Shazia, an older cousin of mine, planned a stay during her college vacations at our house. We were very happy to have her at our home during these holidays as we lived far away from the village where other family members lived. We planned activities during her stay at our residence but in a few days, she started changing her mind one day and became dull. She was no more interested in the planned activities and started sleeping much rather than spending time with us. She said she was sick and we had to enjoy our time alone.
On the same day, Shazia was murmuring something with my mom and they were clearly deciding upon something. Suddenly, I heard my mother say: “yes, yes, no problem, he will accompany you to the shop.” I got excited, as I had to accompany someone to the shop. I got a chance to roam in the streets and get a free candy. However, I did not realize that something different was going to add to my experiences.
Shazia and I went outside in the market to look for something. “Something” that she wanted to buy but no one knew about what she wanted to purchase from the market. I don’t know how she used to manage buying this “something” earlier as she looked very confused this time, while we were looking for shops.
“What do you want?”
“Where should we stop?”
“Say, it’s been long, we have to go back home!”
I was asking questions, and she was quiet. Quiet and confused…it seemed like she was trying to find a way, where her secret remained a secret and where her work got accomplished.
“Alright, listen to me carefully.”
She kneeled down and said this as she came closer to my ear.
“See, I have to buy a pad, a girl’s pad,”she added.
“Pad? What is it?” I questioned her.
“It’s a napkin that we girls use, okay. You just have to go to that shop with me and ask the man to give you a girl’s pad. He knows, so he will understand it well and give it you. Handover this money to him and keep the pad with you.”
It seemed like she was shy of something but still she wanted for to me to get the work done. Was she really interested in giving me new information, I wondered, but this was not her agenda guessing from her tone and style of conversation.
We both went to the shop nearby where I was instructed about what to do. She accompanied me, but was quiet and kept giving me instructions by moving her eye balls. I obeyed.
“Give me a girl’s pad…here is your money,” I said to the shopkeeper.
“I don’t have any,” he normally responded.
Shit man! All the excitement was ruined. He did not have a girl’s pad and I really wanted to know what Shazia apa was trying to buy. However,I was determined and started arguing as I know everything obviously.
“Oh! Why don’t you keep pads here, we have to go there now.” I wickedly smiled inside, through making this style up, as if I really knew what pads were. The shop keeper smiled and said nothing, except to point a finger to the shop adjacent to his block, where the lady with the eggs was sitting.
Meanwhile as we were moving to the next shop, Shazia seemed anxious to me, and her tone of saying “thanks” to the shopkeeper sounded like she was constipated. It looked like she was worried and could not go to any other place to repeat the scene. But this time, I was sharp and assured her that I was quite practiced and experienced by now and would go there and tell the lady myself that I wanted to buy pads.
While all this conversation was ensuing, whenever “pads” came into the discussion, I was seriously unable to visualize anything. I went confidently to the shop, despite not knowing what I was going to get and see when I asked the shopkeeper to hand me a “a girl’s pad.”
Talking about this, we reached to the shop. The lady at the shop smiled and greeted us.
“So what do you want?” she asked.
“A girl’s pad,” I quickly replied, without any hesitation.
She looked astonished, while saying this.
“Shut up you kid, she is going to use the pad, let her say it and get it,” she stopped and advised me thus, while looking straight at Shazia.
Shazia smiled broadly, and behaved like she was relieved; she broke her silence and said, “Aunty, I need a good packet of disposable sanitary napkins.”
Aunty then got inside and returned with a brown envelope, placed it on the counter, put it in a dark coloured shopping bag and asked for her to give her 55 PKR. Shazia handed over the money to the shopkeeper lady and she smiled. “Let’s go home now,” Shazia said, while holding my hand ready to leave for home.
We both were quiet while on our way home. We didn’t talk to each other until we reached home. I was unaware about my feelings and it was difficult for me to name them at that moment.
I discussed this later with my mom and she explained everything to me and then “sanitary napkin” was added into my dictionary. Also, I was given an answer about why only women wore pads because they menstruated or bled every month with a particular cycle and that related to their fertility and child bearing ability. Mom shared that everyone had their own pace of puberty and like boys, girls also go through puberty and like boys had semen discharge, girls went through menstruation. We already talked about boys’ puberty so it was convenient for my mom to tell me how girls experienced puberty and the changes they undergo.
The whole summarizing of relating menstruation with men and boys is expanding of one’s care and respect. Brothers will help out sisters and talk about it. Fathers can teach girls when they know about these situations and similarly spouses can better cooperate in important matters of life.
Author:- Sarmad Muhammad Soomar
Sarmad Muhammad Soomar has a bachelor’s degree in nursing & by passion is a Sexual health advocate. He writes about sexual health rights and is based at Hyderabad, Pakistan
Editor: Divya Rosaline