The first time I heard of Arunachalam, I was so inspired to do a blog post on his TED talk. And now, when a film has released based on his story, I am happy at how the Bollywood is changing and welcoming sduch issues into mainstream cinema. The #PadmanChallenge may evoke weird expressions from many of us, but that’s exactly is the issue we are facing. I hope soon that, condoms and sex education be the next taboo topic Bollywood would address through its films. Yes, we are in the 21st century, but the discrimination still remains in many parts of the country.
I remember growing up with such a huge hullaballoo on this topic. Much before sanitary pads were used, I was introduced to old clothes too. Sanitary pads were sneaked out secretly from the grocery bag. The periods and menstruation topics were discussed in code words and in hushed tones. We were not touched by others as were considered unpure those days. Only after taking head bath on specific days to purify ourselves were we allowed to touch others and wardrobes. Not entering temples on those days are an altogether different level of customs and rituals we were forced to. This is much prevalent custom, which I cannot comment on, as it borders around religion and temple culture. It was such a big thing to be on your period, that it gave me the impression that being born as woman was a sin.
And to top all the strange things, the irregular periods were not known to be a symptom of PCOD at that time. There was a time when I thought I was doomed, and that I could never conceive. The ignorance was so deep in everyone including me, and we were like the frog in the well, brooding over simple things. There were medications done, which resulted in painful periods. I started to dread inducing them every month. At school, there were days when I had to return home early because of the pains.
Once, after an internal exam, which I wrote with one hand clutching at the stomach, the stains appeared. I was watched upon by many pair of eyes, and taken to the staff room, where the teacher kind of scolded on not taking adequate precautions. I remember my hands shaking at the ordeal I had to go through. Though now it appears quite natural and normal, at the adolescent age, when such things deeply matters our conscience and self confidence, these events leave a mark on our childhood. Not only I scored very less marks that term, but I was made to sit with a different group of students who scored less marks for the rest of the months. This alienated me from my friends.
I always wondered how the situation could have improved if periods was not a taboo. It was a girls school, so why shy away from educating the menstruation pains and stains or openly talking about it. It would have been so easy if we could share with each other the menstrual problems, rather than hiding them. I don’t remember talking about this in our friends circle, except for blanket excuses like “stomach pain” or “not well”.
From those times to the acknowledgement of cramps and mood swings on social media, I am so overwhelmed that people are more open now to address the issues bothering the topic of mentruation as normal as any other thng. There would be people bashing on why wasting the sanitary pads or they should rather work on giving always the pads to the needy instead of promoting the film. But it has brought out the topic to the forefront.
Maybe that’s what they are trying to achieve. Bringing those pads out from the dark to the limelight…