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It hurt me to think of the millions who couldn’t purchase such a significant product. I stared at the quantity of pads. It said, “40 pieces”, which meant a piece cost 12.5 rupees.
It was during my high school days when I first walked into a supermarket to buy sanitary pads by myself. Not going to lie but my fingers were shaking from the embarrassment of what people would think as I stepped inside at the peak time of the day.
Mommies pushing the carts and babies crying loudly filled the humid air of the mart. Beep-beeps of the counter squeaked like mice while my busy eyes searched for the vibrant colours of my mother’s chosen brand. I scanned my eyes around to see where they were kept having absolutely no idea.
An aunt who had noticed my still figure came forward and asked politely. I whispered, “Pad” and she smiled a bit. I cringed as if the world would drop on my head. With a hanging head, I followed close behind. Feeling like the centre of the stage had focused all lights on me, I kept my shoulders down and trudged.
It was kept at the back, in a corner, arranged in stacks. Different colours of a variety of brands shone off the lights, while I stood confused by the one that I needed. The aunt, a bubbly little lady, waited patiently as I called my mother to ask for her type. Just then, a well-dressed middle-aged man walked in and picked a purple shaded packet of pads, stared at it for a while, and dropped it into his cart. Stunned by the man’s confidence, I didn’t hear what my mom was saying.
“Oh, sorry Mom! Which is the one you want?”
“Ultra Dry Max, All Night”
The aunt took one for me.
“Ok, that’s it”
I was shocked at the price of that little thing. It cost about five hundred rupees.
“It’s usually so. Just buy it and come.”
It threw me to a standstill to find something as necessary as a pad, to be so expensive.
“Is this it?”
I nodded, awestruck by the revelation, and followed her to the counter.
As I waited for the crowd at the counter to die down, my eyes wandered around. Through the transparent glass doors of the mart, I caught a glimpse of a woman dressed in rags, cross-legged on the sidewalk, with her palms jingling a few coins, some passerby had dropped. Between her thin legs sat, a tiny bright child, drowsy and weary, copying her mother’s image with extended arms. That little chirruping one sang in a soft gentle voice, the story of a lost bird finding its way.
My head was spinning as to how I could afford this, had I been her. I didn’t have an answer. It hurt me to think of the millions who couldn’t purchase such a significant product. I stared at the quantity of pads. It said, “40 pieces”, which meant a piece cost 12.5 rupees. On average, a girl requires a minimum of 10-15 pads in a month which would sum up to around 200 rupees. And calculating her mother, and sisters she has, it would even sum up to 1000! I was shocked and speechless at the amount my abacus brain had calculated.
“Five hundred rupees.”
I looked at the man in specs. He seemed to be a young, childlike figure with baby cheeks.
“Sir, can you tell me why this costs so much?”
“Something as necessary as a pad, which every girl who crosses puberty requires, like a daily bread, costs half my tuition fee.”
He smiled, “There are cheaper brands.”
“It’s not about the brands, Sir.”
He went silent.
“I guess, the world still has a lot to change.”
I paid and left.
Crossing puberty is a challenge for every woman, as she learns to deal with her developing organs and their inevitable changes. What starts as a scary experience of shedding blood turns into an eventful regular experience she barely notices with passing time. But what matters to her like her daily food, is the necessity of a sanitary pad, which shouldn’t even cost a rupee.
It might be a point of view I exaggerated, for nowadays most countries have brought about tax-free sanitary pads and tampons. It does feel better for a middle-class person to know that a piece costs about 6-12 rupees in India. Yet, with the rising population, poverty-stricken citizens even today, make use of towels and tissues, which is unhygienic and bad for women and their health.
How much an item should cost, must revolve around the lowest cost price an average person can afford, and a pad, which is required in bulk and is essential, should cost the least of all prices.
I hope a day arrives when the world could offer an “a-rupee-a-pad scheme”, so that women from all communities, regardless of their status, and wealth, can afford to buy sanitary napkins.
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