Instead they are at home, cut off from each other, unofficially locked down. They can’t bring themselves to put their books away, and to look at their ugly school uniforms one last time. They are worrying about COVID. They are trying to help connect people to resources. They are trying to distract themselves with the IPL. They try to escape reality, and they try to pretend this is what is normal.

As a batch, they have coped with more uncertainty than any other. They have developed a resilience which even many adults do not have. They have grown as people. If the Board Exams are a rite of passage, the Batch of 2021 didn’t have it, but they have learnt so much more.

They had a farewell party on Friday. They should have worn their sarees and suits. Taken lots of photographs. Eaten and drunk and danced too much. The party was on Zoom. My son didn’t attend.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Flashback 2020

Struggling to cope with the Lockdown, and worrying about my mother living alone, I forget my kids. It is not easy for them. On March 16, one was going to start grade 12, and the other had the last exam of grade 9. Instead, the Lockdown was announced. Real life was paused.
For a week, they lived in a strange No Man's Land. Coming out of two months of study leave, the older one just wanted to spend physical time with his friends. He resented being kept indoors. The younger one had one exam to go. He wanted to relax, but couldn't.
Then one day, the younger one's WA group name changed from 9 to 10. The school had decided to promote the entire batch. But we still don't know whether to pack away the grade 9 books or not. One exam hasn’t yet been conducted, after all. Assignments for the new grade are sent daily. They have a new class teacher. But I worry about how the syllabus will be covered. They do need quality time with the teachers after all.

The older one has four hours of online classes every day. They see the teacher, and they can DM each other. My kid told me he sent a message to the entire class by mistake. "No profanity, I hope", I said. "No. But you don't mind?" Why should I? I passed messages in class too. We all did.
One day, I walked in and found them chattering away. Apparently the teacher had gone offline, and mayhem had erupted as it would in any normal class. But this is not normal. It cannot even be the new normal. Online classes will only increase the distance between us and them- those who can afford wifi and those who cannot.

But the Uncertainty! When will classes resume? How will the syllabus be covered? Will the Board Exams be conducted next year? What of this year's Board Exams that not all could take? How do adolescents cope with so much uncertainty?
They are already burdened with far more than they should. Their Insta stories are full of 'Fridays for Future' or Anti CAA/ NRC stuff. They are caught in a world that is changing too fast even for them to grasp. The last thing they need is to be in a middle of a pandemic.
And yet, that is where they are. Caught in a time pause at a time when they should be moving at full throttle. As parents, all we can do is to keep the pressure off. Reassure them that no matter what, we will get through it together. And then leave it to the teachers.
So when the world resumes, whenever it does, they will be ready to take on whatever new challenges are thrown at them. And till then, there is PubG! Without that, they may not survive.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Saree-clad Superhero Army

 "Not all superheros wear capes. Many wear sarees."

The line stuck in my head the moment I heard it.

ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and other field level volunteers have emerged as true heros in the pandemic.

When I heard that two districts in Andhra Pradesh were running out of vaccine doses, my first thought was for my friend's octogenarian father. His second dose of CoviShield was due, and I hoped he would be able to get it.

Unfortunately, my fears were well founded. 

In the heat of an Indian summer, he travelled all the way to the PHC where he'd taken his first shot, only to be told that they had run out of doses.

My friend was worried- what if he didn't get the second dose at all?

"Don't worry about Tatagaru", the ASHA worker assured my friend. "I'll make sure he gets his second shot."

Two days later, she kept her promise. Through informal networks she came to know a PHC had received vaccine doses, and she took him there and got him vaccinated.


ASHA workers have a long list of duties to perform. They are constantly busy conducting awareness campaigns, monitoring expectant and new mothers, ensuring care to patients and dealing with emergencies.

Ensuring that residents receive COVID vaccination isn't one of them.

Yet, many of the ASHA workers have voluntarily taken on the burden of creating awareness, mobilizing people and taking them to PHCs to get them vaccinated.

They also end up tracking the second dose much more effectively than COWIN.

This is nothing new for them.

ASHA workers played a significant role in the success of the Polio Eradication campaign. 

People in rural areas trust ASHA workers. That can be leveraged to conduct community level vaccination drives to ensure optimal coverage.

Will it add to their existing burden? Not if the number of ASHA workers is increased. Right now, there is one ASHA worker for every 1,000 population (less if the habitations are small). That ratio can be improved by adding more ASHA workers. At this moment, there is more than enough work for all of them, and even after full vaccination, there will continue to be new things that come up to keep the additional ASHA workers engaged.

We do have a Superhero Army in Sarees. Why not use them?

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