Here is the winning entry by Neha Bahuguna. Watch this brilliant poem called “Lal Salaam”, we also had a chat with her about her story.
Could you briefly explain the process of writing this story?
Neha: When I started writing it, I thought of all the experiences and events related to me and the experiences of people around me regarding menstruation. Honestly, I always took advantage of those days by not doing many household chores and sleeping. However, at times it is really painful to go through the whole 4-5 days period, so I wanted to include all of this in my story. When I first got my periods, I totally thought that something wrong had happened to me and maybe by chance I have managed to bleed due to some injury while playing. But like every other girl, I learnt to accept it and not share anything about it. I look back at all that time and laugh at the stupidity of the situation.
Please also explain why you think this medium works in breaking the taboo around menstruation. What do you want to achieve through your writing about the subject?
Neha: No one wants to listen to any more information in today’s world as everyone thinks that they know it all or it does not matter to them. But if you know how to tell it in story-form, people want to listen to you. Since all women go through it but not many of us want to talk about it, it’s important to present it in such a way that no one is hurt but the message still comes across.
What I wanted to achieve:
I had called my mother before writing this piece and asked her if she had any insights to share; she told me that something should be kept behind the curtain and not be talked about openly. I totally understand where she is coming from and that’s why it becomes my responsibility to be able to break her barriers as well my own. So I challenged her that she will laugh her gut out with my story about periods and even once she will not feel the disgust associated with it. And guess what, I won!:)
Briefly take us through your journey of being a poet and a performer.
Neha: I grew up in the hills and stories have been a very crucial part of my childhood. After graduating from NID, I shuffled between various kinds of disciplines related to design; from graphics, animation, art curation to becoming a creative director for children’s shows and meanwhile I kept on writing something or the other. It was not that easy though, but there was this thing about Hindi as a language, which I really wanted to explore and I even designed a Devanagari font (Kunkun Devanagari) hoping that I would find the connection between design and Language, but it was not enough.
However, I used to go to various poetry slams and performances, to perform and to be an audience as well. In one of these performances, someone asked me to tell a story and I told one of the story related to the caste issue. People liked it a lot and I liked the attention and since I always wanted to write about important things and in Hindi, I realised that satire and humour are quite natural to me so why not write fun stuff and convey the message that I want to. The journey has just started and I have been looking to take it forward in workshops and through other visual mediums.
How has the response of your viewers been? Do you wish to continue writing about gender issues?
Ans:I knew that people liked the way I talk but I never imagined that they will be able to understand the hidden meanings behind every single line I say. My Hindi can be put into difficult category and I am amazed with the response of the audience. Never underestimate your audience!
I do wish to write about gender issues. Not just male-female but other genders as well. I am actually working on a web series where the protagonist is queer.
You can watch more videos on her YouTube channel: NehaBhai
Edited by Divya Rosaline1