Getting in Touch with My Feminine Side

I’m glad to have grown up the lone male in a house of amazing women – my mother, sister and, for a short-but-significant while, two sister-like close friends. As a consequence, I have always been deeply suspicious of traditional designations of gender norms and have tried to develop a strong sense of myself without leaning too heavily on the easy crutch of normative male privilege. (You-all can judge how well that’s going.) More importantly, I am one of the few men who reflexively returns the toilet seat to the down position. No one has ever accused me of failing to “get in touch with my feminine side.”

Until last week, that is.

To set the stage, Yoo-Mi and I were hit by a bus a week-or-so ago, on our last day in Bangalore, while riding through heavily congested traffic. Described in this way, the accident sounds pretty dramatic, I’ll admit. In truth, it was not such a big deal, though we were dragged a good five to eight meters by the bus. In the process, we both left a little skin on the pavement. We went to make a police report against the license-less bus driver, then caught an auto-rickshaw to a Friends Without Borders meeting on the Infosys campus, for which we were now running late. The people we were meeting took one look at our bloody, shredded skin, and decided that we would hold our talks, not in their conference room, but at a table opposite the waiting room in the company infirmary. Yoo-Mi and I tag-teamed the meeting, while taking turns ducking in for wound-cleaning, bandaging, and tetanus shots. She was sporting a crimson road-rash on one knee and a nastily bruised ankle, and I’d lost the most of the skin on the top of my left foot and toes.

We returned home to Pondicherry, and to the care of our wonderful friends Puru and Maya, who are members of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Each morning, they would take us to have our abrasions cleaned and bandages changed at the ashram clinic. If this sounds like a nice opportunity to get out and meet people, I assure you it was quite excruciatingly painful, and something I would begin to dread from the time I awoke until the nurse would begin to cut away the gauze of the bandage. Of course, the anticipatory anxiety was downright pleasurable when compared against the actual experience of the treatment, and of getting my ass home with freshly re-enervated raw flesh.

The nurses of the ashram clinic endured our disgusting, oozy wounds with patience, professionalism, and good humor. In fact, with other female staff members often sitting at the perimeter of the treatment area, the scene frequently resembled the hair salon banter of Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukkakis, and Julia Roberts in the film Steel Magnolias.

“Women are so much stronger than men,” offered one member of the clutch, gravely, as Yoo-Mi sat stoically though her ordeal while I, in the seat next to her, nearly crawled out of the skin remaining to me in agony. Yes, it was agreed: men are weak – and I was Exhibit A.

The conversation switched to “Ashram Hindi,” a Bengali-spiced version of the standard language, with just enough English to make clear to us that the discussion would not move past this point until the consensus was affirmed, re-affirmed, and re-re-affirmed by all present. When the group of women finally fell silent, the diminutive, sari-clad Tunu, who was attending to me, looked up from her work – half savior, half torturer – to deliver the collective verdict: “You must bear some pain.”

And here I thought that was exactly what I had been doing. Men are a bit stupid too, it seems.

Yoo-Mi and I laughed so hard, we almost failed to notice that no one else was laughing. One sometimes forgets: most Indian adults are not intentionally funny.

As the days have gone by, my skin has started to re-grow, my wounds look a bit less raw and, with this improvement, I am able to endure the treatment with some vestige of dignity. Yesterday, I commented to Tunu as she finished tying-off the bandage on my foot, “This is really getting a lot better.” “Yes”, she agreed, “You were cooperating today. And not making so many noises.”

Once again, Yoo-Mi and I fell into a delirious laughing fit, leaving the kind women of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Medical Clinic to suspect that we needed psychological help, as well as a good old-fashioned dose of feminine courage.


8 Responses to “Getting in Touch with My Feminine Side”

  1. 1 Sylvia Paull 17 January 2007 at 10:52 pm


    You should stick to bicycling…at least you can outride a bus! Road rash is more painful than a broken bone. Skin is an important organ, which most people take for granted until it’s damaged.

    I advise you to wear body armor when traipsing around fair India.

    Glad to hear you’re both in such fine humor. The opposite of pain is pleasure, and indeed, as many a follower of de Sade would tell you, pain merely accentuates the pleasure of being alive.

  2. 2 mbjesq 17 January 2007 at 10:58 pm

    For those who don’t know, Sylvia is both the Queen of Road Rash and a pargon of feminine strength.

  3. 3 Terry 18 January 2007 at 4:49 am

    No comment! I’m just grateful you’re both alright.

  4. 4 Khushru 18 January 2007 at 9:14 am

    While I’m really sorry to hear about this (and relieved that you two are ‘basically ok’), I truly appreciate the perspective and humour you’ve shared this story with.
    One thought … I trust you two were (will be from now on) wearing helmets. Right?
    take care both,

  5. 5 diana 18 January 2007 at 12:42 pm


    Accidents are so scary. I’m glad you two are safe and on your way to being completely well. And yeah the funnies made me laugh too.


  6. 6 Shveta 19 January 2007 at 3:30 am

    take care u two! laughter is the best medicine, so I am sure you both will have a speedy recovery:)

  7. 7 John 20 January 2007 at 11:32 am

    Holy cow! You guys forgot to mention that little episode in the recap of the meeting. Those pour feet! Get better!

  8. 8 Anonymus 14 August 2008 at 3:32 am

    “Nurse” wouldnt be appropriate to use against the ladies serving in the ashram dispensary as they are not nurses by prfession but they only render their services at the feet of the Divine Mother, same as Puru, who isn’t a grass cutter by profession but a humble disciple/servant at the feet of the Divine Mother.

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