I still remember the green pastures and the fresh air that kept our energies high back in the day. I was in the eighth grade while my brother was in his tenth. I used to be the little flawless princess in my dad’s small kingdom. He always showered and robed me beyond and above, with his gentle love. I am reminded, wave after wave, of how Mom and Dad would hush each other thanks to the crazy and notorious acts of both their son and daughter. Everyday, my brother rode his bicycle to school (which he loved dearly), while my father dropped me right in front of my school’s gates. As the years passed on, this small aperture in our relationships began to exponentially widen and I’ll proceed to tell you how and why.
My favorite childhood game was ‘Color!Color!What Color?’ which we used to play at school ever so regularly and I would like to narrate an incident to you that aroused questions in me whose answers I am still seeking out to this day.
It was a bright sunny day and as children, we naturally never hated the sun. We were playing in the school compound one day under the shade of the trees. It was my chance to call out the color for people to run and find. I shouted “Color!Color!” and my friends shouted back: “What Color?” and since I was not sure about which color to call, I thought for a while and loudly said: “Red Color!” and turned back to set out for my target for the game. This is when I noticed that all of them sprinted except one person – Reethu. She was one of my best friends and had rushed towards me and clung on to me. She whispered into my ears saying “I have red dots on my frock and it is creepy and awful.” We were clueless about what we needed to do so we reported this to a male teacher who was standing about and he instructed us to assist her in reaching her safely home.
I was afraid to speak about my own periods to my mother when it happened to me and I told her with fear and trepidation in my heart, only to be met with a broad smile after I was done narrating everything to her. She said, “Honey! Now you are a woman!” She swiftly arranged and assembled palm leaves in the corner of my room and made me sit on top of them. In a wink of an eye, several things fell into place. My dad informed all the relatives about my red spots. In no time, uncles, aunties, sisters and brothers were milling about the house. I was not allowed to move out of my room unfortunately. They visited my room and wished me instead. I genuinely felt like I was in a hospital. I was eager to know what was happening outside of my room. Surprisingly, my brother never came to wish me and this is when I felt the distance between the two of us grow.
I received several gifts from my relatives. As we were unpacking all the gifts, I was really surprised to see that they had mostly given me only full sleeved sets and half-sarees. My elder cousin came by and gifted me something new which I had never seen until then and I wasn’t sure about how to go about using it. She took me to the bathroom and explained how I was supposed to use it so that the blood spots did not appear on my undergarments. I suddenly realized how things around me were changing and I had a set of instructions from my aunties and sisters about what I should and should not do which included, among others, not to touch pickles, approach boys, cook or visit temples during my periods since I was only meant to take rest and stay inside my room during this time. By the end of the day, the relatives left and for the first time, I felt relaxed at home but even after they were gone, my brother didn’t come to see me. I felt so disappointed.
From that time, I have been bleeding every month and each time I bled, I was kept away. Every month, the distance between me and my brother kept on increasing. I felt so distanced from him when I bled. I always questioned myself, “Why are they keeping me away just because of those red spots?”
Another time, I was in my twelfth grade and as you well know, Raksha Bandhan was a good occasion for me to express my love for my brother. Along with my friend, I went shopping and purchased a rakhi for him. The best part about this day is anticipating and receiving a gift from one’s brother and since the next day was Raksha Bandhan, I fell asleep dreaming of what gift I would receive from him. I woke up in the morning and felt uncomfortable and sticky because I had started bleeding. My heart started beating with fear that they would now lock me inside my room. I wanted to keep it a secret but I was not sure of how I would do that, for fear that my mom would find out. I had a bath and as I was getting ready, I saw my mother rushing into the room to ask me, “Have you started bleeding?” I was not sure of what to say, but as she was talking, she walked into the bathroom and saw my panties. She came out and bolted my room’s door from the outside and I was left in my dormant state like this for the next couple of days.
I could see my brother through my half closed door; he was dressed in white and was holding a gift. His eyes were searching for me and he asked mom ‘”Where is my lovable prodigy of a sister?” I never expected my mom to be silent but she was. He repeated his question twice and my mom said to him, “Your sister is not in a position to celebrate raksha bandhan.” He questioned her further – “What happened?” to which she replied with some discomfort saying, “You will not understand it.” My brother guessed it and said to my mom, “She is bleeding and that is why she can’t celebrate raksha bandhan!?” He started crying and shouted at mom: “Light will not travel beyond your values pushing us into the dark!” and left the house.
A lot of questions inside me were now brewing – Am I not perfect? What made me impure? Did these red spots make me impure? Why is the big red spot in the morning which clears the night away, not impure? Why is the red spot on the forehead (kumkhum) of goddesses not impure?
I ask these questions even till this date, but I still have not found any answers.
This story has been written by a brother narrating a real life story from the perspective of his sister.
Author:- Venkat Samala
Venkat hails from Kolanukonda near Amarvathi, Andhra Pradesh. He has completed his masters in Mass Communication and is now preparing for PhD.
Edited by Divya Rosaline
Illustration by Aditi Gupta.