It all started 6 years ago. I was in the 5th grade and my class teachers were planning a school trip to a nearby town. A hundred chatty students were to go there by bus, engage in a little sightseeing and return at night. At that age, getting a monthly visit from a certain bloody friend was quite uncommon so the boys were kept in the dark while my friends and I would talk about it in hushed tones. Getting one’s period was almost frightening and no one was particularly excited about this odd coming of age. So to make us feel comfortable, my teachers asked us to inform them if we got our periods and reassured us that we’d be taken care of.
I got it on the day of the trip but I was okay with it because it wasn’t my first time. I informed a teacher anyway and hopped on to the bus. One of the places of interest in that town was a huge, historic temple. My classmates and I all went inside, marvelled at the carvings (or dug our noses; I don’t remember if we were interested) and stepped out. Just as I did, another teacher pulled me aside and asked me if I had my period. But she used alien words like ‘date’ and ‘chums’ so I just gave her a confused look. She smiled and told me to leave but then I suddenly realised what she meant and replied with a ‘yes’. Her expression changed instantly and in a terrifyingly angry voice, she told me this:
“How did you go inside the temple then? Don’t you know you’re not supposed to? Hasn’t your mother told you that you can’t step inside a temple when you have your period? Call your mother tomorrow, I want to meet her!”
I thought I’d made the largest blunder of my life. I was mortified. My teacher had shamed me for entering the scary world of puberty, just because I’d visited a temple. What kind of human being does that to a harmless child? I apologised and got onto the bus. I was almost in tears the entire ride home. I didn’t understand why my entering a temple was such a big deal when my other friends did it too. I was confused and anxious about what she’d say to my mother the next day. As I frantically told my mom what the teacher had said, a look of disgust crossed her face and she told me to relax. She explained to me that we don’t believe in these things and that I should tell the teacher that the next day. She shrugged off the teacher’s words and told me that it was a dumb superstition. The next day, I didn’t meet the teacher and she forgot all about it.
My mother showed me that getting my period doesn’t make me a bad, abnormal person. But others don’t seem to agree. I see various versions of this incident happening around me every day.
In my friend’s family, when women have their period, they don’t enter the kitchen. They’re not allowed to cook simply because of a biological phenomenon. There’s a woman who works at my house and helps with all the odd jobs. She usually keeps a fast on Mondays (misses one meal or more, of the day, in the name of God) but when she has her period she doesn’t. Neither does she visit the temple. Recently, my aunt was forcing me to attend the neighbour’s pooja but the instant I told her I have my period, she asked me not to come. I was shocked to see the sudden change so I actually became determined on going, but she constantly insisted that I shouldn’t. She told me that it’s disrespectful.
I vehemently hate this. I hate this belief and I hate that women mindlessly follow it and men advocate it. Women are considered sick, impure and untouchable even, when they’re on their period. In some cultures, women are made to sit alone in a room with no human contact for those 6 days. Some aren’t even allowed to enter their homes when they’re menstruating.
I know a well-educated family whose son went to IIT to pursue his studies. Despite this, they don’t allow their maid to enter their house when it’s her time of the month.
So, God obviously hates me when I’m on my period because I can’t hang out with him in a temple, nor can I keep a fast in his name. Food obviously hates me too, because I can’t enter the kitchen to spread some butter on bread. I guess people also hate me because I can’t enter they’re house when they’re praying to God.
So the next time someone asks you not to go to temple or cook pasta when your red friend is visiting, ask them to take a hike. And if you’re a person who has been believing these sick rules for so long:
- Shame on you for making women follow your stone-age way of life and forcing them to feel different and abnormal for a normal scientific occurrence.
- Women don’t contaminate an area or spiritual idea by bleeding. Menstrual blood is not dirty or impure, it’s just made denser by the shedding of the uterus lining and the egg. It’s very similar to normal blood. So if you still believe in your silly custom, I’m sorry but no entering the kitchen or temple when you hit your knee against a sharp corner.
- I really do hope I made you question the mindless superstition you follow and exposed its absurdity.
- If you still strongly disagree with me, I do not apologise for having hurt your “religious sentiments”. Grow up and be open to other points of view.
I refuse to be treated as less capable, weaker, dirty or impure for being a woman. God loves all his children: rich or poor, man or woman, menstruating or not. It’s high time we speak openly about menstruation in India; a country that truly needs to quash its taboos one at a time. I think talking and writing about it freely is the only way we’ll get it done.
I bleed. Deal with it.
(The above post is my article from the Society Column of the eJournal, Brangled Minds. To check it out, click here.)