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Today we talk about so many issues related to periods. But how many talk about the period related challenges faced by neurodivergent women and their families?
“I want to sleep with my Nayi bhabhi, (new sister-in-law)” said Guddi, barging inside the bedroom of the new bridegroom. Before anyone could react, the 29 year old woman jumped onto the king sized bed decorated with flowers. Squeezing her heavy form between the bridegroom, she leaned back against a silk pillow and threw a victorious smile to all the women present there.
The groom looked around helplessly while his new bride picked up her veil to glance at her sister in law. All Sakshi saw was a young child trapped in a woman’s body. There was nothing but innocence in her eyes and smile.
“Where is she?” boomed a voice from the doorway.
It was her mother in law. Sakshi quickly pulled down her veil.
“There you are!” exclaimed the older woman. “Guddi, come with me. Right. Now.”
Guddi was about to protest but one look at her mother’s hard face and she was forced to relent. Head downcast, she slowly tiptoed out of the room.
The whisperings began then.
Who let her loose?
Where’s her caretaker?
She should be kept under lock and key!
Sakshi heard everything and felt a growing sense of irritation. She was aware that Guddi had Down Syndrome. But that didn’t give people any right to disgrace her.
Next morning, she found Guddi sitting at the breakfast table. An elderly woman, in charge of her, was feeding her milk and cornflakes with a spoon.
Sakshi couldn’t help but mutter, “Masi, can’t she eat by herself?”
“No beta! She can’t do anything on her own. I have to help her.”
“Have you tried teaching her?”
“Teach? How can you teach someone who is retarded?”
Sakshi was enraged. She decided to ignore the foolish woman and instead approached her sister in law gently.
“Guddi, can you hold the spoon like this?”
Guddi tried to imitate her bhabhi.
“Very good! Now bring it to your mouth,” Sakshi instructed her.
As Guddi took her first spoonful of food, she felt elated. Nothing could beat the joy of self feeding. She started clapping and hugged her Nayi bhabhi tightly.
From then onwards, Sakshi took it upon herself to teach the young woman everything that she needed to learn. Starting from wearing clothes to bathing, combing and washing, she taught her with unfailing patience and care.
However, the real challenge came with the arrival of the monthly periods. Sakshi was appalled to find Guddi ignorant about the whole process and instead tried to play with her own menstrual blood. When she approached her mother in law, the same answer greeted her.
“But how can you teach someone who is unable to understand?”
“It’s impossible,” echoed her other sister in laws.
Sakshi gritted her teeth in despair. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!”
And try she did. Month after month. Until Guddi fell into a hygienic pattern. Her mother and sisters, who hereto dreaded those 5 days, now thanked Sakshi.
The changes in her were so prominent that nothing went unnoticed. Neighbours, friends and relatives began showering the new bride with praises and blessings.
What the mother and her siblings couldn’t accomplish, another woman did!
This is a true story which I have heard many times. The incident took place around 20-30 years back. At that time ‘Period’ was a subject that nobody talked about. As it is, ‘those days’ are uncomfortable for most of the women population. But for women like Guddi, it might be unimaginable if they aren’t made aware of it.
Today we talk about so many issues related to periods. But how many talk about the period related challenges faced by women like Guddi and their families?
The sole purpose of writing this story is to inspire mothers who are struggling to teach their ‘special daughters’ about the hygiene to be maintained during periods. We only talk about the struggles and challenges faced by neuro-typical women. But what about women who have physical or mental disability. Nature has bestowed upon them the same biological features. But while addressing any menstruation issues we don’t even pause to think about these women for whom the challenges are much more difficult. Actually, I would say far more for their caregivers.
It’s high time we include humanity as a whole when we talk about any issue. Because that’s what is called inclusion in the truest sense!
Image source: Happy Woman with Down Syndrome by Mirida, Free for Canva Pro
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