My relatives’ house was built with indistinct chatters and decorated in dark yellow marigolds. The walls were shining and so were the faces of all my cousins, who were meeting after many years for the housewarming ceremony. It was time for the prayers to begin and all of us were dressed in ravishing ethnic clothes. While I was about to carry a bowl to the prayer room, a relative snatched it from my hands. She said that I should not touch anything from the prayer room or even walk in that vicinity. She pointed to a separate corner where I was supposed to sit, ostracized.
I was confused. When I asked why I couldn’t be a part of the ceremonies, she glared at me. Being from a typical Indian family, I realised she didn’t even want to use the word ‘menstruation.’ I went to mother who smiled, gently patted my back and guided me back to the prayer place. The relative was baffled. She pulled my mom aside and whispered “Prakarsha can’t sit in the puja like all of us.”
My mom was always a feminist (even before the word became trendy) and never obliged with absurd gender doctrines.
“Why can’t she sit with us?” mom asked loudly.
The relative was perplexed. She was contemplating how to speak about periods without using the word, as there were men around. (My own family, but that’s besides the point.)
To ease her plight, mom said “I know my daughter is on her period and that doesn’t mean she won’t pray to God or bring offerings. We all have periods, don’t we? It’s normal.”
Mom declared with a finality that left my relatives in drought of words. They had nothing to justify their ground, while mom had. They could not counter her words. So all they did was stare at me throughout the prayer.
After the prayer, mom made sure that I ate the holy offerings – prashad first. That evening, mom told me that every girl goes through menstrual stigma and also these superstitions. She told me to never settle, as a normal biological phenomena cannot make me impure. The almighty who created us knows that periods are not something to be ashamed of. We, human beings, are still working on understanding this.
Since then, mom and I have been to many temples despite being on my period. Because prayers are done with faith, not upset by the uterus releasing an egg. If someone wants to stay away from religious ceremonies during their period, that’s their choice and we respect it. We believe in women cheering for women. But imposing such choices on others, especially young girls is unacceptable.
Today, the same relatives do nothing beyond staring at me and mom, muttering something when we do ‘restricted’ chores during periods.
What I’d like to tell young girls is – I’ve stood where you are standing now. For demanding menstrual wellness, my mom was insulted and mocked. She rose above that and now makes sure I don’t go through the same thing. In fact, being with my mom soothes my otherwise grumpy PMS symptoms!
My mother comes from a time when menstruating women were treated as untouchables. Still, she carved her way out of the pit and now inspires me, her daughter, to speak about menstruation unabashedly. If she can do it, what is stopping us? It’s only our own inhibitions and fears. Ladies, period blood is not something to be ashamed of. Nobody can categorise you as impure or unfit or unequal to anybody else. We have enough stress from our uterus already, do we need any from our mind? So, sit back, watch movies, pray, eat, sleep and do whatever you heart – and hormones – desires.
This article solely expresses the personal views of the author.