Of Red, Hormones and Girl-Things You Shouldn’t Discuss

White and Red Skirt

She ran to the nearest washroom. It was the PT period and everyone was down at the playground. Nobody saw her running to the washroom. She shut the door on herself, almost throwing up at the stink. No matter how highbrow the school, the washrooms oddly started to stink toward the end of the day. Now, she told herself, surely it wouldn’t be so bad. Surely it would last out for another hour or so.

It wouldn’t.

The back of her white school skirt had a big, wet blob. A dark red. Extremely conspicuous and unmistakable. She had no idea how she had bled through her skirt. It was only a month or so since she had started menstruating and neither did the period always come on time, nor could she really understand it. School was almost over for the day but she had a bus ride back home. A bus full of boys and girls – energetic and chatty children excited to go back to hot lunches at home. How on earth was she to brave them wearing a skirt that looked like this?

The boys in her class would be sure to be particularly nasty about it. They had snickered and giggled early that year, when the girls had been whisked away to the auditorium for a “special session”. The boys weren’t allowed entry. A few sneaky ones, though, had managed to peek at the huge chart that had been readied for the class. One look at the diagram of the female body was enough to clue them in on how the session had something to do with “sex”. And that was surely enough. She had wondered why the boys hadn’t been educated about periods too. Surely, it was important as an academic fact in Biology, if nothing else? But when the chapter came up in Science class, the teacher glossed it over quickly, not even resorting to her usual practice of getting someone to read the lesson out loud.

She remembered the time when her family had been invited for a puja at a neighbour’s house. She had been excited to go. No, not because she was particularly religious, but this neighbour made delicious lunches for all the guests. There would be her favourite dishes like mutter paneer, pulao and big glasses of buttermilk. But when the day of the puja came and she was getting ready, her mom came in with some surprising news.

“Are you getting ready for the puja? Actually, I don’t think we had better go.”

“What? Why?” Her face fell. Her mom, too, looked rather upset.

“You know how she is about these things…”

“What things?”

“Arey, you’re on your period, no! She will not approve of this on a puja day…”

It was that morning she had got the surprising realization that periods were not seen as a biological fact by many. They were seen as something filthy to be shirked from and a strong enough cause to deny someone a plate of delicious food!

Outside the washroom, there was a sudden noise. She jumped. Was it everyone returning from the PT class? She had been so lost in her thoughts and her panic that she hadn’t realized how much time had passed. She was ready to cry any minute. And then she remembered the chalk trick. A friend of hers had experienced something similar not too long ago. They had rubbed the stain with chalk. She rummaged in her pockets; there usually were bits of chalk pieces there. Her fingers closed on one. Shakily, she rubbed the stain with as much might as she could muster. The final result was groggy but it would have to do. Clenching her fists and pulling her bag down her back as far as possible, she walked out of the loo.

“What were you doing in there for so long?” One of her classmates jumped on her as soon as she opened the door. “Did you suddenly find you got your period or something?”

Another classmate giggled. “Yeah, I have heard that can happen to extra hormonal girls.” More giggles. Periods and how they happened were the hot topic of conversation all over the school. They made the girls feel all grown up. The boys had suddenly become doubly more interesting, and as these notorious “hormones” kicked in harder, everything somehow traced itself back to sex. Yes, periods, cramp-inducing and disgusting as they were, made many around her feel all adult-like. For her, right then, they only made her feel nauseated and desperate for the comfort and privacy of home.

She ignored what she thought were curious glances on the bus that day. She pretended to be deaf when someone called out to her from the back. When her stop came, she scampered down the steps of the bus and into the embrace of her mom, who was waiting for her. The bus drove away. That day, guided by her mom, she made a determined decision that she followed through the rest of her life. Always keep track of your periods. Not only was this important to avoid a situation as embarrassing as the one she had faced, but it was also critical for health reasons. Periods that were not timely or varied month on month could be indicators of a medical problem, a stress-related disorder that needed to be examined, or pregnancy. Understanding them is crucial for decisions on contraception, conception and fertility.

No, periods are not something to shy away from, or loathe, or feel hesitant about. There is no need to go red in the face when buying pads or tampons in the market, or avoid making eye contact with the man who wraps them in black polybags. It is not a subject you need to hush-hush about when there are advertisements on TV and there are kids, especially boys, around. For our sons to grow up into educated, sensitive adults who will support their wives in the pregnancy and childbirth journey, it is important they understand how menstruation works.

In schools now, there are sanitary pads available at the clinic. There are teachers who know how to guide and support young girls going through their first experiences of “those dreadful days”. And while kids may still continue to snigger at such subjects in their growing up years, it is time all of us remember that we are adults. Thinking adults who can see beyond songs and commercials about “laaga chunari me daag”. Who don’t pass underhanded comments about how women become hellish and useless for a few days each month. And who can see periods separated from prejudice, criticism, religion, ignorance or judgment. They are a part and parcel of a woman’s bodily functions and need due attention, just like everything else that constitutes your body.

So, if you’re a woman and not skipping periods on birth control, Aunty Flo will come visit you every month for several years. You may not enjoy her visit or the days leading up to, or detest it, to be honest. But she is an indicator that your body is in good health. And it is all you can do to pay attention to her when she does or does not arrive. Keep up your #PeriodPride!

This blogathon is supported by the Maya App, used by 6.5 million women worldwide to take charge of their periods and health.

Picture Via dresscorilynn.com

9 Rules of Partying For Introverts

Introverts at a party

Wait, why do introverts need to party at all? I give you this, my dear: destiny. Sometimes, no matter what you do, destiny makes its presence felt. There will invariably be some party you just cannot miss – an office do of the husband he has to attend to be polite, a family gathering you must go to or risk being called snobbish, you get the idea. Considering I already battle my fair share of “why don’t you talk to us more often”, I try and avoid this scenario with R. So, when he whisked me away to this event, I found I couldn’t say no. Continue reading

Why This Durga Puja Is Entirely Different

Durga Puja in CR Park

The sun is a beautiful shade of gold. The birds are chirping more often, almost glad that a long and dehydrating summer is on its way out. The air is fragrant – with the distant aroma of khichudi-bhog that hordes of people will queue up to eat. There’s no doubt about it – Durga Puja is here.

For a couple of wonderful days starting now, days that make up for everything else the year brings forth, C.R. Park in Delhi will celebrate merriment and gaiety. Children will dress up in their new clothes and run to the pandals, buying one ice-cream after the other from the many carts. The stage will abound in musicians and orchestras, dancers and nervous little volunteers making announcements related to the prasad and the anjali. By night, the lanes outside my house will be lit in a million colours, the fairy lights in no mood to sober down till long after the year has bid adieu. It will be a sight to behold. And here, miles away from it all, I will behold the sight only in my memories. Continue reading

There’s Something Very Special About This Morning

Schönbrunn Palace

It rained last evening, and well into the night. I didn’t see much of it as I was tucked in bed, tired out after the long walk in the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace. I dreamt of the people who must have lived there years ago, their gowns and dresses long and flowing, their kitchens fragrant, their mornings occupied in tending to the glorious gardens. In fact, when I woke up this morning, I still felt half inside the palace, imagining myself to be a house-member, perhaps the princess who had two big, furry dogs and an apple strudel for breakfast every morning. It took me a while therefore to realize the skies outside had changed… Continue reading

Hello From Wien!

There are large trees lining the lane outside my little home. Their leaves keep moving relentlessly all day, catching even the slightest wind. They seem to be soaking in every bit of sunshine they can – and delighting in it. In a month or two, sunny days will be rare, the skies grey and heavy. That said, I feel none of this heaviness inside me. Not just yet. I am lapping up the sunshine too and slinking inside my blue Jaipuri quilt at night. I carry a jacket with me while going out but sometimes don’t get a chance to wear it at all. The weather is playing with me and I don’t know the game. It is, after all, my first week in Vienna. Continue reading

No, Don’t Ask Me When I Plan to “Start” a Family

One of the rather uncomfortable side effects of marriage is the constant pressure to procreate. And the even more discomfiting fact is that this pressure comes from people you have never and would never discuss the mechanics of procreation with. Now, while I’ve been reasonably fortunate so far in dealing with the curiosity about my childbearing plans, that’s not what compelled me to write this post. It’s something a bit more disturbing.

After marriage, there is a host of people who enquire when you’re planning to “start a family”. And this always, imperatively, bugs me. No, not because it’s personal and nosey (which it is) but because it’s founded in falsehood. You see, I already have a family! Continue reading

Back To The Jungle

* Winning Entry in Disney’s My Mowgli Memory Contest *

Jungle Book

It was a late-winter Sunday morning in Delhi and still dark outside. The household was asleep. I tip-toed out of my bed, put on a jacket, and rushed to the washbasin. The floor-boards were chilly, the water even worse. But I didn’t mind. Before everyone woke up, I had to shower, put on fresh clothes, pray, and finish my homework. Erm, in case you have pinned me down as this ideal, unreal kid, let me burst the bubble. There was a big reason for the big rush.

Jungle Book aired on TV on Sundays. I couldn’t miss it for the world.

Outside our living-room window, the sun was now high up in the sky. The kitchen was fragrant with weekend-special breakfast, and I knew it, a chocolate pastry for me. Meanwhile, in the jungle, Mowgli the man-cub was being raised by a family of wolves. He had two excellent friends – Baloo, the bear and Bagheera, the panther. They hadn’t a soft bed or fluffy paranthas, and lived in perpetual fear of Sher Khan. But despite this, they were a bunch of happy folk. They were also my role models.

My family, predictably, latched on to my Jungle Book love, and used it to sell whatever point they were making. So, when I came back from school one day, my shirt all soiled with mud, Granny would go “Looks like our Mowgli jumped into a jungle puddle!” Or, if I crept behind Mom when the neighbours brought out their dog, she would remind me “Darling, he’s no Sher Khan!” You get the idea. This is why even though my home was well-lit, comfortable, and in the heart of the city, there was an aspect of the jungle to it. In my mind, there were mysteries right behind the fridge, or in the store-room, or in the dark of the attic. Almost within reach.

I say almost because I could never hold on to time. To be honest, I didn’t even try. Growing up seemed so tempting, so full of big and new experiences. So I grew up. There was holiday homework, then college assignments, then work deadlines. Unlike the freedom of the jungle, and the simplicity of those early Sunday mornings, life now presented complicated challenges. There was a time when achievements the size of Colonel Hathi came easily. Memorizing the lyrics of “Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai, Pata Chala Hai”, for instance. And now, one of the most daunting achievements was finding satisfaction.

I wonder how it will be to see my favourite people from the jungle all over again. They will have new and interesting voices, in a virtual world more real than ever before. In the Hindi version, I especially look forward to Irrfan Khan as Baloo and Om Puri as Bagheera – rich, powerful voices to portray the most adorable friends (and bodyguards) ever! Times have changed since the Jungle Book of my childhood, and we have reached new, fantastical standards of film-making. 

This Friday, I will sit with 3-D glasses over my spectacles, and let Disney carry me effortlessly into the depths of the jungle. There, waiting for me, will be all my friends of yore – the happy-go-lucky Mowgli, the affectionate Baalu, the strong and sensible Bagheera, and all the rest. Together we will re-create the beautiful and innocent land of childhood, still untouched by time.

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I’m blogging about #MyMowgliMemory at BlogAdda.

Picture Credit: The Hindu

Chirp No More

He was there when I opened the door to the balcony, chirping away with all the strength he could muster.

“What is it?”

He replied in monosyllables. “Chirp. Chirp. CHIRP!”

Confused, I looked around into the evening. The sun was setting, lending a golden glow to the plants in our little, slightly messy, garden. The sky was alive with groups of birds returning to their nests, in time for the evening snack – a freshly caught worm! In fact, some members of his family could also be seen near the roadside shrubs, chattering away about climate change.

“Why are you sitting here all alone? Go out and play.” Continue reading