My name is Sulagna Moitra and I am from Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar.
At the age of 13, I was playing with my friends when one of the older Didis noticed a stain on my pajama. She rushed to tell my mother. My mother took hold of my hand and rushed to the back of our house. She took me to a dark and dingy room. From under the bed, she brought out some scraps of Saris. She folded them to create a fluffy napkin. “Here, use this to clean the blood. Wash the dirty pajama as soon as you’re cleaned up. Your stomach might ache soon. But there’s nothing to do. You will have to stay here for the next 5 to 7 days.”
The little girl was scared and confused. She had no idea why her mother had confined her in that dark room and why there was blood in between her legs. Was she sick? Was she dying?
At the age of 13, I was in school, when suddenly my best friend told me I had stained my uniform. I quickly took out the secret pad that Ma had given to me in case my periods began. I sprinted to the teacher’s table and asked for permission to go to the washroom. Ma’am said, “Why Beta? What happened?” I shyly whispered back, “Ma’am my pe-pe-period….” Before I could even finish my sentence, she said okay.
After coming back from the washroom, I settled back into my seat. My stomach ached a bit. Otherwise, everything felt alright.
Menstruation. Period. Sanitary Napkin. Whenever we say these words, we tend to say them in hushed tones, as if it is something impure, unclean, forbidden. There was a time when Men used to even cringe at these words. They still do. I myself have often heard people refer to it as ‘monthly curse’ or ‘Lady’s problem’. Menstruation is an extremely taboo subject in our Indian society. People don’t talk about it and even if they do, it’s only the women. Our society is full of men who have grown up, unaware of the topic of menstruation. This is why Menstrual Hygiene is an often-neglected topic in our country. In rural areas, girls still tend to use a dirty rag instead of a sanitary napkin to absorb their period blood. This can lead to various infections and diseases. Movies like “Pad Man” have promoted the use of pads but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Whenever my mother and I go out to buy pads, the chemist slyly slips the packet into black polythene which is usually used as a garbage bag. Most women tend to stash their sanitary napkins and tampons in some secret corner of their bag or room, hidden from the sight of other people. I remember once in grade 7th, I had kept my pads in my bag pocket and a girl noticed. She quickly pulled me back and said in hushed tones, “Your pads are showing.”
To bring about change, we must start from the grass-root level. We should start with our very own fathers. When talking about periods, neither the daughter nor the father should feel uncomfortable. A father should know when his daughter is on her period. He should be there for her with a hot water bag when her cramps get bad. When she’s out of pads, she should be comfortable asking her father to buy some for her.
Even in school. Young girls shouldn’t have to whisper to their teachers about periods. They should be bold enough to tell their male friends when they’re having cramps or mood swings. Young boys should grow up knowing what menstruation is, and not just as a topic that is taught in class 8th textbook. They should know what to do in case a woman is out of pads, or is having serious cramps or is bloated.
But what step can you take at home? Start with telling your father, your brother, your uncle, your grand-father about menstruation. Don’t forget, to tell your grandmother and your aunts and even your mother, that it’s nothing impure. Period blood is not impure or unclean. It is a natural process. And even though it hurts; it is definitely NOT a curse to be ashamed of!
Pad is not an impure thing. Neither is Period. As one of my friends boldly said to us, “Period Huan Hain, Paap Nahi!”