Periods, menstruation, being “down“… This has always been a topic of my interest. When I was 7-years-old, being the curious child I was, I ended up self-examining my genitals in front of a mirror to better understand, where did my pee even originate from? Of course, it was a rather horrific event according to the Indian norms, but it led me to the discovery of a ‘third’ ‘secret’ hole that no one had told me about, or perhaps did anyone else even have it? Was I special? What a wonder!
It was a regular Sunday evening with the dry wind blowing up our curtains when my 42-year-old mother, an Indian lady brought up in the mid-nineties, was both flabbergasted and partly unsurprised that her tiny daughter, with impatience and curiosity, asked such a question. After processing this, she answered, “Beta, it’s called a Vagina… and yes all women have it. You cannot mention it to anyone, promise?”
“But, what does it even do? Do we pee or fart from here?”
“Beta,” She hesitated, “When you grow older, blood will come from there.”
My moderate haemophobia made her backtrack as fast before I fully digested it. “It was just a joke beta, does not have any function at all.” But, alas! It was too late, I already knew and so for the next 7 years, I anticipated in horror for the moment.
8th-grade Biology made my stomach knot and somersault, however, even then it did not happen, only when 3 girls in my class were left to bleed (as we openly discussed all the girls lagging behind)- did I first experience it. Asking mother if she had any pads, how to use them and why was it that I suddenly smelt bad was the easy part, the hard ones were to follow.
Each drop of blood for some reason felt as if a water balloon was dropping downwards and each step, action, cough, laugh and conversation made me uncomfortable on the first day. I also seemed to notice a loss of balance such that I felt like I had partaken in Bungee jumping; except this feeling lasted for the coming few months.
As Mother Nature called for womanhood and blessed me with this half-blessing-half-curse, I realised that it would be- ‘I’ who had to clean my undies, that in the ‘adult world,’ many products are not only uncomfortable but there is such a thing called ‘Pink Tax’ too.
Even realising that helping other bleeding girls was an unwritten duty of sorts and that bleeding did not make me inferior in any way, that despit the strongest stigma made on the basis that I am ‘unpure’ in those days- no brownie points can be taken away from my being.
I am 18 while writing this and I have been blessed with many precious experiences in life, this particular ongoing experience is special to me in a weird way. Over the years I finally got used to the bright red and rusty smell, the early mornings and sweet cusses accompanied with cramps and even sharing a community where we get to express whatever goes on with us.
I didn’t know, as a seven-year-old, that not many women tell their children about their hole and even after having their first ‘D-day’ are not allowed to own it as a part of their own selves but rather have to hide in shame.
I am someone lucky enough to realise that society’s brownie points do not affect me and that I was able to embrace such an interesting phenomenon as part of me. I truly hope that women all over India are able to fully taste this freedom, and can switch from the bitterness of centuries to better days.