Aaditya is a quiet and shy boy in the ninth standard. He shares all this thoughts only with his best friend Manish. Aaditya is an average student and a good footballer. He loves spending his evenings going on long cycling trips with Manish. One day, as Manish and he were having a spirited discussion on a football match they had seen the previous day, the teacher decided to make them sit apart, each with a girl, fully aware of their shy dispositions, especially when it came to communicating with the ladies of the class. Aaditya was made to sit next to Aarushi. By the second day, Aaditya began getting quite comfortable sitting next to her and they both engaged in little innocuous conversations.
Aaditya always used pilot pens. He though it made his handwriting look better. Almost a week after he began sitting with Aarushi, he heard Aarushi impatiently asking for a pilot pen from the girls in the class. He lightly tapped on her shoulders and said, “I have a bunch of pilot pens. You can borrow one if you need.” “Don’t be an idiot,” Aarushi snapped. Aaditya lowered his head in silence, partly embarrassed but mostly confused. He believed that they had become friends long enough for her to borrow a pen from him if none of the other girls had one. He kept quiet for the rest of the day, even when he saw Aarushi walk out of the school nurse’s room. It was none of his business to know what was ‘wrong’ with her.
On the next day, Aarushi skipped school and when she was back the day after, she was her usual self. She seemed to have forgotten all about the other day. As she went about talking to Aaditya, he merely responded by nodding with a yes or a no if she tried to ask him what was wrong. Aaditya wanted to mend things and so he told her about her behaviour towards him the other day. Aarushi gave a short, well-meaning laugh and said, “We girls get like that sometimes. Never mind, I like you. You’re a good boy.” Everything was well again but Aaditya was still perplexed. He couldn’t help asking her, “Why did you go to the nurse’s room the other day? Were you not well? You had even skipped school yesterday. Are you okay?” “I’m fine,” Aarushi said with a smile.
As days went by, Aarushi and Aaditya became much closer as friends. She could talk to him about her boy-troubles, her home and family affairs and Aaditya turned out to be great listener and of course, an even greater friend. He was still best friends with Manish but he understood where the line that had to be drawn with regard to keeping the secrets that Aarushi had shared with him. In Aaditya, Aarushi had found a faithful friend and so one day she decided to take one step forward. During their Saturday library period, Aarushi took Aaditya to the Eyewitness Encyclopedia section and handed him the Human Body encyclopedia. They sat at a corner table and she marked the pages discussing reproductive systems. Aaditya read them all carefully. He had studied about it for his exams but Aarushi pointing these out to him was like sharing a special secret between friends and this made him realize that this was something very important to her. After the library period was over, Aarushi handed him a Chicken Soup for the Girl’s Soul and whispered to him, “Be careful that your friends and family don’t see you with this book.”
Aaditya couldn’t wait to start reading the book. He read it right through Sunday. On Monday, as Aarushi sat beside him, the first thing that he asked her was, “Is that why you had been to the nurse’s room the other day?” Aarushi nodded with an impish smile. “And ‘pilot pen’ was a code for ‘the thing’?” “Yes,” she said with the same smile. For the first time, Aaditya had a wide, gaping smile that made him look almost silly. He said, “I hope you don’t get angry but I did something.” Aarushi’s smile almost disappeared. She was suddenly frightened, ashamed and was anticipating something humiliating when Aaditya reassuringly continued, “After reading the book, I went and showed it to my mother. I also told her how you had given me the book and everything else from the day of the ‘pilot pen’ incident. She ruffled my hair and said that we should talk about it over a cup of tea. Then on our terrace garden, she sat me down and explained a lot of things to me. The biology of it all, the hormonal changes, the moods, the cramps and how I could be of help if you ever needed a ‘pilot pen’ again.” Both Aarushi and Aaditya laughed.
This was a new beginning not just for Aarushi and Aaditya’s friendship, but for more of a lot more important things to come. They initiated a discussion group amongst within their peer circle, to discuss and create awareness about menstruation. They held interactive sessions so that both boys and girls could share their experiences and understand each other’s issues. There were oath-taking ceremonies where the boys swore to carry an extra ‘pilot pen’ or some of its variants, in case any of their lady friends found themselves in an ‘emergency’. ‘Pilot pen’ had worked itself into the youth vocabulary where it wasn’t a strongly guarded secret anymore but something of a swaggeresque way of referring to sanitary pads or tampons. The whole point was not about carrying an ‘extra one’ but about each sex being comfortable with the facts of what is a completely natural and healthy process. It was about true humanity and camaraderie – it was about true friendship where each one respects the other.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
Author: Gyanam Saikia
Gyanam hails from Guwahati, Assam. He has a PG degree in Commerce and is currently pursuing a PGDBM. He is passionate about working towards removing the senseless taboos that are rampant in our society, specially affecting women and children. He also wrote another article for Menstrupedia Blog, called Every Boy Needs To Be Educated About Periods. Here’s Why.
Illustration by Aditi Gupta.