By Vedanshi Bhatia:
I have been working on a project that required me to stay alone in a village in Uttarakhand. I had to adopt their ways of living because I wanted it to be an immersive experience.
I got my period when I was staying in the village. I was happy because I had missed my period for a few months and was really anxious. I told the woman in the house that I got my period and realised soon after that I shouldn’t have. All I wanted was to experience how the women in the village lived when they were menstruating.
She was completely taken aback when I told her. She told me that I could only live in the house if I obeyed certain rules. She got me a mat to sleep on, and also mentioned that she wasn’t asking me to sleep next to where the cows lived because she was a ‘modern’ woman.
So, I slept on the ground with a different pillow and a different blanket. She woke me up at 4.00 a.m. the next day and asked me to take a bath and wash both the pillow and the blanket. I could hardly understand what she was saying because I was still sleepy.
After I had taken a bath, she sprinkled ‘gau mutra’ (cow’s urine) on me and also asked me to drink some of it. I didn’t say no because I wanted to experience these things.
Every morning before I had gotten my period, I used to greet her with a hug but now I wasn’t even allowed anywhere near her. I was asked to stand at least four feet away from all the plants. I wasn’t allowed to enter the kitchen or the ‘puja’ room and was given a separate room to stay in. She would even put the cup of tea (and food) on the ground, and I had to pick it up from there and have it.
I experienced something that I hadn’t ever experienced before – untouchability.
I had never felt so bad during my period before. I was wondering how all the other girls in the village felt about this segregation. I was made to feel like there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t even supposed to make eye contact with people.
For the next three-four days, I slept alone and washed all my stuff daily. Even if I entered another room by mistake, she would mop the floor after I left.
After the fifth day, once my period was over, the lady was sweet to me again. She would spend time with me and treated me well. All this while, I had resisted the urge to tell her how she treated me was just the opposite of what it was like at my home. There were two reasons why I didn’t say anything – the first reason was the project I was working on and the fact that my stay had to be an immersive one; the second reason was the realisation that things weren’t very different back in the city.
Even today, many rules that were imposed on me during my period are rules that are still imposed on girls living in the city, rules like not entering the kitchen or the puja room, sleeping on the ground, etc.
I hope things change for the better in this village. The next time a young girl stays with this lady, I hope she asks her to sit and eat with her and allow her to live her period week like she would live any other.