I was around eighteen and doing a pre-university course. On one fine day, we hosted our college fest where many events were conducted and where many students from other colleges poured in to participate. My friend and I were casually talking,sitting in a corner and watching all the fun going on, on stage. My friend wasn’t feeling well since early that morning. She was on her first day of her periods and was experiencing severe muscle pulls. I kept nagging her to go home and take rest but she wanted to stay. She was waiting for a friend of hers,who was her schoolmate for almost ten years and was coming to participate in one of our college events. He finally came in and after exchanging cursory greetings and some rants about their school, he went to the events desk and confirmed his participation in a talent show. He then came back to join us and on noticing my friend looking pale and clutching her tummy, heasked – “Hey! Have you been on your monthly cycle? You look so tired! Why don’t you go home and get some rest?”

She looked at him in disgust. After a pause, she responded – “Umm…maybe…I am freaking out…I don’t know… I will go home after a while.”

Upon noticing her reaction, he felt a little weird to have asked what he asked her, but he had been her friend and classmate for the last ten years, so I guess he assumed that she didn’t mind him asking her about periods so directly. That however was not the case, as she felt very awkward about it. Anyway, he then took leave of us and went to participate in the event and we resumed talking to each other.

She was feeling really uncomfortable and kept grumbling – “Why do boys show unnecessary interest in probing about a girl’s monthly cycle? What has it got to do with them? All of a sudden, boys start behaving otherwise!”

 

I could not immediately react but after a few moments of silence, I tried relaxing her by saying – “Hey… that’s okay. Nothing wrong in that… He didn’t mean anything. He just advised you to go home and get some rest.” I felt a little awkward myself at that point of time, but I just tried to make my friend feel comfortable by saying what I said. In the evening, while it was time for us to leave, her friend came back to her and said – “Hey…I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you but just wanted to suggest that you go home and take rest.” He then comforted her slowly by further adding – “At some point in our lives, we boys will get to know about all of these things. We do grow up along with girls who come into our lives as our friends, girlfriends, wives, daughters, sisters and such. My parents didn’t educate me about it because I am a boy and their only son, but coming from an orthodox family, when I used to see my mother squatting at a corner of the house and behaving like an ‘untouchable’ every month for three days, I was intrigued by this; I didn’t dare to ask my parents at that point of time. I started researching insteadand learnt about the processes and pains that girls go through every month. Actually, you girls should be bold enough in conveying things to guys who aren’t aware of this or try to mock you in this regard.Also, step forward in warding off the myths associated with menstruation.Later on, when you get married and get pregnantand can openly announce to the whole world that you are carrying a child, why doyou hesitate then to say that you are bleeding? What’s there to hidefrom men? After all, it is a natural process, isn’t it?”

His words calmed her down and brought a smile to her face and to mine as well. He was mature enough to boldly state the facts of life, which we girls hesitated to talk about. He cheered her up and we all started towards home.

All the way home I kept thinking of why we girls feel so withdrawn to convey this obvious factof life to men. I myself have experienced it quite a good number of times. I used to feel disgusted when some of my male friends would tellme– “Oh! Understood…take rest!” when I’d casually tell them about me being tired or unwell. There are a lot of instances where I hesitated to tell even my father that I was on my monthly cycle, and when I half-heartedly did, he used to feel awkward and would ask my mother about why I was being so open in bringing up‘feminine issues’ with him!

There was a point then, when I realized that I had to boldly tell at least my near and dear ones of the matter and perhaps try reaching out to people who hesitate to be open or surrender themselves to orthodox practices and myths associated with menstruation.Society itself should play a vital role in shaping the thoughts of its people. After all, what’s wrong in educating people who view this in different perspectives apart from it being a natural process that occurs to every girl on this planet? Why should women stop themselvesand othersfrom being open about the issues associated with menstruation when people are around?

I am so glad an eighteen-year old guy comforted us that day, a few years ago, when we women still hesitated to do so!Having said that, I recently almost slipped at an instance when I found myself being hesitant to enter a temple during my menstrual cycle until my husband snapped at me – “Which era are you in? It’s about time you realized that it’s okay to enter a holy place and help others realize that too!”

It then struck me hard. Really hard.If he had n’t told me so, I would n’t have remembered the eight-years-ago incident and put it down here. So thank you,dear husband, for inspiring me to write this!

Ramya-Badrinath

Author: Ramya Badrinath

Ramya  is a researcher trying to explore and understand amphibian acoustic communication. She is also, a practicing carnatic musician.
Editor: Divya Rosaline