In the Game of Periods, There Are Too Many Rules to Be Followed
This is a series of posts in partnership with PERIOD.org for National Period Day.
Ever felt like Drogon wanting to burn down cities without even a single "Dracarys"?
Welcome to that time of the month.
Growing up in an orthodox family with too many Jon Snows who knew nothing about menstruation compelled me to follow the rules of society and secretly despise them. The cramps that I had during those days were nothing compared to the urge I had to become the mad queen, burning everything and everyone down to ashes.
But funny how more than men, it's women who continue to shove the superstitions up our behinds, in the name of traditions (at least in most Indian communities). In my family, too, the women had the upper hand in deciding who and what goes in the house. Even though my father would buy sanitary pads for us, there were certain rules in the family which were to be followed at all times without questioning.
Strictly refrain from touching anyone who isn’t on their periods. Touching would make them impure.
Refrain from entering the kitchen. Keep separate utensils which no one will touch.
Do not touch daily use utensils.
Do not touch or roam around pickles.
Sit only in one room and use a different bed sheet till the period ends.
Do not touch washed clothes or fresh linens.
Do not go near boys as the smell will arouse them.
Do not enter a religious place or chant god’s name.
Do not indulge in any physical activity.
No crossing the road or walking down the street alone.
I was the first-born, first of my name and the first to break these rules. I was angry and confused at the unsolicited attitude towards the most natural thing. My "whys" were ridiculed with insulted glares and hushed noises. The only way to vent out my frustration was not abiding by these rules.
I began to touch EVERYTHING in my house. I would hop on everything when no one was around. I would touch food and serve myself. I would use every utensil and ruffle my fresh linens. I sat with men and ignored the intimidating stares of the women. I also ran a 5k marathon on my second day. On top of it, I would touch my grandmother when she would fuss too much. And guess what, nothing happened! Pickles were good as before, nobody fell ill and no dragons hatched out of my vagina.
But what really bothered me was the fact that nobody ever questioned the stigmas associated with age-old traditions. No one asked why most women are ‘for’ the atrocities and ‘against’ the repercussions of being outcast from society? It took me sometime to realize that most women my granny’s age have seen the bitter times where access to products and information was scarce, hence the mentality of the people was narrow. In an attempt to save their future generations from the societal humiliation, they have been stroking the patriarchy.
Luckily, after my repeated violations of the house rules, my grandmother’s love for me made her go flexible with those rules.
Earlier it was lack of access to information, now it is the fear of being proved wrong; hence most people still live in the past. I have seen my relatives fussing over my mother for letting me sit with them during “those days.” My uncles would refuse to travel with me and my cousins would stop me from entering religious places.
Even the government banned the entry of menstruating women in temples. (And that’s how they won the election in one of the states). If the people are voluntarily choosing a patriarchal and irrational ideology, can we even blame the government to amplify it?
It has been 4 years that I am living on my own. A lot has changed in the past few years; both personally and socially. From 2G to 5G, from desktops to tablets, from encyclopedia to Wikipedia; we have evolved multifold. But the hush over tampons are still the same, the disgust over a stain is still the same. It’s safe to say that we took two steps forward for men and one step backward for women.
I will never forget the time when my ultra religious relatives sent me to a family function in a separate car, so that no one had to sit with me during the long drive. On top of that they gave me the iron throne to sit on, quite literally! It was an old chair made of multiple flattened iron rods, without any cushioning. As a kid I used to love that chair but as a bleeding adult, I despise it more than ever. I was even asked to eat my lunch in a separate corner, with separate utensils to serve me. This hostile treatment just because I have a functional vagina? C’mon!
Nobody saw the absurdity of it all; everyone just watched the mockery being made out of me. This entire episode made me realize how little people know about menstruation and how they choose to believe what has been passed down from generations. The situation is worse in the rural areas where people are still using conventional cloth products which are both unhygienic and unsafe for them.
It took me years to get out of the orthodox mindset of people and call them out when they try to impose insensitive notions about my body, on me. But it’s high time we break the wall of myths and show people the resistance power of women’s body which bears them, nourishes them, feeds them, loves them, and ultimately brings them to life – in blood.