The Moon Cycle. Or should I say Menstruation, as it is scientifically called?
It was a Saturday, a half-day at school. I was in the sixth grade at that time. My class teacher, Ms. Chandrala, taught us Hindi back then and I quite liked her classes. She was a very friendly and empathetic teacher and was more than just a teacher to me. She was kind and caring and always clarified silly little doubts that would bother me. Ms. Chandrala used to wipe my tears when I sobbed and hugged me when I felt low. She spoke to me with the authority of a mother and with the affection of a friend. I knew she liked me and I admired the way in which she showered her affection on not only me but on every single student in her class.
On that particular afternoon, hers was the last period for the day. Even before the last bell rang, we were already packing our bags, happy that classes had finally ended. It was then that Ms. Chandrala announced, “I want to address all the girls of this class. So after the bell rings, I want all the boys to leave with their bags, without making any noise. No boy will pester any girl to tell him what happened in this class. So, boys, leave.” After she said this, she noticed that there was an air of curiosity, tension and apprehension written all over our faces. I vividly remember her understanding eyes, especially when she smiled, winked at us and said, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, just some casual talk.” After this, the bell rang and the boys left. It was time for the ice to be broken, a moment we were eagerly awaiting.
“Menstruation,” she began. “How many of you have heard about it?”
I remember that not many of us had heard of the word before. I saw only two or three hands going up. She then explained things to us although we had never heard of most of those terms before. Most of our monthly cycles hadn’t started yet and hence most of us were hearing whatever she was talking about for the first ever time in our lives. She spoke to us for around an hour and the things that she spoke of fascinated me immensely, since most of what she said, I could not comprehend, making everything sound fantastical to my ears.
Ms.Chandrala knew we knew nothing. She said, “Every healthy woman starts bleeding and it is nothing dirty or nothing to be ashamed of. When you have periods, you have to use sanitary napkins. Some people use cotton cloth too.” All of this information was too overwhelming for me. She later explained what sanitary napkins were and how to preserve/store them. Yes, this was narrated by who we fondly called „Chandrala teacher!‟ She continued – “When you start menstruating, your breasts start growing. Do not be ashamed. Some girls feel shy and walk with a hunch because they think that they look ugly. Do not do that. It is a sign of womanhood. Be proud and walk straight!” Back in the day I must admit, I did not even know the meaning of ‘breasts’ (call me innocent or naïve or dumb) and hence mistook her to be speaking of the backbone and couldn’t quite understand why anyone would be ashamed of a growing one!
She then added: “I know some of you might be feeling that I am being too open and ‘shameless’ in speaking out things to you so very frankly. But girls, I am just doing my duty. When you grow up, you will understand whatever I told you today. It is important for you to know about these natural and biological processes.” Saying this, she asked us not to worry and added that we could approach her without any hesitation if we had any questions or doubts that needed to be addressed.
I felt proud, empowered and happy that day. Thanks to Ms. Chandrala and her explanations, I actually felt proud to be a girl. I went home and told my sister in a hushed voice, “Akka, I will tell you something that happened today at school, promise me you won’t tell anyone?” When I told her what happened in class that day, I did so with the fascination of a child and I am certain she noticed the same.
I do not know what happened to me then, but I started crying very loudly all of a sudden. I was experiencing mixed feelings of surprise, shock and fright that caught me unawares and inexplicably so. My mother and my sister relentlessly tried convincing me that it was a very natural process like my teacher had stated and that there was nothing to be afraid of. My father, who is a doctor, came home after work and upon gathering what was happening, was quite confused about my reaction in spite of me having been explained everything in scientific and sensible terms.
Perhaps the entire affair was too intimidating for me back then, although it was explained to me in great detail even then. Maybe it was my way of trying to come to terms with the realities of my life. What I realized many days later was that Ms. Chandrala had no doubt explained things to us very clearly, but she had clearly forgotten to make it clear that it occurred only for 3-5 days in a month! I had assumed that I would get my periods every day and every night until I attained my menopause.
All of this in retrospect looks quite funny and silly for me now, but I was in a confused trance of sorts back then. Ms. Chandrala lecture on menstruation helped me like this: when I did start menstruating a year later, I did not faint, I wasn’t shocked and I most certainly wasn’t perplexed. I promptly reported it to my sister again in a hushed voice and she hugged me and said, “Congrats!” after which she reported the news to my parents. Since I already knew quite a bit about it, they didn’t give me any more lectures about it. My mother handed me a small booklet titled ‘Kishori’ which had all the details of menstruation and its incumbent changes and asked me to read it, which I promptly got down to doing.
We then had the customary first-blood ceremony, where there was an elaborate pooja held and where I was decked in a silk saree for the first time. Friends and family were invited and I was quite happy about everything, albeit a little awkward too. However, all’s well that ends well I guess and it is all thanks to Ms. Chandrala who was the protagonist in my menstrual narrative and who also had the vivacity to actually pull it off with such characteristic élan.
Thank you ma’am and thank you,dear reader!
Author: Pranusha Kulkarni
I am a final year law student studying at Karnataka State Law University’s Law School, Hubli. I am also a youth member of the Family Planning Association of India, Dharwad Branch. I am trained in Hindustani Classical Vocals. I am fond of writing, reading, singing and dancing.
Editor: Divya Rosaline0