To my dearest child,
I wish you a very very Happy Birthday. I hope your Daddy has given you the present that I had asked him to give to you. I hope my gifts are still matching the tastes of your generation and are still available in the markets.
Today, I am narrating you a story which is very close to me. This had happened to me when I and your dad were newly married.
It was the month of November, the time of Diwali. It was little chilly inside. So, after breakfast, I was working for my blog in the balcony and a little warmth of the sun and a cup of coffee was all that I needed to write. And for the music, the euphoric chants by the Pandits from the nearby Puja Mandal provided me with a halcyon escape from all the other distractions.
But just than your Aita (grandmother) came and asked me, “Buwari (daughter-in-law), what is your date of “Okhubidha” (a term use to denote periods but literally means problem)? Actually, I am thinking of having a Naam (Puja) at our house. So, it is better that you are free from the “obligations”. You know the rules? Don’t you…?” (Woman during periods are considered impure and are not allowed to perform certain tasks like cooking, praying, entering any religious places and so on.)
“Obligations”? I was baffled! I felt like somebody had encroached upon my private life. Why would anyone tell me to follow some redundant “rules” that I didn’t believe in? I didn’t respond and went to our bedroom. Arguing was not the solution and after sometime I even felt some pity for your Aita because she has come from a generation that was bound and fed fast on these irrational beliefs. But there were questions that were troubling me. Does menstruation displease God? If it does, then why do we menstruate? And if it doesn’t offend God, then why can’t we pray and light diya during those days? Why do people think it is as an offense?” Fine, I understand that people earlier used to follow them, perhaps because of hygiene factors, but what significance do they have now?
So, as per your Aita’s wishes the naam was scheduled for an upcoming Sunday after I had my periods. The Bhokots including the Namghoria (head of a Namghar) from the nearby Namghar (worship place) were invited to perform the ceremony.
When the Bhokots were reciting the Kirton Ghoxa (religious book written by Shankardeva) I felt something unusual. I was menstruating again, second time in a month (This may happen due to many reasons). I got scared and summoned your dad. I explained everything to him. But then the Bhokots were here and the ceremony was already on in full swing. Even, I was preparing the food. Your Aita would not be able to perform all the tasks alone. She needed my help. I decided that I would perform the Puja regardless of any “rules” that our society has been following without any raison d’être. The question was not about going against some “rituals” but about honoring my beliefs and faith in god. I think to follow or not “rituals” is a matter of the individual’s choice. It’s about our comfort with our own way of praying to God. That was the day when I made the decision that took me closer to god, I believe.
When I told your Aita about my sudden menstruation and about our decision to continue the puja she didn’t agree. She was upset and angry. But there was no time to argue or to convince her.
In the end, everything went fine. Despite being on periods I cooked the food and fed the bhokots with love and devotion. They really liked my labra (mixed vegetable) and the bilahi tok (tomato chutney). They were very pleased and left after blessing us.
Often after the puja your Aita would say that my actions would bring peril upon our family. There is a saying that in the Solomon islands people would encircle a huge tree, which they could not cut, and would curse and yell at it for days. The tree eventually dies due to the negative energy. It was happening to our family. I needed to do something. But before I could do anything God had already answered my prayer.
One day your Aita told us that she had witnessed something very peculiar. She said, “Few days back, I woke up very early and went outside for a quick stroll. I saw a very tall man walking out from our compound and disappearing in the mist. He was wearing a white kurta and a turban…. and a floral scent left his trail… When I told the Namghoria about this he said that his Guru, Dangoria De’o was very pleased with our devotion towards his disciples during the Naam. It might be him. It is very auspicious for the family who are visited by the Dangoria.” Your Aita’s eyes were brimming with tears as she hugged me like she had never done before.
Sometimes I did question myself about my action. It was not because I felt what I did was wrong, but because of the entire notion that a menstruating woman is impure is inscribed deep into our mind and it even makes me doubt my own faith sometimes. Overcoming from this was the biggest challenge I have ever faced and I did succeed in it.
Child, remember God is within us, not in meaningless “rituals”. Overcoming our prejudices and respecting others’ views is the biggest accomplishment in our life.
With lots of love.
Author: Gyanam Saikia
Gyanam hails from Guwahati, Assam. He is passionate about working towards removing the senseless taboos that are rampant in our society, specially affecting women and children.
You can read other articles from him here0