Anupam has been in teaching for ten years, giving life training along with language training. She believes in the collective consciousness.
I was going to study in a boarding school in my seventh grade. There was a list of things which were to be packed to stay in the girl's hostel. My mother didn't know English so I helped her pack my things by dictating the name of the things which were required. In the list, there was "Sanitary Napkin" and then just "Napkin". So, I was not sure what was the difference between the two.
When I asked my mother, she said that was not for me as I was too young for that. Still, she didn't tell me anything about the physical changes I was supposed to have in near future.
On a particular day, I was left in the hostel with the strangers. I was so scared there. I wished to run away from there. Assuming that I won't have periods so soon, my mother didn't give me the sanitary napkin.
It was my first morning in the hostel when I woke up, I found the whole bed of mine was wet. In the light, I could see it was red in colour. I got panicked and started to cry bitterly. I was sure that I had been poisoned and then I was going to die.
The hostel warden was called in the room while the other girls were acting so weird that I did feel I was in some sort of haunted place. To aggravate my fear, I was asked to stay back in the hostel while the other girls went to school. After the girls left the warden asked me to come to her after cleaning my bed sheet, other clothes and myself. Then she told me that it was usual and it happens with every girl after getting puberty. I couldn't understand anything, though did the same as I was asked.
I couldn't understand about anything that was happening to me since I was in ninth grade when we learned in biology about the reproductive system of male and female. Our teacher didn't teach us that lesson and asked us to read on our own. Though it was bit difficult for us to understand the whole complex system on our own, we tried to understand that on our own with discussion among ourselves.
Thank god and the educational system today, I find the teachers explaining those lessons to the students in the class. Even I learned about them in a better way when I was preparing for my medical entrance examination.
Is it a Curse to Bleed?
I was to be married and till then I had never talked about my cycles or anything related to my physical body with my mother or any of my friends.
In Indian culture, the girls who are menstruating are considered as untouchables and are not allowed to go to the kitchen or temples. This has been a question of debate for a long time as a few give their opinion in favour of that while a few others have always opposed that. I am one among them.
If this menstruation cycle is so important for a lady to give birth to a child, to help in reproduction, to save humanity, then how come it can be considered as a curse?
Already the girls suffer a lot of physical as well as the mental problems because of this bleeding period. I myself become very aggressive and irritating with unbearable back pain. Whereas, many cultures provoke the girls to be confined to a dark room and sleep on the carpet away from the other members of the family (mostly in remote areas). Just imagine how these ladies might be suffering! Thankfully my in-laws were far better in this and they never put any such restrictions on me other than on visiting temples during periods. And I was very open to my mother in law. She was my first friend with whom I could discuss anything.
Girls in School or Colleges
In the schools where I have worked, I have seen the girls with stains on various occasions. And with that, how the people treat them, it looks like if that's a stain on their character. Even when they come to ask for a pad to the teachers they are very ashamed of asking for that as if they are asking wine in the school. Ironically, many boys are not even that scared of asking cigarettes.
Earlier I too behaved in the same way but with time I realized that it was not my fault to bleed as a lady but it was the requirement for our species. And then onwards I started to break all the taboos. Why does one need to hide the sanitary napkin in brown paper? Why do people hush when one starts talking about the periods in public? What is the need to hide the pad in dupatta or hanky while taking it to the washroom? Though I couldn't get the answer to these questions, still, with this article I am trying to at least ask these questions to myself so that I can ask my students too to raise such concerns.
Myths Of Menstruation
- In Hindu mythology, there is a myth that Indra, the god of heaven slain the brahman Vritrasura. That slaying of a brahman results in the menstrual cycle of the ladies every month. Indra shared his sin with the women folk promising them to have the love for men to their heart's content.
- The lady is considered impure during the days of her menstrual cycle and secluded from the other members. She can join the daily chores only after cleaning herself from this bleeding.
- The menstruating girls are not allowed to offer prayers in any of the cultures.
- In a few of the cultures, the menarche is celebrated with great pomp and show.
- According to the study of Kumar and Srivastava in the year 2011, women emit some specific smell or ray during menstruation which result in the decay of the preserved food. This is the scientific reason given to let the menstruating girls away from the kitchen. Though, there has not been any scientific evidence given for the same.
- There are many vodoos and black magic related to the menstrual blood. It is believed in many cultures of Asia and Africa that the people can harm anyone using this blood and because of this reason, the dirty clothes used by the ladies are buried.
- It is believed in a few of the cultures that if a menstruating girl touches a cow, the cow will become infertile.
- In many cultures, the menstruating lady is isolated for a long time after the childbirth considering them impure.
I would like you all to feel proud of yourselves as you are the divine source through which the seed of humanity prospers. It's you who bring up a life and then nourish that. You don't need to feel sorry for either your body or your weaknesses as you are capable enough to strengthen yourselves.
You just need to show your daughters that it's not a shame to bleed every month and there is no need to hide it from society. I am sure that in western society the mothers train for this thing in a better way (an assumption again) while it is required a lot in Indian culture where the girls start to feel like feeble creature since they start bleeding. This makes them so insecure that they don't want to even tell their friends that they are in periods and discard their used sanitary napkin wherever they wish just not to be noticed. This is so unhygienic to throw the used napkins on the windows panes, corridors, roads, washrooms etc. It's not that the girls don't know about this but their sense of fear and shame is so much that they do it in that way.
I'm telling about this act from the experience of a few of the best schools in which I had taught as a teacher and also from the public places of the city. As a mother we are responsible to teach our girls what's good for them and let them know that there is no crime in bleeding. Yes, they don't need to shout and declare that to everyone but they don't even need to keep it as a top-secret.
In many of the schools, sex education is given to the children from fifth grade to let them know about their private parts, how to keep that clean and not to let those parts be touched by any person. Even the kids of primary classes are taught about the good touch and bad touch. But being with the system I know that how effectively that job is done in the schools It's better for us to take this responsibility and make our children understand all these things with our own efforts as parents.
Mentruation is not dirty and impure but it is made impure with our unhygienic ways of life.
I am not Ashamed of Bleeding
I was a young sweet girl,
I was worshipped as a deity every year,
I was considered as a Kumari,
People used to take blessings from me,
I grew up and had a few physical changes
I was said that I reached puberty,
I started to bleed every month,
And that changed the perspective,
Then I was no more worshipped
As I was considered as defile.
I was barred from the prayer room
And from many other daily chores
Asking me to not reveal my pain
Or any of the other problems.
I am not able to understand,
How I am considered impure
When this make me absolute,
I bleed once a month
Just for a few days,
Those days are traumatic
I have a lot of pain
How come I become a burden?
I am no more ashamed of bleeding
Whether they treat me as deity or demon
As I know, for us to bleed is common,
And through this, I am just purifying,
Releasing the eggs which didn't fertilize
And it will remain the same
Till I reach the age of menopause,
When no more eggs will be formed.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Anupam Mitu
The Sampsons from The Ozarks, Missouri on October 14, 2020:
Terrific article, but so unfortunate it needs to be written. My mother nor father ever talked about anything on that order. So happy that newer mothers are taking the lead on this subject.
Anupam Mitu (author) from MUMBAI on October 06, 2020:
Lots of love Dora.
It's always pleasing to listen such words from you people.
Thank you so much, that boosts our innerself to do more
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 06, 2020:
Anupam, you are performing a noble service by helping to remove the stigma for young girls, and educating the parents of their responsibility to talk with the children early. Blessings of your efforts!
Vidya Chauhan on October 06, 2020:
Excellent write up. Looking forward to educate my daughter on these guidelines very soon. Your piece of writing is going to be very useful for me. Thank you so much Anupam.
Anupam Mitu (author) from MUMBAI on October 04, 2020:
You are so right Farah! I did the same with my daughter as well, informed her about the coming problems well in advance.
Your mother did a great job, hope every mother takes a step like that.
Lots of love
Farah N Huq from Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 04, 2020:
I would say I was a privileged girl. Menstruation does have a lot of social taboos related to it, but since my mother had to go through a similar experience as the one you have narrated, she decided to educate me in advance about it. The journey was quite the opposite for me thereafter. I was desperately waiting for it and the delay in every passing month made me fear that I am probably not normal haha. I think it's important to educate children about the changes they are going to experience when they reach puberty. Only an enlightened new generation can remove the social taboos.
Anupam Mitu (author) from MUMBAI on October 03, 2020:
Brenda dear, unfortunately, the situation is far worse than I have mentioned here.
There are many girls who die because of the unhygienic condition they are living during their menstruation period in the rural parts of our nation.
There are so many illogical rules and customs for the girls. As we move to cities, our mindset is broadened, but the ones who are still deprived of education, they no nothing about this.
Anupam Mitu (author) from MUMBAI on October 03, 2020:
Flourish, it's so nice of you that you are not only helping your daughters but the other girls in your family and friends as well.
I feel great when I find such sweet people around me and then there is a sense of contentment.
Anupam Mitu (author) from MUMBAI on October 03, 2020:
Great job Dreamermeg
You are doing that well.
Even I have two daughters and my elder one has just reached her puberty stage. I discussed about everything with her in advance.
And she was not shocked when she got her first periods recently but just felt a bit awkward.
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 03, 2020:
This is a very educational article regarding the customs of other cultures.
I had absolutely no idea girls were condemned & treated in this manner.
This is a fact of life that occurs to all women...sorry you had to be put through this ordeal.
I do not believe it should ever be looked upon as a curse...but as a blessing of the years to come ahead when & if one decides to be a mother.
FlourishAnyway from USA on October 02, 2020:
My mother provided me books that I was allowed to read alone then we read them together and had a Q&A session plenty in advance. She was a model parent and I did the same with my daughter. More broadly, I have ensured that my nieces and nephews have learned appropriate sex education information and in one case I stepped in, communicated with my sibling, and picked up the slack. It’s too important to leave to chance. How sad that our Indian sisters across the globe must suffer in shame and ignorance of their own bodies.
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on October 02, 2020:
My mother was very prudish and I was not told anything about menstruation as a child. Luckily, I grew up in a pharmacy shop and there were many booklets there for people to buy to tell them about various medical problems or provide information (eg diabetes). Puberty was one of the booklets and I read that one. My sister took it with her to school, so all her friends could read it too. It was very much a taboo subject when I was young, though I tried my best to answer all my children's questions accurately when they were young, so they didn't feel ashamed or frightened at bodily changes.
Anupam Mitu (author) from MUMBAI on October 02, 2020:
Hahaha! Yes, now we are the parents and we don't want to repeat the mistakes of the previous generation.
Though it's still difficult to talk about these things in family. However youngsters have a lot of jokes on puberty and sexuality in their clubs unlike us.
Kalpana Iyer from India on October 02, 2020:
I was unaware of menstruation too. I thought sanitary napkins were used for diarrhea! That's how misinformed I was. Thankfully, girls are more aware now. Parents are becoming more open. This helps a lot.