If you are wondering whether my article involves puns, I cannot guarantee it. Neither can you. But what I can guarantee is that the article is about ‘usual’ events and daily chores during the ‘unusual’ five days (mahine ke wo din). It’s about a paradox and an insight that I gained from connecting experiences in my developmental years.
On my menarche (the first occurrence of periods), many of those menstrual customs (don’t shampoo during your period; wear limited dresses because if you wear many, all of them will become ‘impure’ and have to be wash again; don’t worship; don’t let anyone know that you’re on the rags) were forced upon me. Later, I heard of something very unsettling:
Well, this is what my grandmother told me on one apparently fine afternoon when I was 11, “don’t ever put your ‘bloody hands’ onto your hair otherwise, you will lose all your hair.”
Her big grey eyes looked deep down into my soul and in them, I saw a glimpse of a cold, grey and watchful world that I had stepped into. Something got stuck in my throat, I gulped. I was very worried. My boundless mind, in lightning speed, came up with a thought, “what would happen if I forget to wash my hand after scratching while on my menses, and then touched my hair? Would I lose all my hair instantaneously or would it take years?”
But I didn’t want any of that for sure. I made a mental note and from then on, every time I bled, I was very conscious about washing my hands after disposing of my pads. I even resisted myself from scratching, thinking, “what if I forget to wash it and put it on to my hair”, “I’ll look ugly if my hair falls out.” But my age of rebellion was coming.
I remember that I was 17 years old then; I was going through some hair trouble and decided to go for a haircut. So, accompanied by my mother I went to the salon, where on my asking for a remedy for hair fall, the barber’s smile turned into worry. Her eyes seemed to visualise my deed as her carefully plucked eyebrows slowly frowned upon me. She whispered into my ears, “you touched your hair with ‘those’ hands, didn’t you!”
I was in shock. Is this for real!?
Taking advantage of my lack of response to her question, she put forward her remedy to my mother, “pour some holy water on your daughter’s hair, just as you do to worship lord Shiva.”
Now that was very rude, considering that this is the 21st century, and Google maps told me that I was in one of the biggest metropolis in India, where life pushes you forward. I was so shocked that I could not come up with any words.
But I wish I could have.
Then, during my Master’s dissertation I chose to focus on menstrual awareness as my area of research. As I was still living with people following the same old customs, one fine morning while I was daydreaming, a thought hit me. If menstrual blood causes hair loss then why doesn’t our pubic hair fall out? Then, I wondered ridiculously far and thought that if menstrual blood can really create such magic, we can save money on that bikini wax planned for the summer. Or, better yet, let’s add a product of mahine ke wo din (that time of the month) to the beauty industry for all those people who are tired of shaving their skin. May it be a red summer. May it be prosperous.