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It feels like yesterday when I hit puberty. The world looked and felt different. Suddenly the racing hormones made boys extra visible like applying filters to a black and white photo. Mom and Dad seemed like they came from Mars. Friends meant the world. And my changing body was far from desirable. Hair stubbles popping out from the pores of my skin and flesh on my chest protruding out to form breasts made for the lesser of evils. In my generation, not many girls were informed about their changing bodies. Moms wouldn't plan and make that important conversation to give Gyaan on this turmoil called youth(which would later mean the Elixir of Life). Each stage of life took us by surprise. And menstruation was definitely Numero Uno on the not so pleasant surprise index.
I still remember being in Class 8 when I saw my panties covered in blood and imagined that was going to be the end of my life. The noble thought of ‘God takes away sooner those He loves the most’ crossed my mind and managed to force a smile. That fatal day was the Diwali New Year when the colour red would have otherwise meant something auspicious. I was somewhere on the playground clad in my traditional avatar when i felt an unusual ooze. I rushed home only to find out it was my first bloody step into womanhood. Not such a Yay moment though(and growing up was supposed to be fun!). Next, my older sister quickly gave me hands on lessons on using the CLOTH. YIKES!! Yes, sanitary napkins were just making their foray into the markets back then. And thankfully the ‘Kapda’ regimen gave way to good looking, odour free and less cumbersome ‘Whisper’ only in a couple of months. And then on periods became a part of life, a symbol of fertility.
Fast forward 30 years and you know some day your daughter is going to step into adolescence. And you recall those wonder years, full of anxiety and falling in love at the drop of a hat, but mostly feeling conscious of your appearance. And when you think of the youth right now, you have to give it to them for being fast - at everything. They have too much general knowledge, if you know what I mean, they grow quicker, mature even faster and act before you and I can comprehend what needs to be done. Now I do not want to sound like a grandma but that’s the truth.
Few days ago my older one asked me what a Sanitary Napkin meant. And although I knew I would have to be ready with this answer three years later, I wasn’t ready for it right now. But I took it in positive stride and challenged my creativity to the fullest. I told her that as women, we have special bodies. And as we grow, our bodies ready us to become mothers someday in the future. And we let out some liquid every month which is not the pee, must get out of the body and cannot be controlled. Hence, we need these special diapers called sanitary napkins to help us avoid embarrassment.
She looked quite convinced and asked what colour the liquid would be. Knowing her fear for blood, I stuck to Blue colour as shown in TV commercials. She seemed convinced and I felt great. I am sure her older friends will certainly fill her up with more ideas around periods. Her cousins whisper around funnily each time they are menstruating. And it reminds me of those years when I needed to talk my curiosity out but didn’t find suitable company.
I had classmates who had received the Red Dot way before I did, and while in school. And there were a whole lot of boys that went guffawing around. I wouldn’t be able to handle that embarrassment. And I think it makes a lot of sense to educate not just our daughters but also our sons at home, so that no naive young girl is left to feel miserable anywhere outside; especially school.
Kids can be really cruel at poking fun. And add to it defamation on Social Media. I have thought of sitting my daughter down and imparting the right knowledge when she is closer to the time of embarking on her new journey. And a few things to tell my daughter would be:
I hope schools of today do stock sanitary napkins for those first timers that may be ashamed, embarrassed and shy. Period.