Because it’s there on every blog and with every argument, I feel I need to speak up too. Ok, so most people think that periods are women’s natural biological process and need not be either hyped up/celebrated or anything to shush up/be ashamed about. Others feel they find their queen-life treatment break too good to give up on, and would rather have it than don’t. Now, let me clarify my stance. My mom was my only source of information about what to do when I woke up feeling all queasy and unusual one fine morning during my summer hols. And she is as confused as I am, most of the time. So she just gave me a detailed (she-thinks) vague (methinks) description of what was happening, introduced me to the mystical world of Whisper and said ok, you’re good to go. There was no celebration about it, and also unlike my other friends, I wasn’t allowed to miss school just like that. Minor digression: Actually, no excuse was good enough to miss school in our house. My parents are cruel like that.. we have waded through knee-deep waters, braved fake stomachaches and shivered through fog to get to school. “Don’t act up.” Whatever. Well so, my mom thought it was ok for me to jump around, go to school, get sheets stained but learn to wash them myself (because our maid can’t be expected to do that, I always agreed).
On entering religious places: There was a little temple in our house, which I anyways don’t enter too much but I could when I wanted to. Twist in the tale: The very next year, we went to my cousins’ place in Haridwar and are taken to the Ganges with our cousins. I really loved the atmosphere, the ice cold water and the excitement of the huge fast waves. We decided to return the next day. My elder cousin, however, did not want to join us the next day. She was my favourite cousin, she had to come for me to have fun. I kept asking her why she wasn’t coming, begging her, convincing her while she just ignored me with a sad face or kept shaking her head and saying she had a headache. But since, a pest like me wouldn’t give up, the poor girl broke down a little later and ran to her mom. That was when her mom told my mom why she couldn’t accompany the family and asked my mom if she hadn’t told me about the “rituals”. My mom looked rather guilty while my aunt looked scandalized. We got back home and my mom composed a lot of broken sentences that conveyed that there were certain people that didn’t like women having periods walking into temples/religious places and she had also held on to that belief for a long time. But then, there was a time when she first visited the Vaishno Devi Shrine in Jammu and got her period WHILE she was trekking up to the temple. She says she felt rather sad but then had this heart-to-heart with herself and decided that she won’t go back without having seen the temple and done her prayers. She went ahead, brushing off any apprehensions, offering her sincerest prayers. You rock, mom. I told you, my mom is pretty confused :D. And that’s when logic decided to prevail, and that’s how it is in our house.
On religious places and public opinion: My mom tried to reinstate the whole “not entering religious places” naatak once she thought that other people might take offence to our no-holds-barred policy. Forgot about it after I shrugged that off, not so politely. Temples are as much mine as they are someone else’s. And they are just as much places of my worship when I have my periods, as when I don’t.
On isolation: Never happens in any of my relatives’ place. What a joke! My mom suffered a very depressing and painful menopause not long back which resulted in erratic heavy periods combined with severe weakness. So, should we just have told her off everything that was “pure” for around 10 days a month, when the doctor advised us to do just the opposite? Given her hormones, my mom would probably have smacked the life out of everyone who so much as suggested that. Anyway, women, please have balls and do not let someone tell you you’re impure. It’s ridiculous. During pregnancy, my mom tells me, new mothers are given rest for 40 days yes. But keeping them out of kitchen on order, not done at all. We’ve never had to sneak into kitchens to steal cheese in our own house, no sir.
On buying sanitary pads: I do it, earlier my mom used to. Not because the men of the family don’t want to know about it. Because it’s weird to me. And anyway, my mom insisted on it once she figured that I was embarrassed to walk into a store to buy sanitary napkins and there was no way I could have gotten away with her buying them for me all the time, since I had to stay in a hostel. I don’t think the men in our family would freak out if someday, because of some situation, they were asked to go buy them.
On the men of the family being included: All I know is that they know about what periods are, impose no restrictions whatsoever on us and would let us rest if we had periods or not. However, there is no casual conversation on this subject with dad/brother.
On entering the kitchen: Anyone. Anytime. We do not have segregated utensils for vegetarian/non vegetarian cooking. If it makes you dizzy with thoughts of sin and atheism, just know that my mom will at best give you a good lecture on the effectiveness of “Vim” or “Pril” or whatever it is.
On not meeting people who don’t welcome it in the impure state: I have met such people on some occasions. I would not enter someone’s puja room if I end up hurting their feelings that way, but if they ask me if I have my periods, then direct me to sit on a wooden chair and inform me they would wash the damn thing once I leave, I’d rather not visit them. If they are stupid enough to believe that someone will not take offence to THAT, no matter how politely they thought they were saying it, I would let them live with that and would make a mental note about not taking their invitation seriously ever again. Because in our house, guests are invited with an open heart and we’ve been taught to respect the visiting person’s needs. But I do not feel so strongly about this issue that I would break friendships, pick up fights and draw lines because a friend who I love is unfortunately born to such a family. That said, I would probably tell said friend to do something about it for her own good. But walking away in Rani Jhansibai style.. nah!
On believing God is being kind to you if you practice something so bizarre: You have a different idea of God than I do. In my head, God is a larger entity – someone who cannot be manipulated by tactics so trivial. Someone who sees through our little acts and self-fulfilling prophecies.
On intolerance: Yes, people have different beliefs. Not just about menses, about masturbation, about abortion, about the girl child. But we cannot reprimand them till they choose to threaten our beliefs. It is wrong to believe someone’s isolation practice leads to their belief in wife-beating. It is rhetoric at best. It is true that people superstitious about one thing tend to be superstitious about other related things, but it is not one man’s place to assume stuff about another.