Four Days Of Invisibility
I still remember the day when I first got my periods. I was at school. When the bell rang, signalling that school had ended, I was walking down the stairs when one of my friends said, “Psst, take my sweater and wrap it around your dress!”
In those days, Whisper was non-existent, tampons were alien to the place where I lived in and any mention of moon cups would elicit a “What? Come again?” reaction from pretty much everyone. The only sanitary napkins then available were of the hardly-absorbent-immensely-leakysort. Mum used to buy those for me, and I used to live out my days worrying about leakage , red spots on the bed sheets and of course the whole world finding out that I was having my periods.
My parents were very loving but they belonged to a different generation. Mum came from a family where women were not allowed to touch food, water and religious items during their periods. They were not considered pure during their menstruating days and were not allowed to enter temples or any sacred places of worship. Naturally, she passed on those instructions and guidelines to me. So those four days, numbered by the days after which I was expected to customarily wash my hair to signal an end to my untouchability, I became a person that must be left alone at the very least.
I was of no use in the kitchen, couldn’t touch the water vessel/s and food items and could not enter the mandir. I had to ask for anything that I wanted, whether it was water or food and that added to the already existing humiliation that everyone in the house now knew about my periods. Yeah, that was definitely what I wanted as a teenager just finding her footing in the big bad world out there!
Thankfully, my mum did talk to me about the whys and whats of menstruation and the medical side of it. But that didn’t do much for the fear or rather the disgust I developed against it. And so I ploughed on. Adding to my misery were menstruating days when we traveled during the vacations, where I retreated more and more into my shell for fear of being singled out. Let alone enjoying my vacations, I spent most of my days waiting for those fated four days to arrive and worrying about whether the napkins would leak this time around or not.
Today, I have a little girl of my own. Thankfully the times have changed and immensely so. I am not anything like my mother, I am hardly spiritual and I most certainly don’t believe in meaningless rituals that are unquestioningly practiced at face value. For me, prayers are all about connecting with supernatural powers, at most lighting an incense or a diya, and thinking positively. I will never wish for my daughter to ever worry about things that bothered me so much while I was growing up. She will never be invisible in her own home. She will never need to tell people around her when her periods will come this month or the next. No she won’t.
Author: Ajita Jabal Shah
Ajita Jabal Shah is a writer, blogger and a communications professional. She is a literature and creative-writing graduate She is also a working mother, wife and daughter and juggles her every day chores with a passion to weave words into magic! You can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: Divya Rosaline4