GENRE: Short stories, Realism, Fiction
Amazon sale is a boon for any book lover. For me it’s godsend as I can grab all my choices at a reduced price though I am out of space.‘ 2 Day Down ‘ is a collection of 5 short stories which trails the journey of 5 women from different walks of life. Till a few years age menstruation, periods, menses were terms that would be spoken in hushed tones let alone be heard by a male member of society. These words made men uncomfortable and women equally uncomfortable even though its just a biological process which is essential if human species need to grow. But surprisingly, older generations scorned the word and made it into a taboo, restricting girls and women within your own homes as if they have committed a crime. Even today sanitary napkins are covered in newspaper and then handed in a despicable black polythene bag as if I am carrying something would polluted others even b a look. At the same time a condom is easier to purchase over the counter. Some irony huh!!
‘Down’ is a word often used to refer to the terms periods i.e menstruation. The stories in the book are based on the woman’s period,which for most women are the most painful and toughest five days they face every month.Not many books cover this topic or even mention about this. Thus, Ms. Nikita Lalwani’s effort must be applauded to have written stories revolving around a so called societal taboo. The stories covering the lives of women of varying ages speaks of the different stages of struggles every woman in her life. Each story is window into lives of women at various ages , and all on their second day of period, which is by far the most painful.
The stories are divided according to the 5 period problems :1.Pain; 2. Staining ; 3. Sexual Inhibition; 4. PMS; 5.Taboo. Each story brings forth issues faced by every women because of the conservative and orthodox mindset of the Indian society.
The summary of each of the story is given below:
1.Staining – ‘My story of Stain’ – The first short story is titled ‘Staining’. And just as in real life women are scared of staining their clothes as a telltale of their being o periods. The story speaks of Naisha, a young widow, who while interacting with the prospective grooms for a second marriage, discovers about her sexual orientation(she bisexual or lesbian I am not sure). The story moves on to show how her mother considers her lack of interest to be a disease and on the other hand her mother-in-law is supportive of Naisha’s decision. Naisha and her mother-in-law share a strong and a beautiful relationship. “I turned, and looked back, and I realised that shame lied outside of me.”
2. PMS- ‘My story of PMSing’ -This story is about Henna who is talented writer by profession works as a ghost writer for someone else, which can be seen as the reflection of society where women are kept in purdah or in the backdrops. Henna is 28 years old and has been on many dates but never found the right guy for her. She feels insecure about love and her own emotions when it comes to relationships. For eg: when someone touched her, she became numb and didn’t feel anything. So, she consults a gynecologist about this. After hearing everything from her, the doctor concludes that Henna is suffering from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.It is a disease which women are not aware of because not many visit gynecologists for their problems. It is mostly shrugged as mood disorder associated with periods.
3. Taboo- ‘My story of Making Love’ -The third story is of Aashima, an entrepreneur and an independent woman when it comes to her choices at work. But at home her story is not different from other women. Married for 10 years now she realises that her marriage has lost its charm. Her husband,Rajat is having an affair but is still undecided about Aashima and her place in his life. So Aashima thinks of having a baby with her husband in order to save her marriage. But she faces marital rape at the hands of Rajat, couldn’t care less about her and wants her only when he wants his sexual urges satiated. He forces himself on her as his only way of keeping the marriage going. But Aashima realises that she is not ready for anything now to save the loveless marriage. She refuses to be a tool in the hands of her husband to be toyed with as ad when he desires. Instead she starts loving her body and herself. This story brings out the topic of women masturbation, which is a bold subject.
4. Sexual Inhibition- ‘My story of Belief’ -The fouth story is of Meera who finds out that her husband was cheating upon her by sleeping with other women and promises to leave him forever. But later when she realises that he was a sex addict, she helped him come out of his problem. She stands with him through all the trials and helps him fight the addiction. Even though she has ample reasons to quit she places her trust in Samar knowing full well that in all likelihood her trust would be broken and betrayed.
5. Pain- ‘My story of Pain’- The last story speaks of Haifa, a 16 year old girl belonging to a conservative Muslim house wished to learn the art of pole dancing. She learnt the five moves of pole dancing along with the life lessons. She takes baby steps to breaks free from the manacles of centuries old traditions and walks the thorny path towards realizing her dreams.
Overall, the effort behind the book is commendable as the author explores some bold issues which are considered taboo in Indian society. The author covered all religions in the book, thereby highlighting the fact that religion does not make a difference in the lives or fate of women in India.
But at times I felt that stories were winded up too soon without giving the characters a chance to grow or develop. And there are many questions left unanswered for the readers to deduce. What happens to Naisha? Is she accepted by her family, especially her mother and the society? What is the Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder? What happened to Henna? Does she recover from it?
Does being a wife give a husband right to touch his wife without her consent? Did Aashima conceive a baby despite her self awareness, or does she move away from the marriage? What happened between Meera and Samar? Did things work out with them? Or did he betray her trust and continue with his addiction? What happened when people came to know about Haifa’s pole dance? Did her family, mainly her father ostracize her or accept her? Did her religious community bend their laws for the girl?
A must read for girls and women of all ages. The stories will stick to you depending on your age and the situations you have faced in your lives. The topics have been delicately dealt and even though they bring out the stark reality of the lives of women it is easy to read, yet I must admit you will feel depressed by the end.
Some quotes I liked:
“Hijab was not a choice I was given. It was a command.”
“Having a child is a way to rekindle the marriage. Not to correct your man’s character.”
“A career that has met its goal and a marriage that has lost desire, are the worst things to happen to anyone,”
“Secrets aren’t bad if the revelation is worth keeping them,” .
” Too much pain’ is a thought. Reality is lesser tolerance.”