Mandala art by a beginner

Living with Endometriosis-II

Its ok to NOT be OK! While my first article on endometriosis was about the positives, today I will focus on my vulnerabilities. I am sure it’s going to be difficult to write this one, but I will still try.

My experience with periods started with my sister telling me that I was impure during those 5 days. That’s how the society works right? During those days, I was not allowed to help Dadu to pluck flowers for morning Puja. I was not allowed to sit beside Maa when she did the Puja. This created a negative impression about this whole thing in my head and to top it all, the pain almost killed me every month.

When I decided that I will pursue my graduation from Delhi, I was mainly worried about how I would manage my periods and the anxiety, and the pain related to it all by myself. But I guess we find our ways to deal with problems. Going through pain every month, dysmenorrhea, weakness, were inevitable. Sometimes I had to take pain killer injections for relief. There were days when I used to be all by myself in my PG room without anybody around. Many a times I puked and kept lying there because the pain was so severe that I could hardly move. After a few hours, when I felt slightly better, I would clean up my mess.

After about five years in Delhi, I found my gynae through my sister. She put me on medication which helped me in every sense. I started living a normal life and I totally made sure I made the most of it. The periods were not painful, and I could make plans any day of the month. Nothing could stop me anymore, but myself!

After about five years, I guess I got bored of my normal life and stopped the medication for a month or two. I heard a lot of people saying that these medicines have side effects and may lead to infertility. I had always wanted to have a child. I stopped the medicines without consulting my doctor. So, after two months the endometriosis pain came back with full force. It was worse than what it used to be and had spread. I could feel it. It started getting worse with every month.

I went back to my gynae and told her how foolish I was. She tried putting me back on the same medicines, which did not help. She tried more medicines on me, but nothing helped. I went to 5-7 other doctors after that in search of some cure/relief. I even travelled to Hyderabad to seek another doctor’s help.

One day the pain was so bad that I went to Moolchand hospital (a different doctor) and upon examining me she suggested that I should get operated immediately to confirm it was endometriosis. So, after two days, I was admitted to the hospital. I take this opportunity to thank all my friends who were there to support me around at that point of time. My parents, who resided in a different city could only join me later. After the minimal invasive surgery, I was diagnosed with recto-vaginal endometriosis Grade 4. I was told that most of the endometrium and adhesives were burnt and I should get some relief now. During the time of discharge, they handed me a CD of the surgery and I could only gather strength to watch it only recently.

Me just before the surgery!

But endometriosis for me turned out be like a possessive ex-lover, who after being turned down would come back with even more passion. So once again, the pain was back after just a month of the surgery and it was WORSE! The days of pain increased from 5 to 10 to 15 and sometimes 20 days. Imaging getting just 5-10 days in a month to actually live your life the way you wanted.

During my visits to the doctor, ultrasounds, and MRIs I was told by every doctor, technician and assistant that I should get married and try having a baby at the earliest. And that created a different kind of pressure.

Yes, I got married (did not rush at all) and had a baby (which was a miracle I believe) without any complication and I am full of gratitude today.

I am currently on medications which stop my periods for a trimester and then I start all over again. My periods, when they come continue to be extremely painful. I take painkillers but they don’t always work. At the end of every trimester, I am stressed and anxious. I don’t feel OK about it, but I am learning to live with it.

My Kantha story

As a child I was never fascinated with draping saaris. In fact I used to find it messy when my mom had to wear it the whole day. It’s not a comfortable outfit for me, and people who know me would have an idea that I generally prefer to wear comfortable clothes. But there was this one saari in particular that I always used to covet. My granny had gifted this beautiful bright yellow saari with black/brown embroidery on it to my eldest sister. My granny got it especially stitched for her as a wedding gift. And apparently, it took more than a month for it to be stitched. I had no understanding then, of the effort that goes into the making of saaris in general and that one in particular. It was only later that I got to know that it was called a Kantha saari!

Kantha is one of the oldest forms of embroidery that originated in India. Its origins can be supposedly traced back to the ancient pre-Vedic ages. ‘Kantha’ means ‘rags’ in Sanskrit, which reflects the fact that Kantha embroidery is made up of discarded or worn-out garments or clothes. A unique traditional art, Kantha work is a particular kind of embroidery done on old sarees, dhotis and other apparel. Women often use old saaris and other clothes, layering them with the Kantha stitch to make small blankets and bedspreads, for children. My mom made some kanthas for my newborn too. It is a popular art form practiced in Bengal, especially in Bolpur, and in Bihar. While it was developed mostly to make use of old and worn-out clothes, it began to be used as an embroidery pattern on saaris and other fabrics as well. It generally consists of a simple running stitch in the form of motifs such as animals, birds, flowers, simple geometrical shapes and scenes from everyday life. What caught my attention while I was reading about the art form is that it is a craft widely practiced by women in rural Bengal, and it knows no boundaries of class or status. Be it a woman in a small village or a rich landlady, both devote their skills and talents to use Kantha for their clothing, either out of need or just out of interest.

One of the Kantha’s for the new born. My niece and mom made this one.

Ever since I was ok with the idea of draping a saari I wanted to get hold of my sister’s Kantha saari. I requested my sister if I could borrow it for a while and she happily obliged. Finally, one day I got a chance to wear it. It was an office Diwali celebration day where people had to wear ethnic wear. It was maybe not the right occasion to wear that saari but I couldn’t help myself. I definitely shone that day and won the best dressed female at office (Miss Phooljhari).

2011

My love for Kantha did not end there. It has only grown with time. I had explicitly requested my mom to gift me a Kanthasaari whenever she wanted to gift me something. That occasion and the perfect kantha for me came in quite late! My mother had gifted me this saari on the occasion of my baby shower, which among Bengalis is popularly known as ‘shaad’. I had planned to wear it for my shaad which was scheduled for 15th August, 2019. However, my baby had other plans and decided to say hello to the world on that particular day. So I did not have a shaad and neither did I get to wear the saari. I waited for occasions after that to flaunt my Kantha saari but couldn’t manage one.

It was my bestie’s wedding last month and I decided to wear a bright pink silk saari for the occasion but then on that particular day something went wrong with the decided saari and I chose to wear the kantha instead. Incidentally, on the same day in a phone call with my mother, she reminded me to drape the Kantha saari. I was not sure if that was the right choice because it’s not the usual choice for people in North India to wear a Kantha during weddings. But I did, and I think I shone in my own way. The saari brought out the best in me because it’s a colorful kantha and an abstract one making it stand out. I felt beautiful wearing it finally!

2021

That’s my Kantha story and I hope the story continues!

Living with endometriosis

Me and my best friend #hotwaterbag

Since this is my first article on my experience living with endometriosis, I guess it would be good to start on a positive note. In this post, I am going to share with you some of the positive things I’ve learnt through living with endometriosis. Just to give you context, the last time I had my periods I was sick for almost 20 consecutive days. I will write about my painful experiences another time.

For those who are not aware of this term, endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of one’s uterus (which breaks during the menstrual cycle), also known as the endometrium, grows outside the uterus as well. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows on your ovaries, bowel, and tissues lining your pelvis. The hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle affect the misplaced endometrial tissue, causing the area to become inflamed and painful. This means the tissue will grow, thicken, and break down. Over time, the tissue that has broken down has nowhere to go and becomes trapped in your pelvis.

I was diagnosed with stage 4 recto-vaginal endometriosis in the year 2014 after a minimal invasive surgery (laparoscopy). But I have been suffering the ill-effects of this condition ever since I got my first cycle. The exact cause of endometriosis is not currently fully understood hence there is no definite cure.

Let us now talk about the good things that came along with this condition (ironical as it may sound).

It gave me strength! As they rightly say ‘that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. When I decided that I will be coming to Delhi for pursuing higher studies, the first worry that hit me was how would I manage my periods, the pain and my anxiety. What would I do without my mom being around? But then I did come to Delhi and learnt to manage and deal the pain without much help. I chose to make this my strength rather than make it a weakness.

It sure built my patience! When medicines didn’t work, what choice did I have? I cried, I shrieked every time. I fainted many a times with the pain, but I carried on. Slowly the pain increased from 5 days to 10-15 days, which has now come to 20 days. I do not have a control over the duration or the limits of my pain. So the one thing I can do is to have patience and keep trying different strategies. And see I am still around!

Got introduced to yoga! While trying to find options to make my life less miserable, after the laparoscopy I decided to start yoga lessons. And that changed quite a few things in my life except endometriosis. Yoga brought some calmness to my life.  And, it definitely gave me strength to deal with the disorder month after month.

My biggest fear around endometriosis has been that I will never get to be a mom. Every time I used to go for an ultrasound, I used to hear doctors say that it will be difficult for me to conceive. As people say if you really want something you will get it. And here I have my baby boy sitting next to me, playing with my notebook and pen while I am writing this note.

Less is more! Even with just 10-15 days of pain-free time, life seemed like a gift and I tried making the most of those days. Although I manage my office and my kid during the painful days (home not so much because I have a caring husband) effectively, you should meet me on days when I am absolutely pain free. I try to do 5 things at one go (not because I have to but because I want to make up for the lost time). I make notes and things to do during those 10 days and I just go for it. By the end of the 10 days I am ready for my next cycle.

Made me a hero amongst my friends and family! I love attention, who doesn’t? Many a times I have heard my friends tell me that they get inspired when they see me manage myself during the days. Many stay away too because I can get really cranky during those days. I used to stay independently before marriage and most of the times I had to deal with the pain all by myself. I have some wonderful friends and family who would always try and reach out to help me, I preferred dealing with this monthly ritual all by myself.

Found my guiding star! Met my gynae and now my guiding star in many ways. In the past many years I have tried all kinds of medicines, allopathy, homeopathy, and Ayurveda. On my road to find a solution to this disorder I met my Gynae through my sister. I have been going to her for almost 15 years now and over the years she has become my guiding star pulling me out of things and showing me the direction.

So I guess there are always some choices available. They may not be happy choices, but they are choices nonetheless. You can either be miserable about an ailment or make it your strength!

I found joy in little things!

2020 has been quite a year for all of us! We have struggled in our own ways to keep things going. Tried hard not to become insane (most of us failed). But 2020 has also given us time to sit back and introspect. Introspection helped me get a fresh perspective about things I thought were very important. But I realised that actually it’s the little things that give you joy that are most important. This year, I tried to focus on doing things I have wanted to do for the longest time. Here are a few things I did (not intended to show off but maybe inspire or share some ideas for you to take up in case you are interested).

  1. I participated in a Dance movement therapy session. I have been a dancer all my life but had lost connection with the art form for two years now because of work pressures and life pressures. So I pushed myself to participate in this one and what a wonderful experience it was! It was a two-hour session with strangers and all of us were totally immersed in it. I got to move my body, feel my body and I got to remember that I am beautiful! Not a bad start at all.
  2. I went out for a walk. After the longest time I drove to Lodhi Garden with my son(!), walked around, enjoyed the sun, and clicked some beautiful pictures. Realized yet again that I have an eye for the right frame and I have not forgotten to drive! Being locked at home can make you forget the skills you have and what you enjoy doing.
  3. I painted a trunk. This trunk has a history. When I first came to Delhi in 2002 for my undergraduate studies, I had to stay in a PG (read pigeon hole) accommodation with absolutely no furniture. This trunk was my first buy in Delhi as a student. It has been with me ever since. Sometimes I used it as a cupboard, sometimes a book shelf, many a times as TV stand. Lately, it has been lying in our balcony. So, the other day, I was sipping some tea in the balcony and this idea of painting it popped up. Got some bright yellow colour and paint brush from the market and the next day I was on the job. What a satisfying experience it was! It just made me realise that there are so many things one can do while being at home.
  4. I painted bottles. I have always been fascinated with these beautiful wine bottles. I have always thought of picking one up and painting it. Please note, I have not learnt painting ever. Anyway, painting these bottles was more wishful thinking and was never a priority. But the whole trunk painting activity made me feel good and I thought of finally giving this a try. Painting these bottles gave me a lot of pleasure and made me feel that if I try, I can do anything!
  5. I cooked and enjoyed the process. During the lockdown I tried cooking a new dish every other day. The process was quite rejuvenating and the end results were mostly good. I realised that I have an intuitive skill when it comes to cooking. Many a times I surprised myself! Though I don’t get enough time these days, I still try and immerse myself in the process ones in a while.
  6. Made a dance video with my friends. Finally, followed my friend’s choreography and participated in a fun video. My son kept looking at me while I practiced the moves and it was such a delight seeing him making some sudden moves (he is just 15 months old).

These were the little things that helped me stay afloat. And, I continue to keep looking for these little joys and find my happy space! What about you?

Trip down memory lane

In the beginning of 2019, my parents shifted base to Kolkata. Which meant selling off our house in Jamshedpur, the place which will always remain my home. This was a difficult decision but we had to play along because this was the best thing to do given that my parents are getting older.

So when my mother told me that we had some unfinished business to take care of in Jamshedpur, I immediately leapt at the idea.

Going back to Jamshedpur was quite important for me also because this time I had my yet-to-be-5 months old-son who accompanied us. Though he would not remember anything about this trip, it was important for me to take him to the place I called home.

My uncle came to pick us up from the railway station and during the drive he was updating us on the changes. I was already feeling like we don’t belong to the city anymore.

On the first day we finished the work for which we were visiting. The next day we decided to visit our home (which of course was not ours anymore). As soon as I asked the autowala to take a left turn to enter our lane my heart sunk. My head was flooded with many questions (where are we going to ask the autowala to stop? What would have happened to our house? How will I feel seeing our own house?). But I put my head to rest and tried keeping myself calm until I saw what has become of our house. It’s now a 4 storey house and almost nothing is similar to what we had left behind.

Labourers were still finishing the paint work. I gathered some courage and entered the premises and looked around to see if I can still find a corner which seemed familiar. I wanted to click a picture of my baby there. And I was lucky, the ground floor veranda was same. Clicked a quick picture. One of the labourers asked me if there is something he can help with, and with a heavy voice I said this was our home and we were just walking around. He smiled as I guess he understood.

We met the neighbours who greeted us well and we met ‘dai’. She was our house-help and has always been family. She was so happy to see us and my baby. We talked endlessly and it was finally time to say a final goodbye to the ‘bank colony’ (which is what our neighbourhood was referred as).

Jamshedpur is home because of our house and also because of my uncles and aunts. All of them made us feel special, treated us with good food and warmth.

I am writing this on our train journey back to Kolkata. Thinking about the whole trip and putting the memories in a pensieve (reference Harry Potter/Prof Dumbledore) for later while my baby is looking out of the window awestruck.

This was my baby’s first train journey and to the place which will always remain home!

The brand new mommy in the block!

Back to telling tales after a hiatus…

While I was away, I delivered a baby boy, adjusted myself to being sleep-deprived or managing with a few hours here and there, became an even better multi-tasker (I am known for my multi-tasking abilities!), got back to driving, mostly stepping out of the house once a week for an hour or two (this has been quite a challenge for a person who doesn’t like to sit at home even when unwell). And now I know the worth of the little joys and feel grateful when I am allowed those.

My baby is almost five months old now and it’s quite interesting to notice how he has made his space. First my womb, then my wardrobe, our bed, my phone (gallery), my mind, my heart, my time…he sure has made his space everywhere.

Meanwhile, each day is a new day when you are dealing with an infant. And hence you end up honing your skills and acquire new ones.

Meeting deadlines has always been my forte. But I have clearly reached new levels because now the deadlines are around an infant who can ensure that mommy is on her toes all the time. The key is to put systems in place and bettering it every day. Planning things in advance also matters but with an infant many a times when plan A fails, you have to be ready with plan B.

People say that women are multi-taskers and I totally agree. However I would also like to add that mothers are the epitome of multitasking.

Motherhood has also gifted me patience! You are dealing with an infant who is unable to understand you while at the same time you are trying your best to decipher their codes. It is this patience which helps you to think through a crisis.

The journey so far, while not being a cakewalk, has been fulfilling. It has made me a better person. It has made me more sensitive and considerate to my surroundings, has made me appreciate the necessity of time management and the drive for quality work. After all, no stone can be left unturned for the little one!

And now I am looking forward to balancing a healthy career and motherhood.

Wishing everyone a very happy and fulfilling New Year!

Exploring street art in the by-lanes of Lodhi Colony

We were heading towards Lodhi Garden, but then I suddenly remembered about the street art video I came across on YouTube recently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYhPCRDgnzE). I have always liked the idea of street art. Had chanced upon a couple of them in Mumbai during one of my visits. Hence we took a detour and drove towards Lodhi Colony instead.

We drove through Meherchand market but couldn’t find any murals initially.  We kept driving, got into lanes and finally found two pieces of wall art, one was being worked upon. Now that we had tasted blood we drove further, parked our car and then started exploring the neighborhood on foot.

Slowly the beautiful art work unfurled before us as we walked between Khanna and Meherchand markets in the lanes and by-lanes of Lodhi colony. To me, it seemed like we were in a wonderland where fictitious characters came to life!

I had seen the wall art showcasing a hawker selling balloons in the YouTube video so I kept insisting on walking until we find this particular artwork. And finally, we found it!

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The Lodhi Art District, as the Lodhi Colony area called, is a project undertaken by St+art India (https://st-artindia.org/), an NGO established in 2014 by several artists. The first edition of the art festival took place in 2016 when more than 20 artists from India and from all over the world displayed their art on the walls of Lodhi Colony. This year the festival was called ‘Lodhi Art Festival’ and was scheduled between mid- January to mid- March.

The Lodhi Art District is an open exhibition of beautiful art work, a visual treat for all onlookers, passersby, photographers, tourists and the residents. Termed as India’s first open air art district, the best part of this place is its accessibility.

The Lodhi Art District has a mix of colorful and subtle art work, all of them a part of a narrative. There was a piece for every individual, something each one could relate to. I wished the artists were around so that I could talk to them and get to know more about their art. But it was also fun putting my imagination to work.

By the end of the tour I was reminded about Delhi’s beauty and charm!

 

Gateway to two pilgrim destinations Kishangarh!

The ghats around Pushkar Lake

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Thank God both my partner and I see what we see. I travel to make memories, rejuvenate and feed my inner soul!

Since we had to plan a quick trip for the weekend, most of the places in the ‘to cover’ list which were further away had to be crossed out. By the end, we were only left with Kishangarh (Pushkar and Ajmer). I have always wanted to experience the Pushkar fair. Since it happens every year around November, we were not too sure if we should plan a trip now in February. Nonetheless, we went ahead with our plans. And, we did not regret our decision!

Rajasthan, to me, is all about colours, vibrancy, music, forts, tales and the people! I have covered many parts of the region. Had done a family trip to Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur back in 2012. Had traveled to Udaipur on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Have visited Jaipur multiple times. Been to Bharatpur Sanctuary too. Kishangarh was my seventh destination within Rajasthan.

Kishangarh is a city in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. The city also known as Marble City of India, is famous for a special kind of painting called ‘Bani Thani’. There are many tales about this style of painting which originated from Kishangarh. While there are quite a few things to see in Kishangarh, like the Kishangarh Fort, Nepheline Syenite, National Geological Monument, Nine Planets Temple, we decided to head straight to our stay (which was closer to Pushkar/Ajmer and around one hour away from the airport) as soon as we landed in Kishangarh. Before the Kishangarh airport was built, people had to travel to Pushkar and Ajmer by road which was time-consuming. People either directly traveled to Pushkar or flew to Jaipur and then traveled more than 100 kms to reach Pushkar/Ajmer.

On our way to the resort

We stayed at a beautiful ‘Ananta Spa and Resort’, which was surrounded by hills and hence had a picturesque view in the backdrop. We were quite happy with the place. The rooms were spacious, comfy and clean.

The next morning we set off for Pushkar city which was just 4 kms away from our resort. Pushkar is in the central part of Rajasthan and on the western side of the Aravalli Mountains. The city is known for its annual fair, which is the largest camel, horse and cattle fair in India and maybe the world. Every year traders, tourists, pilgrims and locals flock to the city in the month of October/November. Supposedly the Pushkar fair alone attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.

Just another day for me!

Pushkar is also famous for its temples. The most significant one in the city is the Temple of Lord Brahma. It is one of the very few existing temples dedicated to the Hindu creator, Lord Brahma in India and remains the most prominent among them. The Brahma Temple has many mythological tales about its origin. We heard a few interesting ones from the locals.

Next, we visited the Savitri Mata temple. This temple is located at the top of the Ratnagiri Hill and is dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma. One would need to use either the cable car or the steps to reach the temple. You get a beautiful view of the city from the hill. There is an interesting mythological story behind its origin. It goes like – once, Lord Brahma was performing a yagna on the bank of the Pushkar Lake where the presence of his wife (Savitri) was required. But because she was late in arriving, Brahma married another girl (Gayatri) to complete this ritual on time. When Savitri arrived, she was upset to see someone else in her place and in her anger she cursed everyone present there. Later, she went to the Ratnagiri hills to atone for her deeds. The temple was hence constructed in her remembrance.

View from Savitri Mata Mandir

Next on our list was the beautiful Pushkar Lake, one of the most prominent spots of pilgrimage. The beauty of the lake is because of the ghats surrounding it. There is a total of 52 ghats around the lake. Out of the 52 ghats used by pilgrims to take a holy dip, 10 important ghats on the periphery of the lake, have supposedly been declared as ‘Monuments of National Importance’. It was a beautiful experience to witness the serene, calm atmosphere at the lake, with devotees offering prayers, taking holy dips, birds silently making their way in the stunning blue and bright sky.

Pushkar Lake

We then headed back to our resort and decided to relax for the rest of the day but only after we had our share of mouth-watering Rajasthani food. We were quite ambitious and thought we had the appetite to devour a whole Rajasthani thali. But we were wrong! The most common Rajasthani food are ‘Besan Gatte ki Sabji’, ‘Daal Bati Churma’, ‘Laal Maas’, ‘Rajasthani Kadhi’, ‘Ker Sangri’ and our thaali had it all and more!!!

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On the last day, we checked out and headed to Ajmer, one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan. Ajmer is famously known for the ‘Ajmer Dargah’, the Mayo College and its lakes. We stopped at the Ana Sagar Lake which is spread over 13 kms and is the biggest in the city. The lake is surrounded by hills which makes it visually attractive.

Ana Sagar Lake - Ajmer

On our way to the airport, we stopped over at the Nareli Jain Temple. It is a complex comprising of 14 temples built recently. It is known for its architecture and intricate stone carvings which gives it both a traditional yet contemporary look.

Nareli Jain Temple

Though Pushkar and Ajmer are mostly destinations for pilgrims, I think it has something for all travelers. I am not a very religious person but what my grandmother once told me made a difference. I remember I used to make faces whenever she asked us to accompany her to the temples. But one day she told me that I need not visit the temples for any religious sentiment but may visit it for its tales, architecture, views etc. That definitely made sense to me!