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Periods during Pujo: When women stay away from public events, let's ask why

Unless hard questions are asked about menstrual taboos, they will never be broken.

During Navaratri, I was in a village in Uttarakhand where I attended Ram Katha celebrations – the dramatic telling of the Ramayana. After the event, I met a woman who lived in the house next to where I was staying and asked her whether she liked the afternoon’s performance. She said that she had not visited the celebrations. On further enquiry it emerged that she was “alag”, a local term indicating that she had her period.

“Alag” in Hindi means separate and is an accurate description of the how women are treated during their periods. In India, this control takes place in many forms, both obvious and subtle. One of the most overt forms of control relates to exclusionary practices women must face during their periods. Menstruating women are considered polluting. They are not supposed to visit temples or religious ceremonies, and village elders often keep strict vigil to ensure they do not. In parts of Uttarakhand, they are expected to sleep separately, away from the rest of the family for the five days of their period.

A recent study by the NGO Sahayog based in Lucknow found that similar menstrual taboos were present in several regions of Uttar Pradesh as well as Uttarakhand. A study by Suneela Garg and Tanu Anand published last year shows that women from across India face many restrictions during their periods. In some places they are forbidden from cooking, in other places they cannot handle certain foodstuffs.

Women themselves have internalised the ideas of impurity and pollution and often show a tendency to self-regulation. This silent control moves in even widening circles of restrictions on women’s choices of spouse, the ability to seek an abortion and other matters.

Right to abortion

We live in conflicting times. While the idea of a woman’s choice in the number and spacing of children has received official and some social endorsement, the right to seek an abortion remains contested in many countries. In India, the courts have been expanding the scope of women’s reproductive rights while social control continues to be very high.

On September 19, the Bombay High Court upheld women’s right to abortion asserting that “(t)he right to control their own body and fertility and motherhood choices should be left to the women alone”. This is significant because it takes the decision about abortion away from the medical practitioner, as is the usual interpretation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1973, to the woman herself. The judgment also expands abortion rights, previously restricted to married women, to women in live-in relationships. However, to ensure that all women have complete autonomy over their own bodies the law of the land would have to guarantee abortion rights to all women irrespective of marital or relationship status.

Breaking into the festivities

The issue of women’s entry into places of worship has been in focus with struggles by women’s groups to enter the Shani Shingnapur temple and the Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai and was a topic of hot discussion earlier in the year. The Bombay High Court and even the Supreme Court of India have had to weigh in on this issue, with the Supreme Court questioning whether a physiological phenomenon like menstruation could be a reason for denying women certain rights.

The first half of October during the Hindu celebration of the Navratras or Durga Pujos thousands upon thousands of women participated in these festivities in all parts of the country. But, like the woman I met a few days ago in a small village in the Himalayas, there are also thousands who are being excluded from the celebrations because they are menstruating.

We cannot wait for courts alone to make their participation possible. Small efforts like the "Happy to Bleed" campaign by students have begun to challenge the age-old social control of women’s reproductive functions, but we need to amplify these into a much larger campaign with men and boys joining in. For a start let us ask women who are staying away, “Why?” If they are staying away because of their periods, let us invite them to join the festivities. Unless this happens, social control will not give way.

The author is the director of the Centre for Health and Social Justice in New Delhi, clinical assistant professor in the department of global health at the University of Washington in Seattle, co-chair of the MenEngage Alliance and convener of the Community of Practitioners on Accountability and Social Action in Health.

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As corporate India changes from strait-jacketed to stylish, here’s how you can stay on-trend

For men and women, tips to make your office style game strong.

Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

But camouflage is of no use in the corporate jungle anymore. The Indian office is no longer a place for dull, unthinking conformity, it is a place that expects vibrancy in thought and action. With a younger workforce and a greater mix of multinationals and jobs, there is a greater acceptance of edgier trends. Men are stepping away from their blues and greys and women are reshaping their workwear to be more interesting and distinctly feminine. As corporate India is proving its mettle on the global stage and to itself, it’s also growing confident in expressing individuality and style in the formal work environment. From clothing to office décor and fashion accessories to work tools, the workplace is becoming a place to display merit as well as taste.

Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

The Dell XPS 13 is one device that achieves excellence in both form and function. With a virtually borderless infinity display that maximises screen space, and measuring a super slim 9-15mm, the Dell XPS 13 is an unalloyed delight. A sixth generation Intel® Core™ processor and the latest Intel HD graphics gives cutting edge performance for 18 hours and 14 minutes per charge—the longest battery life in any 13-inch device. The Dell XPS 13 epitomises the ethos of the modern day corporate warrior—chic and smart. To make even more of a fashion statement, you now get a free TUMI laptop sleeve worth Rs. 9000 with your XPS notebook purchase (offer valid till 31st October). For more information about the Dell XPS 13, see here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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