I live in the slums of Dinanath Mitra Lane in Kolkata. Life is not as easy as I would like it to be, but I manage. In fact, sometimes I feel that life was much easier for me, until about a year ago, when I started menstruating. You wouldn’t believe me if I narrate my life story, but every word of it is true.
I am the only child to my parents. My mother was killed when I was young. I grew up with my father, my uncle and my grandparents. I have never known about the special bond that mothers and daughters have – something that my friends keep talking about. I never had a woman in my house with whom I could share my ‘girl troubles’!
But, in all my life till now, I have never missed my mother more than the last one year. At 14, I was told by my friends that I am running late – a step behind all of them who had apparently started their journeys into womanhood. The first time we spoke about it, I was a little jealous. But I had heard the horror stories about the pain, the cramps and the blood stains. And I was thankful it hadn’t happened to me.
But it did. And I had no one to run to for advice, except my grandmother. She told me I wasn’t supposed to wash my hair during my periods, not visit the temple, not eat pickles, not run and play with my friends – and most importantly, not talk about it. She told me I was impure during these five days of the month – and that I must clean and wash all my clothes thoroughly and hang them separately, not with the other ‘clean’ clothes.
It frustrates me to be unable to talk about the discomfort I go through every month. I had mood swings, and I used to hate using cloth, and then wash the dirty ones. I wanted to feel cleaner during those days.
I really want to understand why this whole process is such a big secret. All my friends go through it – and that means every woman on earth has periods!
Recently, I got the chance to speak to some representatives of an NGO that helped me move from using cloth to using sanitary napkins. I feel much better nowadays. I really wish our families or schools would prepare us better to live with menstruation in a cleaner and more informed manner.