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A woman does not become impure during periods. A lesson learnt by the author’s mother in her childhood, and shared with her daughter.
Women’s Web had a blogathon recently on the topic of ‘period pride’. I was discussing the topic with my Ma (mother) and she told me about this incident from her life. It makes me realize how life unfurls itself in many ways when you are the weakest and brings the best lesson to you when you are least demotivated by life.
So I thought of writing this story here. The story of my Ma, whose name is Gouri.
Gouri was just 10 years old when she was sent to her maternal uncle’s home for further studies and building her skills of playing the sitar. A fair skinned girl with short hair and an athletic built, she was very intelligent and hard-working. Gouri was growing fast with extraordinary skills in playing the sitar and super beautiful Bong looks.
It was the 1960’s and no one really talked about menstruation in public. She was 13 years old by now.
One morning she woke up from bed and found it to be wet. Almost startled she sprung up and saw that it was blood stained. Cold chills rushed as she grew anxious that her maternal aunt would scold her for this. Astonished about the blood, she rushed to the bathroom to clean the bed sheets and her clothes.
After that she started concentrating on her daily routine of cleaning the verandah, worshipping the home deities, and practising the sitar. But during all this time she found that a sharp nagging pain at the bottom of her stomach was making her feel uncomfortable along with a wet feeling in her underwear. She was afraid to ask anybody about it, especially her aunt who was very strict.
She rushed back to toilet and found herself bleeding again and was struck anew by shivers of fright, since she thought that she was stung by some insect in her private parts. She sobbed for around an hour inside, until her cousin Madhuri found her there.
Madhuri asked her, “What happened Di (big sister)?”
Gouri sobbed without answering.
Madhuri asked again, “What happened Di? Why are you crying?”
Still shivering, Gouri said after sometime, “Promise me you won’t tell anybody!”
Madhuri said, “Yes, promise.”
Gouri answered, “I think I am going to die!”
Shocked, Madhuri screamed, “Dieeee, why???”
Gouri answered, still sobbing, “I have been stung by some poisonous insect at my private parts and have been bleeding since morning, and now I have a nagging pain at my lower stomach. Ohhhh!!! I can’t even see my parentssssss!”
Hearing the scream of Madhuri by this time Gouri’s maternal aunt had arrived and heard the conversation of both the kids. But as soon she heard of the bleeding she started puffing up like a volcano, and before Gouri had completed her sentences the aunt screamed, “You moron! You have doomed the purity of my home. You are having menstruation and you have worshiped my God’s, steeped into the kitchen and even played Sitar. Oh!!! My God this nasty girl has opened my whole family’s door to hell. Get out now or if I get in the bathroom you know you are dead.”
Terrified by her Aunt’s presence and shouting, Gouri slowly stepped out of the bathroom and slipped out of the home. Her aunt had started re-cleaning the home and murmuring bad omens for Gouri.
Broken hearted, Gouri went and sat at the bank of the nearby pond but she could feel that her underwear was oozing with fluid and was almost full. She felt the need of changing them.
Helplessly she rushed to a home nearby. There stayed a widow who was a professor. Gouri had never gone to her home because the people of the neighbourhood said, “She has studied more than required and so she is not suitable to stay in this society.” But now Gouri felt that she needed urgent help and so she rushed to the lady professor’s home.
Gouri knocked the door and a few moments later the widow came out. With a beautiful smile she bent towards Gouri and said, “Yes, I am Malini, How can I help you dear?” Those words seemed to be the sweetest words for Gouri after the excessive mental torture she had gone through from the morning.
Tears rolled down her cheeks, and Gouri began to sob. Malini placed her hands over Gouri’s shoulder and said, “What happened dear what makes you cry?”
Gouri now tried to speak, controlling her tears, “My aunt says I have doomed her family because I have touched her gods and kitchen when I was bleeding. But, I myself don’t know what has made me bleed through my private parts, probably some poisonous insect has stung me yesterday night and I am going to die now.”
Hearing Gouri’s story, Malini laughed heartily. This made Gouri angry. She was astonished and thought, “I am sharing my distress with her and she is laughing!”
Gouri was about to run away from Malini’s door step but then Malini hugged her tight and said, “Hey young lady I am sorry for laughing, but your words seem to be so innocent that I can’t stop myself from laughing. But, I am sorry again. Let’s get a solution for your problem.”
Malini’s apology soothed Gouri. She wanted to get a solution for her bleeding problem, too.
Malini said, “You aren’t stung by any poisonous insect but you have stepped into the first step into womanhood. Welcome to this world. First let me help you to deal with this problem but for that you need to go with me to washroom.”
Gouri was ready to go anywhere to get rid of her problem so although terrified at heart she went with Malini to her washroom. Malini helped Gouri with necessary requirements for menstruation and even provided her with extra sanitary napkins for rest of her period.
After this process of teaching through safety precautions Malini offered Gauri warm milk and biscuits to eat. Gauri was hungry as she hadn’t eaten anything since morning and gobbled up the food. Malini sat beside Gouri and slowly pampering her spoke, “Gouri you have reached your puberty and this menstruation will occur from now on every month after a period of 18-35 days and last from 5-7 days. You need to keep track of the time. At first it shall be confusing but slowly you shall learn. But, during your periods you need to be very clean and use these sanitary napkins which you need to change after every few hour. Drink loads of water and eat good food.”
Gouri became sad again and said, “I thought I had been bitten by some insect and this won’t happen again but then if this happens again and again every month then every month during this period I shall become impure and have to run away from home or else my aunt’s home will become impure and I shall lead her family to hell.”
Malini said, “No, please don’t think this way. This isn’t true. This is the rule of supreme Mother Nature who is a woman herself. No lady becomes impure or makes other’s way to hell by merely touching things. It’s the narrow social barricade of thinking which has made us think in this way. Never feel the guilt that you are impure during this period or have made someone else impure by merely touching them. This is just a natural process.”
Gouri innocently asked, “Do you have this too and even the film actresses and my aunt too?”
Malini smiled and said, “Yes, of course!”
Gauri now got a ray of hope and said joyfully, “Ah, then its OK. I don’t need to be afraid of anything. If this happens to every girl then I alone am not impure even my aunt is. And even every Goddess too is. Hehe.”
Gouri’s childish nature came into play which made her carefree.
Malini said, “No, dear no woman is impure it’s just the process of Mother Nature which makes a girl a stronger lady. Don’t stop worshipping your God during this process thinking you are impure because you are not that, your God loves you in every way you are no matter what.”
It has been almost 40 years since that incident. Gouri has transformed into a confident lady and still hasn’t given up her offerings to God during her mensuration period and has succeeded in every aspect of her life.
Gouri says now, “Menstruation is a mere hormonal change so we don’t need to signify it to be impure. It’s the thought process which is to be purified during this time. If we bring change in our thought only then we can bring about a change in the society”.
As told to Joyeeta Talukdar by Gouri Talukdar Bhattacharjee
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