An Indian girl, when she is born, is given the identity of an idol – read goddess Lakshmi. During the festival of Durga Puja, small girls are invited into homes to make them sacred. I would like to share with you, an incident in my life which changed the meaning of the whole festival for me, forever.

During my childhood days, I was always excited for the Durga Puja festival, as we girls were treated like idols and would get beautiful dresses, bangles, chunris, sweets and coins. I felt very special, but on one such year when I was eleven years of age, everything changed all of a sudden. Like every year, I got dressed up and carried my pink purse to go visit nearby home, to enjoy the halwapuri they served and of course, anticipating the beautiful gifts we often got. However, while heading out, I realised that I had red stains on my beautiful white frock and I got so scared that I ran towards my mother. She then asked me to change my clothes and told me about the whole ‘red’ affair. I cried a lot, not because I had stomach ache or because I was afraid of my stains but because[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] I was asked to not to go the temple and to other people’s houses as it was an auspicious occasion and I was rendered impure for it.[/inlinetweet] I could not understand the whole theory; I just wanted to go out with my friends and being the stubborn child I was, I cried harder to get my way,but sadly, to no avail. Although I got so many other gifts, I wasn’t happy because I was the only one among all my friends who was prevented from going out.

I am 21 years old now, and till date I have no idea on what basis I was treated as an idol and on what basis I was ever considered as being impure. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Did I commit some crime? Did I brutally insult some ancient unshakable tradition?[/inlinetweet] Nobody has answers to these questions. Is it a journey of a girl from ‘gharkilakshmi’ to ‘ablanari’ what periods are all about? Well this is the first injustice we girls face at an age where we are absolutely ignorant about what justice actually means and as we grow up, we resign to our fates and accept things for what they are. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]India was ruled by the Britishers long ago but till today, our superstitions still rule us.[/inlinetweet]

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I had in fact forgotten about this incident until two days ago when it all came back to me, as if I were eleven only just yesterday. I had recited a poem titled ‘It Stains’ on the occasion of the annual Youth Fest in my university. The poem was all about the hurdles girls faced during their periods. I told my teachers that I would be reciting a poem I had written, focusing on the topic of menstruation. For what seemed like a good two minutes, everybody stared at me expecting me to feel ashamed of what I was saying. To their surprise, I looked straight into their eyes until they lowered theirs and after a short span of time, I heard my teacher say in a very low tone -[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] “Are you out of your wits?”[/inlinetweet] I responded by explaining to her how there was nothing wrong in reciting such poem and about its social benefits and somehow finally managed to convince her. Yet, she maintained that I may get disqualified for such an ‘act’ and said she didn’t want any ‘stains’ on the college’s reputation on my account. I then had to convince her that I would have no regrets even if I did get disqualified after which I finally succeeded in representing my college for the poem recital.

The D-day came and so did my turn, and brimming with confidence, I started reciting my poem and was successful in connecting with the audience and the judges. While reciting, I noticed that my teacher who as per the rule had to be present while her college student was performing, had left the room, but it did not matter to me, and so I bravely continued…

I hate it when I leak,
I hate it when I ooze,
I contain my mental shriek,
When I realize my womb is coming loose,
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Wherever I lie,I feel ashamed,
And wherever I sit, I leave my stain…[/inlinetweet]

These were the lines that made it clear that yes I was indeed talking about ‘periods’and I could see the faces – some were ashamed, while some were curious about what I was upto. For my part, I felt confident, I was where I wanted to be doing what I wanted to do. As my poem progressed, some faces were finding places to hide themselves, some mouths were murmuring ‘daag ache hain, it stains’, while some were listening to my every word with rapt attention as I connected with those who were listening instead of just hearing. I then began reciting the last stanza that described the reason behind why it stained but couldn’t go on as the finishing bell then rang. I continued, but it rang again, leaving me feeling humiliated and shattered, not because of the weird expressions I was met with, but because I couldn’t complete my message. Though I was able to communicate this unspoken truth and the hurdles it suffers,I was unable to conclude and was unsuccessful with the event. In retrospect, I suppose I would definitely start all over again someday and definitely succeed. It’s difficult to be the change you want to see but not impossible and[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] I will rise again with my thoughts, with my message, with my poem[/inlinetweet] someday and with much more emphasis than I ever laid before.

Therefore, here is a request to all the girls out there – that this is not just one person’s, or one team’s responsibility to bring about change. If you are a woman, you are born with this responsibility – the responsibility to claim respect for your existence. If we are able to change even one person’s mindset about our existence being one of purity and make them respect the biological processes we undergo, it would do wonders to the bigger picture like we’ve never imagined it to.

Author : Umang Saigal

Umang is pursuing her engineering in Electronics and Communication, She is a speaker at her college and a proponent of women empowerment. She wants to establish her carrier in promoting women rights and various social works.
Editor: Divya Rosaline
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