I went to a friend’s place with a blood-soaked sanitary napkin and guess what happened?
Nothing. Nothing worth reporting happened. The party went on. No vampires, werewolves or devils were attracted by the ‘bloody smell’. And because I used a good quality napkin, nothing even got stained. Later in the evening, I went to the toilet and changed my napkin.
But I have always been told, by well-meaning elders of all genders, about the many dangers my ‘red’ days hold — for me, and for the rest of the world around me.
My period apparently gives me the power to spoil pickle by just touching it! (Photo: India Today)
I apparently have the power to spoil pickle by touching a jar. And also have enough of the devil’s energy in my menstrual blood to desecrate all things holy. So, I better be careful. I have heard this since I began menstruating as a 12-year-old. But then, I wanted proof of my superpowers. And once old enough to venture out on my own, I did experiments over many years.
On my period — with a sanitary napkin in place, efficiently soaking my menstrual blood — I have been to churches, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, monasteries and shrines. I have attended and participated in rituals at weddings and funerals, baptisms and naming ceremonies, head-shaving and ear-piercing ceremonies, gatherings of religious leaders, touched their feet, hugged them, shook hands with them, let them pat my head in blessings.
I have picked up holy books, read from them, touched religious artefacts, threads and relics, accepted communion, prasad, and sprinklings of holy water. I have prayed when I wanted — sometimes for just a clean toilet to use — and didn’t pray when I didn’t want to.
And guess what happened?
There was no thunder to warn me, nor lightning to strike me down. The idols did not breathe fire on me, the earth did not open up to swallow me, there were no terrible quakes or catastrophic avalanches.
I did get cramps though. But I guess that happens to most people whose uterus is expelling its unwanted lining every 28 days.
Oh, I also attended national parades, sports events, concerts, plays, movie screenings, art shows, conferences and I went to office. I drove, took public transport, hopped onto trains and boarded flights.
You know what I was careful about though?
Personal hygiene. You know, the usual. Find a clean toilet. Change napkins when needed, dispose napkins safely and hygienically, wash hands. Rinse, repeat.
Of course, I did not put a blood-soaked sanitary napkin on display. I did not wave it around when I went visiting anywhere. I did not need to. I was privileged enough to find a dustbin, near a toilet. I am aware that not everyone has that privilege, and I am grateful for mine. Even in big cities, I have seen used napkins all over, when bags are ripped by stray animals foraging into open municipal garbage dumps near residential colonies — which also have places of worship nearby — near railway tracks, in dirty public toilets all over this country, in landfills, and on empty plots used illegally as landfills.
The only place I have seen used sanitary napkins in the open is at poorly managed garbage dumps. (Photo: Reuters/file)
The blood-soaked sanitary napkin is not an instrument of protest, insult, desecration or shock. It is just a need. Something that offers protection, confidence, dignity, mobility and health. It just needs to reach every menstruating woman in India. Put it on the public distribution system if you can. Make it affordable, and available at railway stations, bus stations, schools, colleges, post offices, banks, even religious places, if you can.
All that the blood-soaked menstrual napkin needs in return is a safe disposal system, and a clean toilet, so a fresh, clean napkin can take its place.