Hailing from a conservative Telugu Brahmin family, those three days of the month have always been a headache for me. Discussions about periods have been considered a taboo in the family. Right from my childhood I have grown up seeing my mother stuff those sanitary pads in a safe hole, away from the eyes of gents of the family. I have seen her stay apart from the family those three days. A separate plate for food, a pitcher for water, a pillow and a blanket for sleeping and few clothes were given to her those three days. She was forbidden from sleeping on the bed, touching other family members and going into the kitchen. I have always asked my mother the reason behind all these activities. She always had only one answer. “These are traditions that our ancestors created. Follow them.” I did. And I still do out of respect for my mother. It’s been almost 10 years since I got my first period. Nothing has changed though. Just like my mom, I stuff sanitary napkins in a safe place. I do everything that my mom did during those three days. And still I have not got my answer.
I remember the time when I was in my 8th grade and still hadn’t joined the club of girls who had got their “Menstrual Cycle”. One working day, I was happily playing, when a girl who had already passed this stage and was considered an expert, came rushing to me and pulled me aside. I was bewildered. She called few more girls who were the experts and whispered something in their ears. And quickly, the pack took charge and walked behind me while the leader pulled me to the washroom. She pushed me inside, locked the door and turned around. I was clueless. “What were these girls going to do?” I thought.
“You have those stains on your skirt”, she whispered.
Puzzled, I asked her what was she talking about. One of the girls from the pack took lead and screeched, “You have red stains on your skirt. You have got your periods.”
I had a vague idea about what periods were. My mom had given me a rough explanation. But finding out this way and with my mom not by my side, scared me. An embarrassing silence muted the entire surroundings and I was able to hear only my sobs. I had no idea what I had to do. As I started bawling out, a teacher entered the washroom and escorted me to the principal’s office. As I waited impatiently, my mom reached school carrying a red towel!! She quickly wrapped me up and spoke with my teachers in hushed voices, before rushing me out.
For two days I was kept in a separate room. My mom fed me sweets and fruits. I was forbidden from seeing or talking with my brother. On the third day, everything changed. Expect for those few red stains on my skirt, there was nothing. I was not bleeding. My mother, a confused soul, carried that unwashed skirt to a doctor and consulted her. And to my mother’s utter shock, those stains were not blood stains, but that of red ink!! End of merriment and festivities. I was made to stay back in the house for two more days, before I was sent to school. It was done to create a scene among my class mates that I was sick and that is why I was away from school.
And I did get my periods. In the summer holidays of my 8th grade. And yet again, the festivities began. I realized that the festivities were over for me though. I had a list of restrictions lurking around in my mom’s mind. I was restricted from wearing sleeveless tops. I was allowed to wear only chudidars, western outfits were donated to deserving children. I was forbidden from playing outside with my boy friends. I missed out on tiny moments that gave me joy as a child. Periods, though a very important event in a girl’s life, will always be considered a bane for girls, by me. Few orthodox families impose so many restrictions that, a girl loses her innocence and matures way too early. Apart from the physical pain there is always the emotional pain during those three days.
I have always heard my mother say “Shh!! Don’t say out loud that you have periods.” Those monthly cycles are just hormonal changes and has got nothing to do with such orthodox superstitions. Let girls grow and bloom. Don’t suppress them in the name of periods. These red stains are not something to be ashamed of. Take pride in your periods.
“This blogathon is supported by the Maya App, used by 6.5 million women worldwide to take charge of their periods and health.”