Coming Of Age : South India, You Got This!
Yes. I am going to talk about something we generally don’t talk about. About half of humanity bears with a monthly visitor, fondly called by many names across the globe. Aunt Flo, ‘those days’ ‘that time’, ‘chums’ but nobody wants to say the word. Menstruation. Period. I can feel you cringe right now. But it’s okay. Ignorance does that to people. It goes on to make a normal bodily function a taboo subject. In fact, it would be safe to say, that most things ‘female’ are inherently regarded taboo. Like breastfeeding. People want you to breastfeed your child all the time. They are great advocates of it. But they won’t support you if you wish to feed your child it’s most natural form of lunch in public! Even if you’re covered. A sight of cleavage is more acceptable than a mother feeding her child. That’s how detached from nature we’ve become. All because we associate it all with SEX. But that’s silly because breastfeeding & menstruation have nothing to do with sex. But that’s another topic, another day, another blog. Promise!
For now, let’s stick with periods. Oh! Stop cringing. I know a lost cause when I see one & I am too realistic to think that there would come a day, when people would be comfortable with menstruation. For that you have to be in sync with nature & comfortable in your own skin. I honestly don’t believe I shall live to see the day, when a female employee feels comfortable approaching her male boss & telling him she needs to skip work because her period cramps are killing her. It’s going to remain the veiled ‘headache’, or ‘family emergency’ or ‘girly problem’ at the most. I do not demand that we shouldn’t have to carry a pack of sanitary napkins in a black plastic from the chemist. I think a man would hide his pack of condoms too. But I do feel, that women should, at least, be comfortable sharing their discomfort with people they interact with on a daily basis. At least co-workers, family members, friends. I am not extending that to strangers at all because as a rule, we don’t talk about anything personal with strangers do we?
But while we continue to debate this, there is a culture, within India, that doesn’t debate menstruation. It celebrates it.
You read that right. I always felt South Indians are way cooler than Northies in many ways. (I am a North Indian, so back off & don’t even start with the political correctness.)
Yeah! They celebrate the coming of age of their girls. In fact, it’s a grand celebration in some cases, in others a private affair, but not a taboo, to say the very least. The entire ritual may take more than a fortnight. It starts with the first ever period the girl has. A ritual bath is prepared for her , followed by a period of isolation, during which she is given nutritious meals to nourish her body. This is believed to strengthen her body for future pregnancies too. Once the isolation period is over, there is a religious ceremony that takes place, wherein a priest blesses the girl & the family prays to the Gods. What ensues is a celebration in which family & friends are invited & the girl is gifted her very first Silk Saree & is adorned like a bride & showered with gifts!
When I had my first period, I was 13 years old, scared & locked inside a bathroom, ashamed to step out, fearing judgement & almost a tad bit guilty. My worst fear was facing my ‘girl’ friends the next day at school who I knew out of experience of watching other girls go through the ‘ordeal’ , would ridicule me & say ridiculous things like “Be careful now”! What the hell? As if the only thing standing between me & promiscuity (yeah! at 13) was my period! And this when my mother had already had a rather awkward conversation with me touching the subject only slightly because I wasn’t ‘there yet’. For most girls, not there yet means , haven’t had a period yet! Yes! We shall talk about it once you start bleeding. No need to prepare you before hand for something that’s eventually going to happen. NO MATTER WHAT!
And now that I compare my experience of a first menstrual cycle, with that of my South Indian counter parts, I end up asking myself “Why did we end up with the short end of the stick?”
I mean think about it. When I got my first period, I got people worried! When my south Indian friend did, she got people buying her gifts! Well, I have said it once I will say it again, South India, you are way cooler than us North Indians. You got this!