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Nothing is ‘impure’ about periods. This Durga Puja, don’t let bleeding deprive your daughters of Maa’s darshan, says the author to all mothers out there.
When we reached the pandal, the eleven-year-old stopped at the gate. She had a restricted, somewhat embarrassed smile on her little lips, something you don’t expect to see in a child. But you see, some amount of childhood is lost if you are a girl.
I was pretty much sure about what could have gone wrong. Still, to confirm I asked her why she had stopped there instead of going inside for the darshan. And she, in a very subdued voice told me that she was having her periods and therefore her mother had strictly instructed her to not go near the deity. Ironically, the deity here was the embodiment of woman power, the mother goddess Durga.
I know what mothers usually tell their adolescent girls. Something as natural a process as menstruation is considered to be some very impure thing. If the girl is menstruating she is forbidden to visit the temples and even to touch or go near the idols at home. You are not permitted to even use the word menses in front of men as if it were a crime to do so or a thing to be ashamed about. And signs and gestures are used by the women to communicate among themselves that they, in fact, are going through their period days, making sure that their code is not deciphered by the men around. This is how their raw minds are shaped, and the children, in turn, grow up to pass on these beliefs to their children. That day what the little girl told me was just what she had been told and made to believe.
I clutched her hand and asked her to come inside with me. She was reluctant. I understood her dilemma. I saw fear in her eyes, fear of committing a sin if she went near the goddess. I could well have commanded her and she would have reluctantly obeyed, but that wouldn’t have allayed her fears, that wouldn’t have wiped off the belief she had been fed by her own mother. I decided to nip this belief, and nip it in the bud. And so I chose to address this differently.
I looked into her eyes, “You believe in God, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Don’t you think that God is everywhere?”
She nodded in the affirmative.
“You don’t have to stand here and not go near the idol, because God is also where you are standing. Isn’t it?” I asked.
That made sense to her. I could make that out from her expressions.
I continued “Do you think God made us all?”
“Yes”, she said.
“If you believe that God has created us, don’t you think that this is how he intended to make us? So there is no point in considering yourself impure for a thing God decided you should have”, I reasoned.
She smiled. She certainly did not wish to wait at the gate. If not for the compulsion from the society no one would want to curb her own enjoyment in this festive season or otherwise and certainly not for a natural process she endures, even if she doesn’t like to. She was happy now and with much excitement and renewed confidence went inside to have Devi’s darshan.
That day I wanted to tell her about the role of menstruation in reproduction, and how something that is directly related to the creation of life could never be an impure thing or a thing to be ashamed about. But I decided to tell this to her some other day, perhaps when she is a bit older. Today, I thought I will just let her be the child that she is.
Durga Puja is all about the triumph of good over evil – the evil that is around us, the evil that is within us… To do away with the belief that talking about something as natural as menstruation is a taboo… To do away with the belief that it is a thing to be ashamed about, a thing to conceal from everyone. Talking openly about menstruation in our homes, and letting our girls and boys know that it is just another normal thing in life, will definitely help in eliminating the unnecessary hoopla around this natural cycle. And free the little girls of the psychological burden they endure in addition to the compulsory physical burden of bleeding every month.
Image Source – Still from the movie Kahaani
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