I’m not sure why I’m writing this – a lot of people might get upset with this. But it’s nothing new for me, so I continue typing.
Menstruation is as natural as sweating on a hot day for anyone, both male and female. But when it comes to acceptance of the phenomenon, one witnesses strange reactions. I still don’t know how socially ‘acceptable’ periods are in the Western world, but in India, it’s a complete circus. And as in a lot of other things, my family and social customs outdo anyone else.
Periods remind me of my late grandmother (Dadi, I love you). The day I got my first period, something about me in her eyes changed. She became skeptical of caressing me, or just touching me fondly on the cheek. What if I was bleeding then?
She was the rule-maker in the household and surprisingly, even the over-grown men of the family were scared of her (or so she thought).
Some period-related rules I recall include: not entering the temple of the house, not eating at the dining table, eating and drinking in ‘special’ plates and cups, not touching the grandmother, announcing that you were ‘untouchable’ before she could be defiled at your touch and yes, the most interesting one, shampooing my hair on the ‘third’ day of the cycle.
Obviously, I didn’t understand these rules.
I would forget which day I was on and therefore the shampooing got delayed. I wasn’t sure when to start counting the days – at the start of cramping or at the first sight of blood? I tried to ask once but there were no answers. Only angry looks.
I distinctly remember a chilly winter day when the domestic help walked in with a large tray of some 12 mugs with piping hot tomato soup. I was untouchable then. Poor fellow didn’t know that (I’m sorry for not telling you, dear help!) and made the fatal error of offering me a mug. The family, which was gathered in the large, living room, was suddenly startled by a lightning-like voice. It was my grandmother. She said ‘don’t you know you can’t offer her that mug? Get the other one, kept in that corner of that drawer, in that room.’
That guy looked me in the eye, sympathy dripping from every cell of his body. I was too ashamed to meet his gaze. All the other men of the family – including father, uncle, brothers and of course, grandfather – looked at me with an emotion that beautifully combined empathy, consolation and of course, humour. Their X-ray fitted eyes pierced me just in the right place, as if they could see through me, knowing exactly what was going on with my reproductive system. At that instant, I felt like digging a large hole in the earth, and shoving them all in.
Anyway. Time passed, and each month the shame visited me and left, leaving me to deal with physical cramps and silent humiliation. For what – I still don’t know!
However, now I think I’m finally getting my answers. Even when we may talk ‘feminism’ and blame men for inflicting this and that on women of the world, sometimes the deepest wounds are caused by one set of women to another.
However, the day the so-called ‘victims’ refuse to be victimised, this stupidity and outdated belief system cannot sustain itself. All one needs to do, is question! But be careful, sometimes there are no answers, only trouble!
Tell me about it.
Image taken from Google images