|HER WORLD||Sunday, March 7, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
bread but roses too
body is a joy forever
Love is always associated with youth and romance but times have changed. Older people who had several relationships in their youth and suffered because of wrong expectations are now pairing up for gentle companionship and loving support, says Vimla Patil.
NEWSPAPERS and TV news have recently unfolded astounding romantic stories. The love story of 63-year-old Lord Meghnad Desai from the UK, and the 50-plus Kishwar Ahluwalia, editor of Roli book, Delhi, is an outstanding example. Lord Meghnad has been quoted saying passionately that he fell "head over heals in love with her after a few meeting". Announcing his engagement and marriage with her, he said, "I knew this was the woman I had to spend the rest of my life with. I couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from her." Kishwar is a divorcee and has children from her first marriage. She has been a media person for long and began her career as a sub-editor in Femina in the 70s. Lord Meghnad and Kishwar met this year in Delhi in connection with his book on the life of matinee idol Dilip Kumar, which she edited for her company. During the course of their work, they fell in love and were convinced that they were made for each other. They will be married soon.
The media also highlighted the glamorous engagement and wedding of millionaire playboy Vinod Nayar and Joan Paes. Vinod has been married before and has two sons. Arun, his playboy son (also married earlier), became the cynosure of Page Three news when he started going around with Liz Hurley, internationally famous actress and model. Media reports said that while Arun and Liz were still not ready to make a permanent commitment to each other, Vinod and Joan tied the knot in Mumbai with a Hindu and a Christian ceremony. As Mumbai’s glitterati would remember, Joan began her career as the guest relations officer of the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai and by and by, landed in the UK, where she ran her own restaurant. She met Vinod at social functions in London and over a period of time, both fell in love and married.
The third couple in the news is world-renowned author Salman Rushdie and model Padma lakshmi. Both have been an ‘item’ in the international party scene and swear love for each other, though marriage is not on the cards yet. There have been other cases. Sir Vidia Naipaul met his current wife Nadira at a senior age and married her in a much-publicised love story.
All these examples prove that romance and love are no longer the prerogatives of the young. Though love and sex are associated with teens and young people in ads, films, social life and even in medical theories, the love flourishing between people of senior age has become a prominent aspect of modern life. One should remember here that one of last year’s greatest Bollywood hits was Baghban, the first-ever love story of elder parents presented by Hindi cinema.
"True love knows no age," says Shabana who married her 60-year-old friend recently, "I was married before and have two children. Though I was friendly with Naval for long, I did not marry him because the children needed my attention. I worked and supported them. Now they are married and live abroad. I have known my husband Naval for 20 years. He looked after me and supported me emotionally with utmost loyalty. He was keen to marry me for long. I thought I should wait till the children were ready to accept our relationship. Now that they are away, we are free to support each other. We have just bought a new house and will move there soon. Elder marriages like ours survive and become strong because we need each other completely. There is little expectation of sex or a fairytale romance. Our relationship is based on reality and the shortcomings are known to both of us."
"Love is being redesigned in the modern age," says 55-year-old Jagjit Lal, who married his 45-year-old colleague Reena recently, "Earlier, love and passion always had a young connotation and was invariably paired with sex. This is not true any more. At my age, I am prepared to confess that in my two previous marriages, I made several mistakes. I believed men were born to rule and boss over their families. I suffered and was left alone in the end. When Reena came into my life, I had mellowed down and understood the true meaning of love, support and loyalty. Like the world over, society in India is changing fast. Families—especially grown up children—are accepting their parents’ need for companionship and security. My family supported me when I decided to marry Reena. We are happy now. I take holidays with Reena and find myself more relaxed and peaceful because our expectations from each other are realistic. Our love has a quality of permanence."
Yashoda, a 50-year-old bank officer married her friend Suraj, 56, in a simple ceremony recently. Relationships have to be based on reality and transparency. Unfortunately, men and women realise this late in life when they have burnt their fingers, expecting perfection from their partners. In modern Indian society, there are so many divorces and separations that they have stopped being subjects of gossip.
Live-in couples, platonic relationships, senior age friendships have all become common and acceptable to all. Marriages in senior years show that the partners have learnt to be accommodating. Men and women remain younger for a longer time now and sex too can be enjoyed until much later. For many young couples, first marriages are like trial tieups. The real passion comes with age because it is mature and strong."
Not all senior age relationships result in marriage. Thrity, a Parsi entrepreneur, has been devoted to her Muslim boyfriend for 40 years. "My family opposed my marriage tooth and nail," she says, "Since my old parents were totally dependent on me, I gave in to their wish. But Rashid has remained loyal to me and I to him. We have shared a great relationship though both of us are now in our sixties. He has been my support throughout. I lost my parents some years ago but now we both find no need to marry. We are happy together because our commitment to each other is no less than a legal marriage."
The search for love in a
world frazzled by comlict is constant and takes may forms. Senior
couples are now coming out boldly to express their need for
companionship and love without fear or hesitation. Celebrities are
setting the trends and no doubt, many more will follow suit in the
Women’s Day is a day to celebrate achievements — cultural, economic, political and social. It is celebrated by presenting women with a symbolic bread and a rose, says Juhi Bahkshi
THE bread is a symbol of freedom from hunger and want and the rose is symbolic of the promise of a better quality of life, free from oppression.
The bread-and-roses story began in 1857, with women factory workers in New York City, protesting against inhuman working conditions and low wages. In 1908, 15,000 women, chanting the slogan "We want bread and roses too", marched through new York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay and voting rights.
What is the story in our part of the world as far as bread and roses for women go. A look at the government statistics seems encouraging. It is estimated that India is home to 92 million working women, with the female Work Participation Rate (WPR) having increased from 14.2 per cent in 1971 to 22.3 per cent in 1991 to 15.9 per cent in 1997.
Economic experts are currently talking in terms of feminisation of poverty. To put it simply, a study of poverty all around the world has shown the women to be the poorest of the poor, leading UNDP to describe poverty as having "a woman’s face":
Studies have also concluded that not only do women form the most impoverished of the lot but also that the women represent the fastest increasing group of impoverished, a process being referred to as "the global feminisation of poverty."Nowhere, apart from certain African nations, has poverty adopted the female face in such fantastic a manner as in the Indian subcontinent.
Poverty not only reflects in economic terms but also translates into deprivations of several kinds. These deprivations take different forms in different strata. In poorer households, right from food, work, education, clothing, to marriage, women receive the worst of the lot. Nutritious food is reserved for the male sex. If there is an increase in household expenditure, it is the women and young girls’ diets that are the first to be slashed. Alongside unequal food distribution, comes unequal provision for healthcare facilities. Studies show that girls are less likely to receive medical care than boys, less likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment and in some instances, less likely to survive illnesses than boys. A poor nutritional status of girls and women means that their illnesses are of longer duration. Girls are made to leave school at the smallest of excuse, mainly to act as a household assistants or domestic servants, while boys are allowed to study relatively more.
For every woman who steps out of her house to work as a domestic help, or as a construction worker or as a farm hand, there is a daughter staying at home baby-sitting, cooking and housekeeping. Thus lesser loved, lesser fed and lesser educated, she is often got rid of in the form of marriage at the earliest sometimes barely in her teens, leading to premature motherhood and a staggering mortality rate of 410 per 100,000 (compared to a mortality rate of mere 24 for the West) deliveries with each women giving birth on the average 3.3 times in her life time. However, many a times she is not even allowed the dignity of marriage, but rather sold like a slave into prostitution. The fact that women and children from the Asian region form nearly one third (some claim it to be a very conservative estimate) of global trafficking trade, testifies this ugly reality.
In most Indian households, the girls are denied the very power to dream. They are denied as much independence and professional education and other essential forms of instruction like the rationality to make economic investments and such like. She is groomed to subordinate herself to the collective will of the family, to ensure that she makes a good wife later. A young, easily malleable —read dominated—girl is still the dream bahu of the Indian household. Later on, she is denied inheritance on equal footing. There is a very obvious lack of decision-making powers even of the elementary kind. This includes stepping out of the house to visit friends, parents or shop. When it comes to bigger decisions like those related to finances, property, planning families etc. independence is almost unheard of. When she does step out of the house, she does so only after having suffered from several deprivations and having been denied proper education leading her to seek employment in informal sectors.
Hard pressed to accommodate the role of both breadwinners and domestic care-takers, women often are forced to make compromises on professional fronts. They accept jobs that pay less, offer minimum economic and social security, labour laws are difficult to implement and where there are minimal chances of economic growth and lack of economic and social security.
In rural areas, 87 per cent of women are employed in agriculture as labourers and cultivators. In urban areas, about 80 per cent of the women workers are employed in household industries, small trade and services, and building and construction.
A woman still bears the cross of her traditional domestic chores while the rising costs of living have put on her additional burden of pouring money into the family kitty.
"By the end of the day, despite having worked like a dog, I still have to ask my husband for money for that magazine that I might like to buy or that luxury of a lipstick that I liked", she adds, "of which too there are chances that I might be refused".
Maybe a meaningful way to really celebrate this Women’s Day for us would be to decide in our mind to at least teach our women that the bread should be theirs for taking and so should be the roses.
body is a joy forever
THE image of a woman as someone carved out of Adam’s rib is as extinct as is that of her wearing a locked iron chastity belt or a housewife hidden behind yards of saree, toiling over a fire-spitting chullah. Enter the super woman: A super mom, an efficient professional, a conscientious homemaker and a perfect partner. In her journey from the kitchen to the corporate world, her interests and responsibilities have increased manifold but behind all the visible changes remains the woman’s neglect of her own well being. If health was never a priority then; it still has not made it to her priority list.
When was the last time you scheduled or had a general gynecological or annual medical check-up? Not many of us can answer this basic question, which can mean the difference between life and death, in the affirmative.
A timely visit to your gynae can save you from cervical or breast cancer and help to safeguard your general well being.
The lack of awareness cuts across backgrounds. While women may be knowing about the latest in organic or seaweed facials but the awareness about their own health is minimal.
For them a gynae is just a doctor you visit when you are pregnant and not some one who addresses urgent health needs about puberty, essential reproductive healthcare, menopause and sexual health.
Umesh Jindal, a Chandigarh-based gynaecologist, recommends a few simple screening testes since many diseases like anaemia or osteoporosis are asymptomatic or have generalised vague symptoms.
Haemoglobin test: It is simple blood test to screen anaemia since a large number of Indian women are prone to be anaemic. Symptoms can be vague like tiredness, general weakness, irritability etc. Women with a heavy menstrual flow can be prone to be anaemic, says Jindal. The test should be done once in two years or annually if you`A0 have a tendency to be anaemic.
PAP smear test: This test can detect early signs of cervical cancer and other cervical disorders. Any sexually active woman should get herself screened once in two years. Woman who marry early or having a large number of children or having multiple sexual partners are at risk of cervical cancer.
Breast examination: A simple examination checking for lumps, discolouration of nipples or milky or blood-stained discharge. Breast self-examination(BSE) can be performed yourself. In fact BSE should be a monthly ritual, says G.K. Bedi of Bedi IVF Centre, Chandigarh. The bse should be done a few days after the periods. Any lump, discolouration or recent change in size of breasts or nipples necessitates a visit to the gynae. Jindal also recommends mammography (an X-ray of breasts) once in three years after 30 and annually after the age of 50.
Bone mineral density (BMD) test: This screening test is for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is general weakning of bones due to deficiency of hormone estrogen, especially after menopause. Bones become brittle and bone density is reduced. Indian women are prone to this diseases because of lack of their sufficient intake of calcium. The baseline test can be done between 35 to 40 years, says Jindal. After 40, it should be done once in two years. She recommends this test for every woman since osteoporosis, also called the silent killer, is asymptotic.
Preventive vaccine for Rubella and chicken pox should be a must prior to marriage and pregnancy asserts Bedi so as to ensure a woman has healthy pregnancy, without a threat of miscarriages or malformed babies. Apart from that, Bedi says any unusual vaginal discharge, irregular or painful periods, spotting between periods, sudden increase or decrease in menstrual flow, increase in facial hair, pain or burning during intercourse or urination, lower abdominal pain, pain in pelvic region, general discomfort around genital region, all require immediate gynae attention.
Since women are leading equally stressful lives (sometimes even more because of their muti-faceted roles) as their male counterparts, a general check-up and screening for hypertension, diabetes, coronary diseases etc should also be done at least annually after 30, says Jindal.
Always listen to your