By Chayanika Moulik:
Our class teacher walks in and announces, “At 11:30 all the girls assemble in the activity room. Only the girls, no boys.” Today, I wish they said all the students and did not alienate the boys. What followed was endless murmuring and guessing games about what is it that only requires girls to participate. Come 11:30 and all the girls queued up and marched to the activity room, feeling a certain pride for the exclusive invite they received and not the boys. The next one hour changed all that.
What was shown was a video on puberty; how a girl’s body changes as she enters adolescence and how her reproductive system functions and why she would get her period every month. It did not end here. As a token of love, they handed us all a sanitary pad each. Now, this little piece of ‘I don’t know what’ came with a lot of embarrassment. Never on Earth could a girl possibly let the boys in her class know that she was on her period. It reminded most of us of those fateful days when once in a week we wore our white skirts and that day clashed with the day of our period. It was probably the worst nightmare if a blood stain was left on the skirt.
And now came the real challenge: to carry the sanitary pad back to class without the knowledge of the boys. We tiptoed our way back talking in hush tones. And what do we see? All the boys peeping out of the classroom with eyes wide open trying their best to know what they missed. We all tried to hide the bulge in our pockets that the pads created, there were no ultra-thin ones back in the day. We cooked up different stories to shut the boys up. Today I wish we didn’t. I wish we told them what we saw and it’s equally important for them to know that it is only human for a girl to bleed.
A senior colleague remarked, “You know why she’s drinking cranberry juice? ‘Cos she’s on her period,” followed by laughter. I wish I had told him that while there could be a scientific connection between cranberry juice and chumming, no scientists have ever found a joke in it. So the laughter and the snide remark is a fragment of his filthy imagination. I couldn’t help but feel sad about his narrow-mindedness and limited knowledge on the subject. It is incidents like these that make me realise that much can be done if boys are educated and enlightened about life processes such as menstruation and childbirth at an early age. It might help take the ‘gross and ugly’ out of a natural phenomenon.
It’s every other day that women face a challenge – to carry the sanitary pad all the way to the restroom without anyone finding out. We find different ways to hide it – in our pockets, in our notepads, in our laptops or carry them in our handbags. I am bringing about a small change; I am not making efforts to hide it. I will not feel ashamed if the male colleagues see me carrying a sanitary pad. I will not shove it in my friend’s pocket when she asks me for one. It is not shameful to bleed. We are women and we bleed. If and when I have a daughter I would tell her the same thing when she enters adolescence.