Reimagining Makeup: A Gender Neutral Endeavour 4.5 (2)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

Is makeup just for women?

Gen-Z says not at all. From the plethora of tutorials available on social media to the profusion of brands offering gender-neutral makeup, the stride of the current generation seems to be on the path of making beauty everyone’s business.

It’s interesting to see that makeup has come to represent a blurring of the gender binary since for a good chunk of the 20th Century, it was just another means to cause a divide in the gender spectrum. However, to all our surprise, this change can be perceived as a return to history as opposed to a break from it. Since antiquity, people have used makeup to showcase their riches, social standing, and even virility, in addition to their desire to look beautiful. As ancient Incan and Babylonian troops would ceremonially paint their nails prior to battle, Egyptian males would dramatically line their eyes with green and black kohl, while Roman soldiers favoured rouge. Male members of Louis XIV’s court in France painted on beauty marks, while Elizabethan men powdered their faces with ceruse, a poisonous concoction of vinegar and white lead. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria I that makeup for both men and women went out of favour as she, driven by the Church of England, deemed it vulgar. The traditional conceptions of masculinity became especially constrained as English religious values spread throughout societies around the world. Facial beautification for men eventually went out of style around the turn of the 19th Century, while other cosmetic enhancements for males, such as hair products, gained mainstream momentum. Little of this is logically sound. Why couldn’t a modern man make up his face without encountering any stigma if it is socially acceptable for him to style his hair and bathe himself in body spray?

Evidently, the history of makeup has always been as much an archive of gender norms as it has been a record of beauty standards. Only in the last decade or so has makeup become more gender-inclusive, and the concept of “metrosexuality” infiltrated the cultural consciousness, thanks to globally influential figures like Harry Styles, Jared Leto and the numerous K-pop artists. By incorporating jewellery, nail paint, and makeup into their styling routine, they have significantly helped in subverting conventional beauty norms. If you think that men’s makeup is exclusively a fad among celebrities, you’re wrong. While more and more women toned down to natural makeup during the pandemic, ordinary men, who may have always been curious about cosmetics but were wary of being labelled effete, on the other hand, dabbled with makeup to conceal blemishes, wrinkles, or razor bumps as they hopped from one Zoom meeting to another. It has now become common to hear young men share their daily grooming and skincare routines on social media without feeling self-conscious about their favourite applicator brush or serum. As a result, the new attitude toward makeup is less concerned with attractiveness and femininity than self-improvement.

For years, harbingers of the industry have paved the way for others to follow, sadly without ever succeeding in denaturalizing makeup as a feminine endeavour. But why is it happening now? Most likely because toxic masculinity has never been more volatile, and the timing is culturally and technologically favourable to change, driven by Gen Z’s determination to reject labels and pigeonholes. Additionally, with the rapid growth of social media sites, beauty gurus like Manny Gutierrez, Jeffree Starr, and James Charles have found a global platform to showcase their artistic expression and dispel long-standing stereotypes. Makeup has always been an important tool of expression and resistance for the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be drag queens or marginalized queer youth. However, they are no longer compelled to keep their true and creative selves hidden from the world for fear of judgement. Today, their presence dominates the beauty industry. Even on Indian soil, there has been a surge of male (straight and LGBTQ+) content creators trying to normalize makeup for all. From Ankush Bahuguna’s subtle touch-ups to Deep Pathare’s vibrant creations and Shantanu Dhope’s glamorous eye looks, influencer content has played a pivotal role in motivating an entire generation to embrace their inner creativity regardless of constrictive social stereotypes. But as would be expected, success brought with it a wave of online hate. “Is your masculinity so fragile that it gets hidden by translucent powder?” is the only question Bahuguna, like the rest of the beauty community, has for these haters.

One might wonder, does an embrace of makeup represent an expansion of beauty norms or a narrowing of them? While pondering on it, we must always remember that on its most superficial level, makeup erases scars and blemishes. However, for some, wearing makeup is a simple and affordable means of self-expression and metamorphosis into a more refined and confident version of themselves. This could go a long way toward self-acceptance in a world of relentless judgement.

In short, makeup is a method of self-expression/improvement for all and is no longer merely a question of gender or sexuality. Although men wearing makeup may not yet be an everyday sight, there’s no doubting that makeup is gradually making its way into their lives- not necessarily in the over-the-top designs of YouTube and Insta beauty gurus, but occasionally in subtle and natural ways. Beauty trendsetters like L’Oréal, by revamping its tagline “Because You’re Worth It” to “Because We’re All Worth It”, have inspired the world to wake up to the promising fact that not only women are interested in skincare and makeup.

The Blue Curtains 0 (0)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

My grandmother slipped into oblivion after the death of my grandpa. For hours straight, she used to look out of the window and repeat the same line back and forth. “The flowers seem so wilted. Do they still smell the same?” She used to ask, as if she is stuck in a loophole and can’t find her way back. As the days passed, my memories about grandpa started shrinking. Everything and everyone around me moved ahead, except my grandma, who chose to deal with grief by living in denial. For all the years she was married to my grandpa, I’ve never seen them sitting together or occasionally smiling at each other. Just like every other Indian housewife, my grandma would toil herself in the kitchen and end her day by swapping the floor. And like a classic patriarch of the house, grandpa never acknowledged her and the endless efforts she put to bind the family together. On a midsummer Wednesday morning when only the two of us were at home, I sat next to her and put my head on her lap. ” Why do you miss him so much? Did he even love you enough? “, I bluntly questioned. Without averting her fixed gaze she replied, ” for a woman like me, the need of having a roof above my head, always overpowers the need of being loved. ” and in that brief moment, my world flipped upside down. I started seeing my grandma as an individual apart from her only identity of being a homemaker. For all my life, I have only viewed her as the woman who feeds me sweet delicacies and protects me from the scoldings of my parents. But I have never asked her about what is her favourite part of the day. Or what colour does she prefer while buying the curtains or what were her hobbies, dreams and ambitions while growing up. I was lost in thoughts as she gently kept stroking my hair. The realization hit me home. I decided to help my grandma to take the difficult step and begin again. I decided that I shall too, let go of the girl I was moments back and start my journey of being a better person.

We live in a country where the majority of women are dependent on their husbands for economical support. They are conditioned to believe that irrespective of the ill treatment by their in-laws and husbands, they must lower their heads and tolerate the male dominance without raising any objection. As I started to learn more about my grandma’s early life, I discovered that she has always been fond of classical music and would have preferred blue curtains over our magenta ones. She likes the moons and celestials and hates social sciences. She has read Amir khusro and knows every line of Yayati ( A Marathi novel by V.S. Khandekar ) by heart. She has had a dream of traveling to the north east of India and wearing dresses like a Victorian queen. She was never bound to be a housewife. She has always been a dreamer, a dreamer that was never understood.

It took my grandma a few weeks to deal with grief and begin again. When I took her to the home decor shop, she was skeptical about choosing her favourite curtains. When we were scanning through the wide range of dresses that would suit her, she was still holding onto the pallu of her saree and her hands started to sweat as if she was betraying her lost husband. It took her days to recite her old music notes. It took her days to realize that she too, can live the way she desires.

As I write the conclusion of my essay, my grandma is packing her bags for the north east tour. She still wears a saree but the curtains in our home have changed. She is moving ahead, one step at a time. And along with her, hundreds and thousands of women move ahead too. The girl in my neighborhood who failed her tenth grade has decided to reappear for the exam. My house help who’s husband beats her with steel rods, moved out of her home and filed a case against him. My friend chose literature over math and my mother is educating herself about women rights. These are the women I look upto. These are the women who inspired me when my heart was split into two. These are the women who began again, when there wasn’t even a way to begin with…and in their victories, lies my solace.

The Sexist School Culture 5 (2)

Graphic by Prajwal S D

Educational institutions serve as important agents of socialization, especially for young children, and remain so well into their late teenage years, therefore whatever they learn here has a lifelong impact on them. However, educational institutions as socializing agents are not isolated, in fact they are often shaped by and mimic the world outside, so it is only normal that the norms defining the society get passed on to institutions such as schools. Astoundingly, this logic is often used to justify the patriarchal standards of judgment, hypocrisy, sexism, and misogynistic practices actively taking place in schools from the smallest of things like boys being asked to carry notebooks or move chairs, to the bigger things like not having a girls cricket or football team, it is not uncommon to see instances of sexism in schools. Even girls-only schools are not absolved from this accusation.

While the environment in school affects different students in varying degrees and this experience is often dictated by various factors, out of which gender plays an important role. The toxic environment created by sexism and misogyny often becomes a traumatic event for girls, be it in terms of moral policing, body-shaming, consequences of similar activities that only girls have to bear, or in the worst-case scenario, losing out on opportunities because of your gender. 

Schools, which are supposed to be safe spaces for children, become perpetrators of patriarchy. We’ve all been through the skirt length ordeal, pulled aside for wearing a skirt too short, having too many guy friends, or having too much fun with the boys and at one point or another, our characters have been assassinated simply because we refused to stick to a norm. We are also taught to be ashamed of perfectly normal things like menstruation, a bloodstain on the skirt used to be so damning, and the secret workshops surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene which involved girls sneaking out of classes to attend these and carry sanitary napkins like secret weapons back into the class, away from the prying eyes of the curious boys and being penalized and reprimanded if they ever stumbled upon this secret. 

Perpetration of sexism doesn’t only happen through actions but also through language. Even when there is a lack of actions, everyday vocabulary, usage of demeaning terms, objectification of girls ensures exclusion in terms of pursuing activities that would be seen as not affirming to the assigned gender, shame and body-image issues associated with not matching up to the beauty standards and low self-esteem and confidence based out of everyday interactions. Not so surprisingly, even school textbooks are implicit in the perpetuation of sexism by defining how women should be, what is inherently feminine and masculine, and often with examples that solidify sexist beliefs. 

Some would say, considering how women didn’t even have space in schools until very late, we’ve made great strides in the department, however inclusion of a gender in a public space, a space that was their right, to begin with, isn’t enough, that is the bare minimum. We need to drop the guise of equality and actually strive towards it by actively calling out and engaging in discussions that question patriarchy every step of the way. We need teachers who are sensitized to the nuances of sexism and equipped with training to deal with it when it comes to the forefront because, at the end of the day, the onus of breaking the cycle in schools falls onto the teachers. We need to revise the language we use both in everyday life and in textbooks. 

I once heard my geography teacher say, ‘change is the only constant’. Of course, he meant that the Earth is constantly changing and nothing’s ever static but I look at the phrase in a slightly different manner. If change is the only constant, why are we so hell-bent on adhering to and enforcing the same norms on generations after generations, despite realizing the harm it does, if change is the only constant, shouldn’t we evolve from our experiences and inculcate them in learning for others, if change is the only constant and if even the Earth cannot stay static, then mustn’t we strive for change as well? The point being, the notions of patriarchy have dictated every aspect of our lives but we have a chance at seeing a slightly less patriarchal world around us by breaking the institution in schools. 

In His Image 0 (0)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

The testament of His glory, gilded by the stars.
A dome above, carved by hands divine,
from where His mercy pours
Rejuvenating Earth and all in Her.
As He rules from the throne above.
He graced her, by many a hue in His palette;
From azure to bronze.
She reflects, like a mirror,
The joy and sorrow of the Realm below.

Two flames He ignited;
Her eyes, beacons in the vast darkness unknown,
Imparting immortal insight:
Death is inevitable, and so is life.
The maiden whom He gave the Arch;
Which, after every storm, she wears
His Covenant with us, as a crown.
Sign of His Love, steadfast.

Immaculate, just as His Son.
For she is His creation,
Ever-changing yet dormant.
Turbulent yet tranquil.
How can I replicate His handiwork?
For He made me too, by breathing life into clay.
In His image.

The Great Resignation: Another COVID-19 Phenomenon For The History Books 5 (1)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the world. People around the globe as forced to get used to drastic adjustments and changes that occurred rapidly from the global dynamic to their personal lives, from the economy being deeply affected to educational institutions needing to find new modes of conducting classes. One of the most heavily impacted sectors was the labour market. With quarantine and lockdowns imposed, multitudes of employees got furloughed, lost their jobs, and many realised their dissatisfaction with their current work environment.

In 2021, Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist, coined the term the Great Resignation to predict pent-up resignations due to COVID-19. It is an ongoing phenomenon that has seen a record number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs after the pandemic. Also called the Big Quit, this phenomenon was attributed to a number of reasons apart from furloughs and salary slashes. With many employees being laid off, there arose a need to upskill oneself to adapt to the new situation. This brought attention to the absence of opportunities to develop new skills or enhance one’s existing ones.

Due to lockdowns, organizations shifted to the online mode and employees worked from home. This resulted in overtime shifts, burnout, and intensification of unhealthy work cultures like the hustle culture which encourages employees to go well above and beyond their job requirements and carry out responsibilities that fall outside of their work purview. Factors like working overtime also brought out a need and desire for higher pay. A recent trend has witnessed people countering the hustle culture with “Quiet Quitting” where instead of letting one’s job define their life people decline calls after work hours, refuse to reply to emails on their time off from work, and reject assignments that fall outside of their job description.

In India, the middle-class and lower-income communities were hit hard. Manual labourers, migrant workers, etc were suddenly let off and dislocated from their hometowns. The shift in corporate culture, loss of jobs due to the requirement for social distancing, hiring processes reaching a standstill, and restricted leave resulted in many employees leaving the workforce for good. India witnessed large percentages of employees choosing a suitable work-life balance over an attractive salary. There was a notable shift in the priorities ascribed to one’s well-being and work-life balance. The mass layoffs also triggered a trend which saw employees adapting to the new situation by developing new skills and switching career paths which led to the great resignation being called the “Great Reshuffle” in India. After the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, employees across industries re-evaluated their priorities and expectations from their careers. There was an increased emphasis on having more control over one’s work dynamic and a shift in job seekers’ priorities. The pandemic granted employees a period of reflection to re-examine their career paths. There was an increased presence of opportunities for freelance jobs and remote jobs, and opportunities to upskill and work flexible hours. People gained more freedom to maintain their desired work-life balance and developed the confidence to quit their jobs and start over at their own pace.

A demand for work from home has pushed organisations to rethink their work culture. Many organisations and firms have embraced this change and expect that employees will be given more freedom to work remotely, flexible schedules with learning opportunities and with salaries more suitable to their job requirements. With the online mode of work from home becoming more widespread, office buildings may be primarily used for the purpose of recruitments, meeting customers or clients, and conducting workshops for interpersonal engagement among employees. These recent changes and trends point towards a future of a more flexible approach that allows for an increasingly individualistic and asynchronous work setting.

Autumn Is For Eloping 0 (0)

Graphic by Sumit Kumar

Miniscule specs of gasps trailed across, hinting none but the sheer quantity of apprehension scattering from the likes of Amber. No, she whimpered in agitation, dreading to feel the growl of liberty. This could not be happening for all one knows. No remedy possessed out there that could, again, possibly jerk off her indulgence in self-denial for an effortless case of rejection.

Steadily, she had realized very early on, earlier than the likes of many. Fragile yet resolved flicks, even the people surrounding her on a regular checkbook began to get a clue with the gradual passing stages. But Amber, without any verbal concern, took the resolution to keep that within herself. Although in any way, this was not a high-minded scenario nor was it a temporary solution.

Regardless of what may fall short, Amber had chosen not to speak up for her own selfish accord.

Nicole, being a month or so away before transferring to a foreign institution, had already confirmed the prompt suspicious malice whirling in the mind of Meian, that Amber was not behaving like herself or at least did not feel like so. Nicole being herself as Nicole, heedlessly thwacked the back of her teammate, immediately causing the said individual to fall unconscious on the clear, rough surface.

“Eh-?” Nicole paused, “Amber?”

That was the last thing Amber could have possibly heard before falling to her supposed demise. The cause of such was initially unknown. Even the thorough check posed nothing but “normal” on the piece of paper, eventually ruling on a simple fatigue.

Ever since Ash, whom she dearly cherished and was most certainly proud of, had left the country to secure a place in a team located in North Carolina, Amber began to feel rather lonely. Worry not, their team lacked neither weirdos nor strong comrades. For her, the last straw had taken off the drill when even Ryan, with whom she would rather be nothing but feisty, had gotten an invitation to another team.

Normally, this would facade no worry but one — Ryan had stated interest over considering that team’s invitation.

Yes, correctly that was the last straw to her questionable sanity. Amber, who rejected all possible probabilities for the pure sake of her selfish desires, was being left behind against all odds. Mind you, not by just any individual either.


It was in the midst of a heat; the sun was radiating twice as much as yesterday. Prominently, rays of light glared through those shallow empty spaces, causing annoyance to express out from her.


A voice whispered.

Never did it take long enough for the ladette, currently bed-rested, to realize. Either throw a racket up to her mind or you are nothing. Amber did not flinch out of desperation; out of not wanting to seem frightened up front.

Pathetic, Amber mentally bickered.

Amber’s movements happened to cause loud, audible frictions, even when she was merely tilting his head to the side. She called, “Ryan.”

Sure enough, Ryan as a whole stood there, his dull gaze bestowing nothing but a reminiscent of desolation. This caused a feeling of shame to stick a chord in the void of his companion, Amber.

Ryan huffed, “Unbelievable, really.”

The multiple stacks of saline were barely out of both their ranged sights. Even the scent of presumably salt got to the point of utter annoyance in Amber.

“You haven’t changed, have you Ryan?” Amber spoke in a subtle manner, gently showcasing a glimpse of her simper.

“Seems like you have.” Ryan reprimanded, “When did you start tripping over on the court like that?”

Amber burrowed her face, “No, you’re mean.”

Given the situation or no matter the stance they are in, both Amber and Ryan will never fail to get frustrated with each other’s shenanigans. This was the case for Amber, who would constantly get questionable thoughts regarding Ryan in general.

“My bad. I was simply just kidding,” Ryan rest assured. “Anyways, what did the report say?”

Amber suddenly perked up, her tired body quickly not failing to pick up the red beeping signal.

“They said I’m fine. See?” Amber removed the cloth hiding her left arm that was seemingly injected with a small tube, “I’m perfectly fine now!”

Amber puffed up, continuing by royally adding only to leer at Ryan, “Or are you worried about me, Ryan?”

Ryan shrugged away, extending to fix the nearby seat to his liking near to the white line, which being Amber herself.

“You’re hyperventilating.”

This was eventually inevitable, Amber knew that better than anyone else. But that did not serve any purpose of easing up the unexplainable pain that was throbbing like an intruding knock on a wooden horse.

Amber’s breath hitched on spot, “Guess so.”

Hands wide open, desperately needing to cling onto something — something Amber would do had Ryan not ogled on her like a damn owl. “But,”

Ryan continued,
“What if I was?”

Amber matched Ryan’s gaze, “What?”


Amber continued to breathe in a deranged manner, lacklusterly succumbing herself to the feeling of monochrome turning vibrant. Is this it? She thought, remembering vividly of the times flashing through her frontal blurs. It hurts.

It really did, all the while clenching her hands. At one point she felt as though everything came crashing to her; like, physically unable to reach the soft, yet vivid glow. Though everything she had known was set to be freed, she was not. Not when she had struck herself deep enough to end on a constant defeat, one that could never be breezed away.

Every word of Ryan managed to drill a hole in the coffin where the nails are supposed to seep in, but instead these nails are merely some couple of petty contradictory quirks one after another. Being in a small, petite room with no gap to be seen did not help their lost cause either, where almost no one could hear their ramblings.

Ah, so this is how it feels like.

Amber physically refused to sigh, showing no recent reaction to the adjusted environment. She took the armed dilemma into her own hands, that being Ryan’s ever-so kind gesture, for which Amber remained silent for several passing seconds. Meeting him was like listening to a song for the first time and not knowing it would be her favorite, with her resolution steadily getting stronger compared to the autumn wind than ever before.

Needless to say, Amber huffed.

“I guess I’m lucky then.”

Book Review: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto 5 (1)

“All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?” 

This is the answer that the narrator gives to readers as to why we humans are bound together through music. The narrator, who is none other than the Spirit of Music, proceeds to introduce us to his most beloved disciple, Francisco de Asis Pascual Presto, eponymously known as Frankie Presto at the most ironic time of his life: his funeral.

This book focuses on Frankie’s life, and the people who touched him, which include his adopted father Baffa Rubio, his music teacher El Maestro, his only love Aurora York, a hairless dog with a certain vibe of Toto, as well as his most treasured possession- a set of guitar strings which have the power to change people’s trajectories, given through a ripple of events caused by a shocking twist of fate. It also focuses on the people that Frankie touches through the gift of music and the value of kindness. As Music puts it, “Everyone joins a band in life”, and this becomes a refrain to the kinds of bands we see Frankie join and some that we may tend to join. 

The book begins with an introduction to Frankie’s funeral, with many people that he encountered in his life, who give a eulogy of their own experiences with him. Some of these people include famous icons such as Marcus Belgrave, Darlene Love, Tony Bennett, Paul Stanley of KISS fame, and even Ingrid Michaelson, one of my favorite modern artists. These accounts are then perceived through Music’s account of Frankie’s life. The book is also peppered with appearances of many other artists through their words, career moves and experiences in the music industry. 

The concept of Music being the anonymous narrator is a witty parallel to the similarly anonymous narrator of  The Book Thief, identified as the Spirit of Death. These kinds of narrators are refreshingly unique from the omniscient 3rd Person narrators that one often encounters. Music takes the responsibility of unwrapping the biggest mystery revolving around Frankie’s entire existence and the circumstances involving his death, which is a journey worth having a seatbelt for.

We also see Music’s perspectives of the world in general. It dares to ask questions about humanity that we ourselves often ask, including our purpose, and how we can use our talents to the best of our abilities. But Music answers these questions to the best of his knowledge and surmises it’s true ability in the best way possible- “I cannot keep you alive. I lack such power. But I infuse you”.

When reading this book, one gets the idea of reading a biography of Frankie, even if he’s fictional. We feel his joy, and his pain as he travels the world starting from his hometown, Villareal, Spain to the USA, where he joins the likes of Elvis Presley and navigates a burgeoning career and romance with Aurora as well as his search for contentment. For readers who are movie aficionados, one can associate the tone of the book with the hit movie Forrest Gump (1994) and Pixar’s Coco (2017).

Many favorite songs make their way in the book, both renowned and original. One can find a musical companion to this book on Spotify. These original songs provide the atmosphere and an edge to the characters and define their relationship with one another. 

For fans of music, the Golden Age of America and the author Mitch Albom who has written equally engaging novels such as ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, ‘The Time Keeper’, and most recently ‘Finding Chika’, this book is a must read. With 21st June being ‘Make Music Day’, this book is a great read as it becomes a homage to the gift of Music. It has got all the feels, bittersweet and unforgettable moments. I would give the book a rating of 4.0 out of 5.So what are you waiting for? Grab your ideal comfort food, a comfortable seat and snuggle in with the rollercoaster of the novel- The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto! ; )

Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking 5 (1)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

Have you ever wondered why you struggle with being in a group? Do you constantly feel overlooked and undervalued? Have you ever felt like it is wrong to be introverted? Then look no further, because the book I’m going to talk about today is a one stop solution for you.

‘Quiet’, written by Susan Cain, is a revolutionary step in the modern world which is now inclined more towards the extroverts. It is a simple, yet powerful text which will teach introverts the power they possess, and the others to let the quiet ones live life on their own terms.

Through this book, the author explains how there are two fundamental qualities which divide the world – introversion and extroversion. Everyone born on earth falls under either of these two, and are thus labelled as an introvert or an extrovert. But why is it that only the louder ones, the ones who talk the most, or the ones who seem to be confident are labelled as responsible and charismatic? What about the quieter ones who are just as creative? Those who can probably plan a whole event by themselves, but are perhaps a bit soft spoken to bark orders? And those who might be average in group activities, but excel when they work alone?

Introverts are often overlooked, their skills undervalued, and are told to comprehend the importance of socialising. This world, which prefers social skills over everything else, fails to understand the intricate and diverse minds of introverts, and simply tells them to ‘come out of their shells’. The author calls this phrase “a noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”

Susan Cain dives deep into the issue – starting from how we are all psychologically altered to differentiate between introverts and extroverts, and goes on to explain the physical and mental traits of both types of people. She proves that introverts are just as smart, good looking, diligent and creative as extroverts. The only difference is that they are more sensitive to certain things, and tend to think rather than react to situations.

The author stresses time and time again how introversion doesn’t decrease someone’s strength, and provides examples and stories to prove her writing. Anecdotes from the author’s personal experience, people she has met in her life, as well as famous people we all know have been included in the book.

All in all, ‘Quiet’ is a great read for all introverts struggling to come to terms with their reality. It is an inspiring, powerful, informative, relatable, quirky and heartfelt book, for introverts, by an introvert.

The Day My Life Took a Turn… 4.1 (7)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

Growing up in Bangalore, I had fallen in love with its starry skies, samosas, delicacies, and celebrating the festivals of Diwali and Holi with loved ones. Even our frustrated bus driver yelling at us every day to not be late strangely delighted me. It took just one day for all of that to change.

As I was attending my online classes, my dad asked all of us to gather in one room since he had news. It was strange because my parents never disturbed me during my classes. When we gathered, he dropped the bomb. “We’re moving to America in a month!” I felt…ecstatic to return to the place where I shed my first tear and smiled my first smile because I was born in Virginia, and we moved to India when I was three.

As my date of departure grew closer, my excitement plummeted. While America was the place where I first started life, India was the place that held 13 years of my life: my friends, my family, my school, everything. India was home. So, no words can actually describe what I felt at the moment, my life was gradually changing, and I essentially couldn’t help but “go with the flow.”

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said Bangalore held pieces of my heart. I found my best friend there. It was excruciating to realize that I would be leaving her despite our million promises. When I left home to meet her right after my online classes got over, I didn’t have anything in mind. I didn’t know how I would tell her, or how she would react. We had plans to go to the same schools in India, and never grow apart. Somehow, I gathered the courage and nervously told her about my move. We both burst into tears; that was the first time I had nothing I could comfort her with. We hugged without uttering a word, and later we decided to cherish every moment until we had to part ways.

At this point, I had a week left before my life took a turn. Because of Covid, I couldn’t meet all the people I wanted to. I couldn’t party in a way I would’ve liked. I couldn’t have my tenth grade farewell party in my favorite restaurant, and I couldn’t dance like it was my last day. I couldn’t pretend everything was exciting. I couldn’t answer any more questions. I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t change as a person if I moved to America. And lastly, I couldn’t make any promises because this change was inevitable. 

If I didn’t meet my loved ones, I would regret that forever. But, if I caught covid, I would have spoiled our entire transfer to America and my dad’s project. I was in a dilemma. So, I met all of my friends double masked, PPE kit covered, and made sure that they didn’t get out of their house for at least a week. There was too much at stake, and I couldn’t be the reason to wreck this enthralling opportunity. As I met my friends, I was foreboding and gleeful at the same time. Being such an emotional person, I thought I would cry every time I said goodbye. But, I didn’t. It took me some time to figure out why because I bawled like a baby in every single movie that I watched. So, when I say I’m an emotional person, a lot of what I feel manifests in tears. I began to realize that the relationships I formed over 13 years weren’t going to shatter just because of some distance, you know? Infact, I started getting that fuzzy feeling when I realized that all the bonds I had were real. They were so pure that leaving my family or friends behind didn’t mean goodbye, it actually meant….until next time. 

A beautiful aspect of humanity is the ability to heal, but it’s difficult to move on, and accept what has happened. I was, and still am on my journey of acceptance. When I stepped on American soil, I opened a new chapter in my life. Having moved to America midway through high school, I had no friends. Aside from pondering how I’d integrate into a completely new education system, I also feared losing myself. Strangely enough, I refined my personality by encountering extremely driven individuals who inspired me to become a better person. Rather than always seeking an “A,” I began embracing other facets of my persona. Despite making friends, I often felt lonely, which forced me to enjoy my own company and become more self-sufficient. Discomfort began to comfort me. Although that brought up several difficult emotions, my newfound independence taught me that I’m capable of much more than I could’ve imagined. This realization led me to expect a great deal from myself, but it also encouraged me to make the most out of every moment. With every passing day, I learned little things that accumulated into my increasing stream of realizations. Embracing myself for who I am, while acknowledging that complacency isn’t the path for fulfillment, everything fell into place naturally.

How To Celebrate Becoming A Woman In India 5 (3)

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

Puberty marks a significant change in a child’s life. It is a transition into adolescence, a coming of age that indicates the start of a new stage in one’s life. Despite the challenges that come with this major shift, it is something that adolescents celebrate among their peers, friends, and communities as an initiation of sorts to the adult world. There are various coming of age ceremonies across the globe, some are celebratory in nature while some are not. For example, the adventure sport of bungee jumping originally emerged from Pentecost Island, where it was considered a means to prove one’s manhood.

Puberty celebrations are a popular cultural event celebrated across India, the most popular of which is the half saree function performed to mark a young girl’s first menstrual cycle. It is known by different names across the nation: Langa Voni, Ritu Kala Samskara, Ritu Shuddhi, Peddamanishi Pandaga in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Tuloni Biya in Assam, Manjal Neerattu Vizha in Tamil Nadu.

When the young girl’s first period starts, she is made to live in isolation for 6-15 days. She is confined to a room and instructed not to touch anything. She is fed a traditional diet consisting of rice, ragi, pulses, ghee, foods rich in vitamin E, etc to prepare the body for menstrual cycles. On the 7th, 9th, or 16th day she is bathed by her aunts after which there is a haldi ceremony where all members of the family take turns applying a haldi and neem paste to purify her. A priest is then called to perform a purification ritual for the house. After this, there is a feast that is somewhat similar to a wedding reception, where the young girl wears her first half-saree and is graced with several gifts to celebrate her initiation into womanhood. The half saree function while representing a transition into womanhood also indicates that the young girl is fertile and of marriageable age i.e., she is ready to wed and bear children. However, the background and purpose behind these celebrations contribute to a very patriarchal attitude towards womanhood. They imply that the attainment of puberty is celebrated because the young girl is now fertile which promotes the notion that a woman’s value in society lies only in her ability to bear children. Her identity is reduced to that of a mere baby-making machine. They essentially announce to the community that a young girl, a minor who is barely starting her teen years, is available for marriage. While the ceremony does not indicate that her family is actively searching for potential grooms, it still indicates that she is open to considering marriage, irrespective of the potential groom’s age. Moreover, a woman is considered impure during her menstrual cycle and is expected to isolate herself for its duration and is restricted from having physical contact with anything and anyone. She is prohibited from entering temples. There is no such ritual for boys, which challenges the notion that the ritual is to celebrate puberty, a natural biological process that is universal. Additionally, it is restricted to women who are biologically born as a female, thus discriminating against transwomen, and restricting them from celebrating their physical maturity, should they desire it.

This is the scenario on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, there are schools that conduct sex education sessions to educate young girls about the biological process behind their menstrual cycles. However, they are also taught that their periods are something to be ashamed of and something that should be hidden. They are taught how to use sanitary napkins but are also taught to dispose of them secretly so as to not alert others, especially men, about it. It is drilled into our heads from an early age that none of the men in our houses should catch even a hint of when our periods start and end and that the younger males of the family should be shielded from the knowledge of menstrual cycles. In our so-called modern cities and urban areas, we still hold on to belief systems like this that compel a young girl to spend the rest of her life dealing with social stigma, discrimination, and shame surrounding her period.

Both ends of the spectrum are absolute in their beliefs. What is considered a shameful taboo in some parts of India is celebrated in others. The stark differences between both these sides open questions on whether it is necessary that this natural phenomenon should result in women either being compelled to live a life of secrecy, restrictions, and shame or be introduced to the concept with pride but at the cost of being advertised as “available for marriage.” The most obvious and effective solution to this issue would be to educate the public and young children not just about the natural and biological nature of menstrual cycles to help mitigate the stigma to whatever extent possible, but also to spread awareness about the patriarchal implications of puberty celebrations being conducted only for girls and their potential to delimit a young girl’s identity to just being a reproducer. We can start by teaching our young girl’s that there is nothing shameful about something as natural as menstrual cycles and make boys aware from a young age that there is nothing impure about a menstruating woman. This education must start at home with scope to widen the impact with more inclusive and less discriminatory lessons at schools and workplaces.