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No relief from muttuthurai system even during covid-19- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

MADURAI:  Thirty-one-year-old Stella Grace married a man from Govindanallur 17 years ago. Since then, she calls a village, on the edges of Virudhunagar district, her home. Yet, for at least five days of every month, she goes to her parents’ house, in a nearby village. The reason? Govindanallur is one of the five villages in the region still following the muttuthurai system, a custom mandating menstruators live in isolation in a hut, without any interaction with other villagers.

Each of the villages has a muttuthurai and all those menstruating stay there during their period. “Living in Govindanallur during my periods is torturous,” Stella Grace explains.  While not very well-maintained, the muttuthurai here is a single room with electric points and a concrete roof. A functional toilet is located behind it. Those residing in the room clean the facilities.

It is not just menstruators who have to stay in the room. Women have to spend 30 days in the room after childbirth. This was, in fact, Stella’s introduction to the system. Her dislike for the room is shared by others but a few wish to talk about it fearing elders. “A relative, who has two daughters, sold off house here and moved to another village as he did not want his children to go through this,” says 27-year-old Ruthra, another resident. “There is no good school nearby. So, most of the girls live in hostels for school and college. In fact, even when they are home for the holidays, they return to the hostels when they get their periods,” she says. 

A bathroom with a dysfunctional handpump
outside the muttuthurai that is used by
women only during emergencies at night
in Koovalapuram. (Photo | EPS)

The pandemic and related lockdowns made the experience worse. While students living at hostels returned to the villages en masses, others like Stella could not escape to her parents’ home for months. “So many of us would have to stay together in the little building,” Ruthra recalls. “These girls would attend their online lessons there. Some even wrote their exams while in the house,” she says. “We have a good understanding among ourselves. So, others sat outside or slept to make it easier for the children.” 

The custom is linked to an old legend, which warns that women who do not stay in muttuthurais while menstruating will not bear children. “I have been following this since I was in school,” says Ruthra. “We would go to school directly from the room. Our mothers would serve us food there. Sometimes, women staying there will cook for all the residents,” she explains. 

Five kilometres away from Govindanallur is Koovalapuram, which also follows the system. Shanthi*, a 13-year-old, who had just attained puberty, is to spend the next 30 days at the muttuthurai. “That is the custom,” says Mylammal, a 70-year-old villager, as her two-year-old granddaughter sits on her lap.

A few metres from the muttuthurai is a small cement structure, meant to be the toilet for the room’s residents. Outside the toilet is a dysfunctional handpump. “Women only use the toilet in emergencies at night. Otherwise, they go to the fields behind to relieve themselves,” says Mylammal. Shanthi, seated a little away from her, gazes silently at the fields. She has had to take an indefinite break from school, owing to her period. 

This isn’t the case for all women here. As in Govindanallur, many of the women in Koovalapuram also go to schools, colleges, and work while staying at the muttuthutrai. T Selvakani, an organic farmer from Koovalapuram, says sometimes eight or nine women would live together in one room. Mylammal says even the pandemic did not change this. Worse, unlike the room in Govindanallur, the muttuthurai in Koovalapuram has neither electric points nor proper network coverage.

As a result, the youngsters forced to stay in the room often missed online lessons during their periods. “A lot of them have laptops that they got through the government scheme. But due to the practice, they were forced to skip classes or attend them while seated outside their homes, even when it rained,” says Selvakani, who actively opposes the system. He fears for the safety of those forced to stay in the room. “I don’t think the younger generation is too keen on practicing the system but they are left with no choice,” he says.

In Koovalapuram too, a myth is linked with this system. “Our god Muththirular told our ancestors this system has to be followed or something disastrous will happen to the village,” says Paapa, an older villager. “This system will not vanish until we educate people properly and spread awareness that menstruation isn’t something unusual, but a normal bodily process, “ says Renuka CK, head of the Centre for Women’s Development and Research, Chennai. “This is why sex education is important. If this generation is educated, they will ensure that the future generations are not troubled. These practices were developed to only discriminate against women,” she says.

Asked how long the practice will last, Paapa says it will not end. “We will ensure that everyone in Koovalapuram practices this,” she says. Mylammal points to her granddaughter. “A few years from now, she will start menstruating. We will ensure that she spends her days in muttuthurai too.” The toddler, eating a bar of chocolate, smiles.

Sometimes, ignorance can indeed be bliss.

*Name changed

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Panchkula: Admin stresses on need for vaccination as Covid spikes

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WITH Covid cases seeing a spike in numbers, the district administration as well as the health administration have stressed on the need for complete vaccination of the population. While 100 percent vaccination of target population with first dose was achieved mid-September, only 70 percent vaccination for the second wave has been recorded.

A total of 4.6 lakh people have been vaccinated with the first dose and 3.2 lakh have been vaccinated with the second dose. The CMO, Dr Mukta Kumar has stressed on the importance of getting everyone vaccinated. Speaking with The Indian Express, she said, “Vaccine is the only way lives can be saved and the only way to delay the rise of wave three in the country. While we have vaccinated 100 percent of our target population with first dose, numbers in the second dose yet stand 30 percent lower. We have not set a deadline to complete the targets within a time span but are continuously encouraging people to come forward and get their shots.” The district health department has been conducting door-to-door surveys to act as a reminder for the second dose. The district has also been making calls to all those whose second doses are due. As many as 26 vaccination centres remain active each day. More than 1.8 lakh doses of Covishield and 46,000 doses of Covaxin currently remain in stock in Panchkula.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mahavir Kaushik, also held a meeting with the officials of the health department Monday, to discuss the new variant of Covid-19 and instructed them to make all necessary arrangements in view of this. In the meeting, Kaushik has reportedly inquired from the health department officials about all necessary arrangements in the hospital like number of beds and ICU beds, availability of oxygen and Covid vaccination, etc. Kaushik has directed the health department to motivate those not yet vaccinated with the second dose of vaccine.

In view of the hike in cases, the department has increased sampling by at least 250 samples were day. While an average of 400 samples were being collected in the past month, number in the past two days has risen to above 700 per day. The number still falls short of about 1,000 samples per day, as per the Haryana government’s target given for sampling in Panchkula. Dr Mukta points out hesitation amid the population as a reason for the same. “A vaccination hesitancy has crept into the people. In an attempt to increase sampling, all PHCs and CHCs have been directed to sample all those walking in for OPDs. But we witnessed fights and a severe dip in OPD cases soon after. The residents need to be vigilant, get themselves tested. It has been months since sampling has remained low,” she says. The health department is also sending out samples at random for genome sequencing. “As per guidelines, we have to send 2-5 per cent of the total samples. We also take special care to send samples of foreign returnees for sequencing as well,” she added.

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‘Plot Point in Our Sexual Development’ dissects a history of trans love

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Along with Father/Daughter at Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, there are currently two shows in which intimate relationship dramas are played out over a prominent piece of furniture that sits center-stage. The divan in the New Conservatory Theatre Center production of Plot Points in Our Sexual Development (running through December 19) closely resembles the type of chaise lounge often associated with psychiatry, serving as both a clue to how the characters got here and a nod to how sincerity is as necessary in therapy as with one’s spouse.

Granted, we don’t meet our characters during a therapy session, but it seems likely that one was the impetus behind the exercise in which we find them. Cecily (Akaina Ghosh) and her trans partner Theo (Ezra Reaves) are recounting their sexual histories over a bottle of red. Not just when they first had sex and with whom, but also their personal histories of understanding sex as a concept. They tell of elementary school classmates who went on and on about what did and didn’t get your pregnant, and accidental encounters with inanimate objects that wound up resulting in orgasms. Both recount a number of boys (and grown men) and the looks those guys would give them. There’s a particularly hilarious story as to why Cecily has an affinity for a certain “c”-word.

Most of all, they recall and understand just how they truly became aware of their own bodies. These tales range from a Catholic upbringing in which non-marital sex was associated with STDs, to having sex explained by an audio tape during a trip to Hershey Park. We audience members are taken by the hand and guided through each partner’s sexual awakening, which produced as much terror as they did joy. The fourth wall is occasionally broken, for an intimate exchange of heartbreak tales and hot moments of passion that go beyond any simple exchange between partners. The two interact with us, seemingly because it lets them know they aren’t alone in these experiences. 

But why, you may wonder, are they sharing these stories at all, if not for our amusement? (Or edification—the production is being presented in partnership with the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives and the Transgender District.) After all, the back-and-forth nature of their exchange has an almost-vaudevillian air of two comedians trying to one-up each other by telling the same joke different ways, a là The Aristocrats. But it becomes clear that Cecily and Thea aren’t competing with one another—or at least, they shouldn’t be. Though no therapist is explicitly mentioned, we learn their exchange is a deliberate couple’s exercise meant to seal a crack that has developed in their relationship.

Incidentally, the couple telling us how they became comfortable in their own bodies have never been completely comfortable with each other’s bodies. It’s the sort of thing someone would mistakenly dismiss as a non-issue, until it very much becomes an issue. The longer it’s ignored, the worse it becomes, and Cecily and Thea may have finally reached a breaking point. They’ve turned their respective sex lives into narratives, because they want to how this most recent twist came about.

Under the direction of Leigh Rondon-Davis (star of a similarly intimate couples’ drama at the Shotgun Players last year), the humor and, for lack of a better term, danger of Miranda Rose Hall’s script doesn’t drag, even at a brisk 55-minute runtime. No matter your identity or sexual history, its recounting is bound to include surprise delights and sad, missed opportunities. By placing the action in the round of a set walled with framed tchotchkes (no specific scenic designer is named), Rondon-Davis intentionally blurs the line between the audience-as-mere-observer and audience-as-intruder; we feel we shouldn’t be here, but we can’t miss the next story told.

The always-reliable Akaina Ghosh (who I’ve directed before, in a short play for Shotz! SF) adds another impressive and natural performance to their resume, bringing both a great deal of humor to Cecily’s Catholic guilt, and an air of tragedy in imparting the knowledge that their romance may have soured. I’m not familiar with the work of Ezra Reaves, but he is fully realized as a character that would otherwise just be a plot point in the tired story of a straight girl’s sex history. 

Of the two shows currently running on both sides of the Bay, Plot Points in Our Sexual Development finds its edge in the way its story and characters unfold, rather than being forced upon the audience. Granted, both shows are well-directed, with strong racial- and gender-diverse casts. What’s more, they both take place in theaters that allow for just big enough of an audience to make an impression, yet small enough that hopefully everyone feels comfortable.

Because when dealing with the topic of body image and sexual history, the comfort of everyone involved—including the public—needs to be the highest priority.

PLOT POINTS IN OUR SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT Runs through December 19. New Conservatory Theatre Center, SF. More info and tickets here.

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‘Yellowstone’ Star Reveals Which Cast Member Is the Funniest

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Yellowstone is about as dramatic as a television show can get, but that doesn’t mean it’s always serious all the time. Though the smash Paramount Network show is hardly a comedy, actor Kelsey Asbille says there are quite a few moments of levity between takes — especially from one cast member in particular.

“It’s a really fun group, and we just really like spending time with each other,” Asbille — who portrays Monica Dutton on the show — tells Taste of Country in an interview to promote Season 4 of the smash hit show.

“Especially this past season, because we were kind of in a bubble,” she says. “We were one of the first shows to start production during the pandemic, so really, all we could see was each other.”

“It was lovely, man,” Asbille continues. “We have a great time. Nothing too exciting, we just like hanging out.”

Though the tone of the show is quite dark at times, Asbille reveals that there are plenty of fun moments that viewers don’t get to see.

“They should do a reel, honestly,” she says with a laugh. “There is a lot of laughter that you would not expect, especially with Luke [Grimes, who plays Asbille’s TV husband, Kayce Dutton]. Luke can get the whole crew laughing very easily. So yeah, I would say a lot of our outtakes … we have fun, despite the circumstances.”

Yellowstone‘s Season 4 has brought big changes to Monica, Kayce and their son, Tate (Brecken Merrill). Tune in to Yellowstone every Sunday night at 8PM ET on the Paramount Network to keep track of the latest, and stay tuned to Taste of Country as we provide week-to-week coverage of Yellowstone and the first season of the upcoming prequel 1883, including episode analysis, news on the shows, cast interviews and more.

As part of our comprehensive coverage, check out the new Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

1883 is set to premiere on Dec. 19 and will air exclusively on Paramount+. Subscribe to the streaming service to make sure you don’t miss out.

You Can Rent a Cabin on the Ranch From ‘Yellowstone’ – See Pictures

The stunning Montana ranch that serves as the setting for the hit TV show Yellowstone offers cabins for rent, and the price includes tours of the set and ranch. Scroll below to see photos of the extraordinary property.

See Inside ‘Yellowstone’ Star Ryan Bingham’s Gorgeous $2.45 Million Estate

Yellowstone star and singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham has listed his 3-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom, 2,394-square-foot home in an exclusive area of Los Angeles for sale, and pictures show a beautiful, luxurious property that offers stunning mountain views.

 

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