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It is incredibly vital to wrap sanitary pads in newspapers and the dreaded black plastic if you’re a ‘decent & sanskari’ woman, isn’t it?
I was at this medical store after years and the place had changed tremendously. What used to be a small medical store was now a fancy new-age pharmacy. It, now, had sleek showcasing of the products and sales personnel in uniforms behind the counters.
I walked up to the counter to get what I had come to buy. As I waited for my turn at the counter, I was taken back to the day I came here as a teenager for buying the very same product I had come today.
I had stood at the counter for a while wondering how I was to ask for what I had come to buy. Then, gathering courage, I had told the shopkeeper, “Uncle, I want that” pointing to the shelf behind him.
He turned around to look at what I was pointing at and replied: “You want that cotton roll?”
I was exasperated after several failed attempts and he was annoyed, I finally said a tad irritated, “That thing uncle, on the shelf behind you, which starts with S.”
The shopkeeper turned around, looked at the green packet on the shelf behind him, and brought it down. He angrily muttered, “Couldn’t you say clearly, sanitary pad? Wasted so much of time?” Then, he proceeded to package it with layers of paper and a black polythene bag. I was smiling at my stupidity when a voice interrupted me.
“Yes, madam what do you want?” the person behind the counter asked looking at me with a quizzical expression. I couldn’t blame him, he wouldn’t be encountering too many ladies at his shop who stand at the counter smiling to themselves instead of placing their order.
“A large pack of sanitary pads please,” I told him and he called out to his colleague to get it. As I finished paying for my purchase, I could see the gentleman behind the counter pulling out reams of newspaper and a black bag to pack it. It took me back once again to that day many years ago.
‘Somethings never change,’ the most used phrase to convey the feeling of nostalgia, but today how I wished this practice would change.
“It’s okay, I don’t want to add to the pollution with more plastic bags, I will keep it in my bag,” I told the counter clerk as I took the packet from him. I could see the look of irritation on his face at my remark. And I hoped, out of annoyance, that he stops packaging sanitary pads in so many layers from the next customer. Why give the customer a feeling they had just purchased a top-secret nuclear weapon?
I entered my apartment gate and saw Rani aunty standing at the entrance to the building, once again taking me back to a day-long ago in my teens. That day, I had been walking back home swinging a similar packet of sanitary pads when the package slipped from my hand and dropped down.
Before I could pick it up, our neighbour Kamala aunty had seen the package, and then all hell was let loose. I got a showdown on how shameless this was, rebuked for my unchaste behaviour, and the incident narrated with extra tempering and seasoning to my mother.
At the end of it, I wondered if I had been mistakenly carrying an explosive weapon in the packet, and dropping it had put everyone’s life in grave danger. As I walked to the building, I saw the grocery delivery person from a grocery store, unloading a delivery basket from his vehicle.
All of a sudden I heard Rani aunty’s voice “What is this? Why are you carrying it like that?” For a minute I looked at my bag, wondering if I had left my bag open, but no, it was properly zipped.
Then I noticed her target was not me but the delivery boy. In his basket along with the other groceries was a packet of sanitary pads, sans the layers of packaging.
“Groceries for flat No.403,” answered the delivery boy a little perplexed at the aggressive questioning from aunty.
“Don’t you know how to pack things properly? Shameless people!” aunty muttered glowering at him.
I went up and patted her back and said, “Relax aunty, he is a delivery boy and only doing his job.”
“Like this, there is some basic decency expected. I must talk to Mrs Aggarwal, she should not be buying her grocery from such shameless people. Indecent” Rani aunty continued glowering at the poor delivery boy, as we proceeded to enter the lift. I felt for the poor guy, he was only doing his job and doing it sensibly.
Why pack that sanitary pad in tons of plastic and paper? It wasn’t a prohibited narcotic substance that he was delivering that it had to be hidden like that. But telling this to Rani aunty was akin to belling the cat.
As we got into the lift, I opened my bag to fish out my keys and aunty saw the package peeping out in all its glory without the mandated layer of covers. Now her target of anger changed from the delivery boy to me.
“All this education and freedom has gone to the head of you girls. You have lost all sense of shame and manners, displaying such stuff openly. This generation has no sanskar,” Aunty ended her speech with her favourite word, the lack of the particular pious quality she was waiting to point out to all and sundry.
Just then the doors of the life opened on the fourth floor and as the delivery boy was pulling out his basket, he enquired to nobody in particular “Was Baghban playing again on TV sometime today?”
Rani aunty was left confused at the question, while I struggled to stifle my laughter.
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Still from Stayfree’s ad on YouTube
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