A Free Period

Image Source

I pass by a temple everyday as I walk to the corner of my street to hail an auto that would take me to my work place. Today I noticed a girl standing outside with a glum look on her face. She must have been eleven or twelve I guess. Her face was smeared with turmeric and the yellow streak on her pale brown skin was disturbing. A minute later her mother walks out and the girl stretches her palm forward for the prashad, but her mother stops her saying that she should not eat this today. It did not take me long to figure out what was happening. The girl frowned and slowly walked ahead as her mother looked for stains around her skirt, and after a self approval she walked ahead of her daughter. I stood and watched this while waiting for the auto waalas to ferry me by agreeing on the meter price. This incident irritated me. It angered me more that it is 2015 and people still treat a girl on her period as something disgusting.

Menstruation is a natural process and is a sign of a healthy body. Since I studied in an all girls convent, we were educated about every aspect of menstruation. It is as natural as breathing and I don't know why people make such a big hue and cry about it. One fine day I woke up to my first period and informed my mother about it. She gave me a sanitary pad and that was the end of it. I knew how to use it so it was just normal for me. My grandmother came in to see me and refused to touch me. I was so annoyed that I stopped talking to her for a good while. My parents did not fuss much over it and I was allowed to go out and play just like how I was used to. My mother did not put in any restrictions while I was on my period. It came in every month and went away after a while. I was always an agile and sporty person and I did not stop being any of those just because I was on my period. Those four to five days were nothing special to me. It was just like any other day and nobody troubled me over it.

Image Source

But the whole thing changed after I got married. Questions were asked about when I got my period. I don't think that it is anything dirty or embarrassing to let people know, but what annoys me the most is the indifference that comes with it. There were so many rules and restrictions and it troubled me to the core as it was something with zero logic and was implemented just because it was passed on from one generation to other. I wasn't allowed to walk around without taking a bath, had to stay away from the God's area and had to oil myself and wash my hair everyday. I hated every bit of it and yet clenched my teeth and did it. But it did have a very adverse effect on me. I was made to feel like I was disgusting and untouchable if I had my period. This thing troubled my mind to such an extent that I began cursing myself for being a girl and having periods. It affected me psychologically so much that one fine day the periods stopped. I did not get them for months together. This caused my body to bloat, acne increased and the mood swings were crazy. Worst times of my life, ever.

While you are married and are desperately trying not to have a baby, you know what a heart attack a missed period can lead to. I went to my doctor who confirmed that I was not pregnant and that PCOD combined with stress was messing with my menstruation cycle. I felt that because of the way I was getting treated during my period, maybe I did not want it to happen at all. I know it sounds stupid, but somehow makes sense to me. During the early days a woman on her period was kept aloof so that she is not prone to any infections during that time. People were trying to protect her, but as centuries passed this whole thing turned into a damned circus. Women are not allowed to touch anyone during their period. Or even pickles for that matter. I still don't know what is the logic behind that. The woman is expected to wet herself from head to toe and her clothes the minute she gets her period, irrespective of what time of the day it is. A woman is expected to not sit in the seating area before a bath. Almost like as if a bath is going to stop her periods forever.

I have seen some women who do super drama while they are on their period. Some take the route where they consider themselves disgusting and sit on the floor or in some corner and give elaborate hints to everyone around that they are on their period. Some others take the route where they expect TLC from their partners while on their period. They do drama about not being able to stand, sit, walk etc. Maybe some women actually go through such stuff, but most of them do it just for the attention. I for one, continue doing the things that I would normally do. Ever since we moved to a place of our own, I know that there are no restrictions what so ever. The first month I moved here, I got my period. After a long long time. Maybe my body wanted me to relax as well. I walked around the house freely as I wanted to and did all that I normally do. I was thrilled to enjoy a happy period. My body understood too and my cycle became normal since that day. Like clockwork and without any medication. A day on my period is just like any other day for me. I exercise, do yoga, cook, dance, pray and do exactly the things I do on a regular day.

Image source: Do we want boards like this?

I'm not a person who visits temples often but I do not see the reason why a menstruating woman is not allowed inside a temple. If there is a situation where I have to go to a temple, I would go. Yes, even if I was on my period. At some temples there are huge boards set up citing that menstruating women are not allowed. What about rapists? Or that man who beats his wife everyday? Or that woman who steals from her neighbors? Or the lady who abuses her children? All of them are allowed. Except for a woman on her period. If it was something impure than God would not have created the concept of menstruation at all. It is a natural phenomena where the uterine lining sheds every month if there is no pregnancy. And if there is no pregnancy this lining is not needed as it is important only to protect the fetus. Every healthy girl gets this every month. It does not make her impure. Not does it makes her sacred for going through it. It is nothing big at all. People need to stop treating women indifferently while they are on their period. Every woman deserves a safe and healthy period where no one bothers her with unnecessary questions and subjects her to indifference.

Set her free. Let her be.

23 comments:

  1. It was as if I had read my life story! How my parents weren't fussy, what changes after the wedding, the PCOD and all that! I used to pity myself for being born a girl. Then came a realization that I didn't do any wrong and people will talk and have an opinion of their own. Just let it be! Loved your write!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let it be indeed! Thanks Shalini :)

      Delete
  2. Much needed post, this! I completely agree. It is totally normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Time to end the moral and religious stigma around this. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think these customs started many centuries ago to give rest to women or or something sane. But like everything else, even this practice is corrupted with stupid logic. Hope your PCOD is ok now. It's such a common problem these days. I go through it off and on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PCOD is healing quickly now, thankfully. Hope it does for you too.

      Delete
  4. It's a shame how periods are such a stigma in society. I can see why your periods stopped due to the psychological stress you were facing, yet said that was the case. I too do not understand why women cannot enter the temple, though I think if I understand correctly it could be because a woman is at her utmost power during her cycle, and I think it does something to the energy/effect of the place she resides whilst menstruating. There is an interesting story about a man from India on this very issue: https://www.straight.com/life/484651/menstrual-man-arunachalam-muruganantham-helps-worlds-poor-women. I hope that this helps to erase the shame and the like for menstruating females. It is about time! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too remember reading something like this. That woman have utmost power during her cycle and it might mess with the Gods. Not too sure what logic it holds. I have also read about Arunachalam. He's doing a wonderful job and we need more people like him here in India.

      Delete
  5. It is like our body and our periods love us more than the people around us! Well written, Soumya. Now how will we knock some sense into these people around us?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That remains a mystery Vinitha. Sigh.

      Delete
  6. My periods are damn painful. Sometimes I need to take tabs for the pain. Coming to the main issue of the post I don't understand why a girl isnt supposed to enter kitchen or pooja room during the period. You know what's the worst thing its not just old generations its also our generation who believe in this crap. I once went through something like this and it infuriated me to no end. I am a Bramhin and trust me the practice of sitting separately for 3 days still exists in few of my extended families.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm married into a Brahmin family and I know these meaningless rituals. Our generation seems to follow this blindly, I know. Maybe they like the attention or have followed the family traditions blindly.

      Delete
  7. Disclaimer: I have near zero respect for most old school indian traditions. And trust me i know...i do.

    But heres the thing. There are big problems and there are smaller ones. This menstruation thing...its kinda small. Im sorry about how things turned out for you. Its really sick that someone made you feel so bad about it...sick really. But if only we smart ones can learn to forgive those ignorant, dumb old women and do things our way with a little persuasion, we can save our energy to fight bigger wars. Im not fond of going to temples so sometimes, even when im not on period, i say i am, just to avoid going ;-)

    They dont let you near the kitchen?? WOW! I'd love a few days off from the kitchen...haha.

    My point is...these people, dumping such disgusting rules on earth, are products of ignorance and arrogance. Let them sulk, do your thing. But dont let them drive you as insane as they did. Its only hurting you. They wont even care!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disclaimer: I agree 100%.

      I'm glad I don't have to go through that shit anymore. I don't have to carry around their ignorance as baggage.

      Delete
  8. Thankfully I have never been subjected to or have come across such discrimination... yet I am waiting for menopause... these cramps suckkkk and I can't do what I normally do :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky you for the first part!

      Oh ho, I know some friends who struggle with cramps as well. Try yoga, I've heard it helps ease it.

      Delete
  9. As a prerequisite for marriage, I am checking if I have to sit for 3 days, if I have to, then it is a big NO even if the guy is the best in the world!
    My parents have never made me feel disgusted about periods, I don't want to be made to feel that by someone else.
    I can only imagine what you went through and it's good you don't have to, anymore!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes you absolutely should. No one should go through that.

      Delete
  10. Oh gosh! I am sorry you had to go through so much. I got my periods when I was 11 so even before I could have got into a session about what this is all about, I had started menstruating. My Mum told me about rules and then said - you do what you want. I am by your side. So I never had to face anything like a taboo during periods. When I got married, luckily my MIL was even more broad minded than my Mum. But reading your post made me feel sad. Hugs dear!
    I am glad your own place worked for you the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't moms so awesome :)

      Lucky lucky you. God bless! I'm glad I'm at a happier place now :)

      Delete
  11. Battle with PCOD is never ending to me. That tuf weight is not willing to go from me. My periods are never on time and every month I hate going to a gyneac:( bold post soumya

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a sad state. I can understand the pain. Take care and try to lose some weight.

      Delete
  12. Sorry to hear that you had to go through so much :( I am glad it's normal now.
    It's quite laid back at my home too, but mom used to tell me all these just to make me aware that others follow this and I might end up upsetting them. But, I had this whole ceremony ... like a wedding ... when I had my first period. Imagine the whole village coming to congratulate me coz I started menstruating. It's a custom in my community.
    Thankfully, my in laws are way too lenient than my parents ...

    ReplyDelete

Care to leave a word or two? Thanks for dropping by :)