Your Thoughts Are Impure, Not My Period: A Valuable Lesson From My Mother

Posted by Joyeeta Talukdar in #IAmNotDown
May 11, 2017
This post is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign #IAmNotDown to start a conversation on the stigma around menstrual hygiene women deal with. If you have an opinion on how we can improve access to menstrual hygiene products or a personal story of fighting menstrual taboos, write to us here.

A woman does not become impure during periods. A lesson learnt by the author’s mother in her childhood, and shared with her daughter.

Women’s Web had a blogathon recently on the topic of ‘period pride’. I was discussing the topic with my Ma (mother) and she told me about this incident from her life. It makes me realize how life unfurls itself in many ways and teaches you the best lessons when you are demotivated.

So I thought of re-writing this story here. The story of my Ma, Gouri.

Gouri was just 10-years-old when she was sent to her maternal uncle’s home for higher studies and for developing her skills at  playing the sitar. A fair skinned girl with short hair and an athletic built, she was very intelligent and hard-working.

Gouri was growing up fast with extraordinary sitar-playing skills and super beautiful Bengali looks.

It was the 1960s and no one really talked about menstruation in public. She was 13-years-old now.

One morning, she woke up from bed and found it to be wet. Startled, she sprung up and saw that it was blood-stained. Cold chills rushed over her as she grew anxious that her maternal aunt would scold her for this. Confused about the blood, she rushed to the bathroom to clean the bed sheets and her clothes.

She then focussed on her daily routine of cleaning the verandah, worshipping the household deities, and practising the sitar. But all this time, she felt a sharp nagging pain in the bottom of her stomach along with a wet feeling in her underwear.

She was afraid to ask anybody about it, especially her aunt who was very strict.

She rushed back to the toilet and found herself bleeding again and was struck anew by shivers of fright. This time, she thought that she was stung by some insect in her private parts.

She sobbed for almost an hour, until her cousin, Madhuri, found her there.

Madhuri asked her, “What happened Di (big sister)?”

Gouri sobbed, without answering.

Madhuri asked again, “What happened Di? Why are you crying?”

Still shivering, Gouri said at length, “Promise me you won’t tell anybody!”

Madhuri said, “Yes, promise.”

Gouri answered, “I think I am going to die!”

Shocked, Madhuri screamed, “Dieeee, why???”

Gouri answered, still sobbing, “I have been stung by some poisonous insect in my private parts and have been bleeding since this morning, and now I have a nagging pain in my lower stomach. Ohhhh!!! I can’t even see my parentssssss!”
It was the 1960s and no one really talked about menstruation in public. She was 13-years-old now.

Madhuri’s scream attracted Gouri’s maternal aunt to the scene and she overheard the conversation. But as soon she heard of the bleeding she started smoking like a volcano, and before Gouri could go on, her aunt screamed, “You moron! You have doomed my home. You are menstruating and you have worshiped my gods, stepped into the kitchen and even played Sitar. Oh my god! this nasty girl has opened the door to hell. Get out now or if I get in the bathroom, you know you are dead.”

Terrified by her Aunt’s threats, Gouri slowly stepped out of the bathroom and slipped out of the home. Her aunt had busied herself with cleaning the home and muttering bad omens towards Gouri.

Broken hearted, Gouri went and sat on the bank of the nearby pond, but she could feel that her underwear was oozing with fluid and was almost full. She felt the urgent need to change them.

Helplessly, she rushed to a home nearby. The home belonged to a widow who was a professor. Gouri had never gone to her home because the people of the neighbourhood said, “She has studied more than required and so she is not suitable to stay in this society.” But now Gouri felt that she needed urgent help and so she rushed to the professor’s home.

Gouri knocked the door and after a few moments, the widow came out. With a beautiful smile she leaned towards Gouri and said, “I am Malini, How can I help you, dear?” Those words seemed to be the sweetest words for Gouri after the excessive mental torture she had gone through that morning.

Tears rolled down her cheeks, and Gouri began to sob. Malini placed her hands over Gouri’s shoulders and said, “What happened, dear, what makes you cry?”

Gouri now tried to speak, and controlled her tears enough to say, “My aunt says I have doomed her family because I have touched her gods and kitchen when I was bleeding. But, I myself don’t know what has made me bleed through my private parts, probably some poisonous insect has stung me last night and I am going to die now.”

Hearing Gouri’s story, Malini laughed heartily. This made Gouri angry. She was astonished and thought, “I am sharing my distress with her and she is laughing!”

Gouri was about to run away from Malini’s doorstep but then Malini hugged her tight and said, “Hey, young lady, I am sorry for laughing, but your words seem so innocent that I can’t stop myself from laughing. But, I am sorry again. Let’s find a solution for your problem.”

Malini’s apology soothed Gouri. She wanted to find a solution to her bleeding problem, too.

Malini said, “You weren’t stung by any poisonous insect but you have taken the first step into womanhood. Welcome to this world. First, let me help you to deal with this problem but for that you need to go with me to the washroom.”

Malini helped Gouri with the necessary requirements of a menstruating young girl and even provided her with extra sanitary napkins for the rest of her period.

After this process, Malini offered Gouri warm milk and biscuits to eat. Gouri was hungry, as she hadn’t eaten anything since the morning, and gobbled up the food.

Malini sat down beside Gouri and slowly said to her, “Gouri, you have attained puberty and this menstruation will occur from now on every month after a period of 18-35 days and last from 5-7 days.”

“You need to keep track of the time. At first, it shall be confusing, but slowly you shall learn. But, during your periods you need to be very clean and use these sanitary napkins which you will need to change every few hours. Drink loads of water and eat good food.”

Gouri grew sad again and said, “I thought I had been bitten by some insect and this won’t happen again. But then if this happens every month then, I shall become impure every month, during this period. I will have to run away from home or else my aunt’s home will become impure and I shall lead her family to hell.”

Malini said, “No, please don’t think this way. This isn’t true. Menstruation is the rule of supreme Mother Nature, who is a woman herself. No lady becomes impure or dooms others by merely touching things. That’s the narrow-minded way of thinking.

“Never feel the guilt that you are impure during this period or have made someone else impure by merely touching them. This is just a natural process.”

Gouri, innocently, asked, “Do you have this too? And film actresses and my aunt too?”

Malini smiled and said, “Yes, of course!”

Gauri now got a ray of hope and said joyfully, “Ah, then its OK. I don’t need to be afraid of anything. If this happens to every girl, then I am not impure by myself, even my aunt is. As is every Goddess. Hehe.”

Gouri’s childish nature came into play which made her carefree.

Malini said, “No dear, no woman is impure it’s just the process of Mother Nature which makes a girl a stronger lady. Don’t stop worshipping your god during this process thinking you are impure, your god loves you just the way you are, no matter what.”

 

It has been almost 40 years since that incident. Gouri has transformed into a confident lady and still hasn’t given up her offerings to god during her mensuration and has succeeded in every aspect of her life.

Gouri now says, “Menstruation is a hormonal change so we don’t need to signify it as being impure. It’s the thought process which needs to be purified. If we change our thoughts, then we can bring about change in the society.”

As told to Joyeeta Talukdar by Gouri Talukdar Bhattacharjee

This article was first published on Women’s Web

Youth Ki Awaaz is an open platform where anybody can publish. This post does not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions.