Friday, October 28, 2016

The Curse of a Taboo #PeriodPride

This is a semi-fictional account of how women find strength to fight against taboos that have jeopardized their lives and strive for a better and equal existence for their next generataion by de-stigmatizing menstruation #PeriodPride.

“This blogathon is supported by the Maya App, used by 6.5 million women worldwide to take charge of their periods and health.”

Pavna was sitting in an aeroplane for the first time in her life. She was anxious because of her broken English, the speech she had to give in the conference in faraway London and for her two daughters whom she had left behind for a few days with her mother.

It had been such a long journey, 37 years, from Baraara, her tiny village in Himachal to London. Her companion Ms.Mehra had told her that her speech would be seen the world over, she was now a “global icon.”

Just a few minutes after take-off Pavna had asked Ms Mehra to guide her to the washroom of the plane, she needed to change her sanitary napkin. She was scared of very little in life now, but confined spaces still made her uncomfortable. In that small washroom thousands of feet above the earth, in that confined space as she pulled out a fresh napkin from her handbag, she became the 11 years old back in the village, blood running down her thighs for the first time.

She thought she was about to die, in all her school books many people bled and died in wars. She asked herself she wasn’t injured, was this then a curse from the village Devta? She had stolen two apples from the neighbor’s orchard the other day.

As she rushed to her mother, who was working in the cow shed and told her. Her mother inspected her stained salwar and began crying. Asking her to stay back in the Obra, she rushed in to the house and came back with some rags, she twisted those into a kind of flat thick towel and asked her to insert into her panties to soak the blood.

Pavna asked, “Amma am I going to die?”
He mother sighed and said, “ No, you will not die, this will happen every month for a few days, you are now going to get these dirty days like me and all other women and stay in the Obra till you are pure again.”
The list of instructions was long, though she knew most of them; it was she who would be sent to leave food for her mother at the door of the Obra by her grandmother every month when she was unclean.

·         No going out during the day, not even to school.
·         No going out to the fields even for toilet.
·         No playing with her siblings.
·         No touching any family member or cows.
·         No sleeping during day time.
·         No food except once during every 24 hours.

She was ready to follow all these because she knew those evil girls and women who didn’t could invite the wrath of the elders and even the ‘devta’. But she was only scared about the night; there was no electricity in that room.
Her mother was also worried for her, after all she was just an 11 years old child, and even she felt scared in there at night alone, what if a leopard attacked or a snake entered through the hay stack.

As she passed the meal to Pavna just after sunset over the threshold, she passed a homemade kerosene lamp made of a small glass bottle with a wick piercing through its lid. She knew the lamp wouldn’t last all night and was dangerous in a room full of hay but still hoped Pavna would fall asleep before it went out.

Pavna didn’t eat much on the first night. Her stomach was aching; the bleeding had already soaked the towel quite a bit. She lay down in the grass trough and covered herself with a rug made of old cattle feed bags. She longed for a hot cup of tea and wanted to cuddle with her mother. Outside the locked door she could hear the rest of the family going about their chores as normal.
It was for the first time today she realized why her grandmother said being born a girl was a curse.

Her mother tried to keep up her spirits as much as she could, and for the first time Pavna felt a strange association and empathy with all women who went through the same as her, including her mother.By the third day the bleeding was less and erratic but by now she was numb to this humiliation, this fear, this trauma.On the fifth day she was allowed to bathe and was clean again. She could eat and play with her brothers, walk in all rooms of her house and most importantly cuddle with her mother.

She prayed and prayed to the “devta” to stop her curse and not send it back ever again, but it kept recurring at regular intervals. By the time she was sixteen she was used to the routine of “those days” which were not even mentioned to anyone.

She was in class 10 when the ladies from the city came to the school, taught them several new words including one for the curse – MENSTRUATION.
They said things contrary to what her mother had told her and what she and her friends gossiped about it, that it wasn’t a curse, that they must bathe and keep themselves clean on those days, that they must use ‘napkin’ and not dirty cloth.
Pavna went home and told her mother, showed her the free packet of napkins that was given to her at school. Her mother stared at her blankly as if she was talking some foreign language. Neither Pavna, nor her mother could muster courage enough to change status quo.

Soon she was married off to a man chosen by her father and brothers. At 18 she understood that the curse of being a woman didn’t end in the cowshed, it extended to the bedroom. Her mother had told her she must do whatever her husband asked her to, even if it hurt her, otherwise she would be a bad wife.
Now she was mother to a little girl herself. She knew if she had a son, her husband and his family would be happier. A year later she had another girl. The taboo and the restrictions continued.

Image Courtesy: Google

Pavna’s fate was indeed grim, as she struggled to parent her girls her husband who was a soldier in the army was killed in Kashmir.She and her girls became even lesser than cattle in that house after that, though they were kind enough to not send her back to her parents’. She slogged in the fields, suffered all insults from his family but kept herself focused on raising her girls.

When her older girl was 10, the taboo hit again. This time Pavna garnered all the strength and stepped out of that house, her girls would not spend even a single night as an untouchable, cursed being. Pavna never looked back. It was not easy; she lived in NGOs, charity homes but started a movement against menstruation taboos.

Image Courtesy : Google

The knocking on the door was now very loud, it was Ms Mehra, “Pavna, are you alright.”
Pavna smiled and said, “Yes, now I am alright.”

The scared girl had finally gained undying self-esteem for herself and many others like her. She was now mom to two confident young girls, who unlike her were not only pursuing higher education but helped her regain her confidence whenever she faltered.

Just after her speech the next day, she received a text message from her daughters;along with was a photo of all the girls from her NGO.

We are proud of you Amma. 

Pavna had finally overcome her fear of confined spaces, cow sheds, pedestals, podiums. She had found #PeriodPride for herself and her girls.

 Other posts for the Blogathon :

Orange Flower Awards



To Kill a Mockingbird
The Catcher in the Rye
Animal Farm
The Alchemist
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
The Odyssey
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Count of Monte Cristo
Eat, Pray, Love
The Da Vinci Code
The Kite Runner
The Silence of the Lambs
The Diary of a Young Girl
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Notebook
Gone With the Wind


The Human Bean Cafe, Ontario

The Human Bean Cafe, Ontario
my work on display there !!!!!