Self- contradiction, that is what India stands for. At least, our thoughts, beliefs, traditions are very self contradictory. And today I am taking one topic into consideration, and that is Women’s health.
In South India, when a girl menstruates for the first time, it is a matter of great joy to the family.
Our forefathers had laid down rules of an “event” which has to take place when a girl “comes of age”. The whole community, neighborhood, family, uncles, aunties, uncles’ aunties, aunties’ uncles etc. are called to celebrate this great “occasion”. The reason of this occasion in the old days was- “Now that she is menstruating, she can be sent off, married, mate with a man and bear a boy.” Now even though this reason is not prevailing in the urban areas, the tradition sure is. The girl does not even get time to understand what the hell is happening to her, and she sees flocks of unknown men and women along with the known one congratulating her, giving her dresses, ornaments and what not. What for? She just started getting her *hushed voice* periods!
And the girl just sits there, while the people enjoy a grand buffet.
Isn’t this breaching of privacy?
The same grandmothers, mothers who are the ones who “conduct” this occasion of “Hey my girl just menstruated!”, are against ads which show how to use a sanitary napkin, why to use it and ads of intimate care. Well, make up your mind people. When she menstruated, you took out a loudspeaker and announced it to the whole city. So what is wrong in advertisements which show how to take care of the intimate organs! And it is very sad that it is the WOMEN who feel awkward talking about WOMEN’s health. Wow!
And after the menstruation has become a regular matter for the girl, she is not allowed to come inside the Puja Room, the kitchen, or touch people. The girls often run into dilemma- “Some years ago they made my menstruation look like a grand extravaganza, called people whom I didn’t even know to tell them that now I can bear a child, made me feel like a goddess, and now they don’t even allow me to enter the puja room. What am I to understand from all of this?
Why go far! I have many friends who say this when we have a discussion about our periods-
“Why the hell are we even discussing this? So awkward!”
In North India, this kind of occasion does not exist, at least I don’t know whether it does. But I lived half of my life in North India, and there was this incident which blew my mind away.
I was 11 yrs old, and I didn’t know what “periods” meant. Nor I was taught in school. When I entered my house after coming from school, my mother took me to a room and said-
“You won’t believe what happened.”
First, she told me what menstruation is. Then she told me about one incident that had happened that day, which always shocks me whenever I think about it.
She told me that a girl from the neighborhood, had “come of age” today. Her mother, being my mother’s friend, came to her, and said that her daughter has come of age, and she is feeling very shameful to tell her what it is, why does it happen when a girl is growing up, and also requested my mother to tell how to use a sanitary napkin!
People go against explicit ads and knowledge about women’s health, but I never knew even your own mother can feel awkward when she has to discuss the matter with you. I am blessed to have a mother who openly talks about everything to me, and always make me comfortable when I have to talk about some bodily problems I have.
In school, I was taught what is menstruation when I was 12. All the girls were taken into a huge hall. Before telling about it to us, they closed all the windows, doors, and everything which could give away what is happening inside the hall. Even a mike was not used. Well, it never helped us. As boys were never told about the pain a girl has to grow through at this time of life, many girls were often made fun of by boys when they unfortunately got stain marks in our perfect white school skirts. Even some girls resorted to hiding when they had to tell a girl that she has stained. And you know what-
Those boys who had sisters at their home, knew what is what, were often our shields.
This directly means that the same knowledge if propagated to both the sexes can be so helpful. What is the shame in that? In school, whenever we learn the Reproduction chapter in biology, we often hear giggling voices when the topic of menstruation, sexual intercourse and the ways of protection comes up! And there are only rarer of the rare teachers who hush the giggling, instill some knowledge about the topic and tell people that it is nothing to laugh about. It is what makes us human.
Another self contradiction- We explicitly talk about rhinoplasty, breast implants and there are some channels which show countdowns of actresses who have injected silicone to make their breasts look bigger, how much liposuction has been done to remove the fat from a woman’s buttocks etc. And if some ad talks about a girl’s vagina, it becomes a horror show.
Well, we live in a world where sexual attractiveness judges your whole goddamn personality and where there are so many “commercial products” which tend to make men and women more “sexually appealing”. So why the whole hubbub and hullabaloo?
I don’t know what the outrage is about when we are the people of THAT country which produced the book called “Kamasutra”. We say the New India is Bold India. If we dig deeper into History, we have been VERY bold since our civilization started. Ours is the country where women’s infertility is punished and man’s infertility is mourned about, or hardly accepted. Ours is the country where a girl is raped on the streets and people capture it and spread it around the world. Ours is the country where nationalist leaders enjoy watching porn when a topic of national importance is being discussed. Ours is the country when a girl and guy get married, the family demands for a child instantly, like demanding instant coffee. So why the shame when it is just amounts to display a “conservative” India, which never existed?
Author: Prerna Subramanian is a English Honours student studying in St.Stephen’s College. She loves to write poetry, do theater and is blogging since 2010. She believes that women should not give into their situations through self-fulfilling prophecies and take a stand when it is needed the most.