Sunday, May 4, 2008

Have a Happy Period!

Does anybody ever have one? what with the pms, the hormones going crazy , the pain and all.. and to top it the crazy stupid Indian traditions and customs that start when you get your period for the first time and continue life long, unless of course you are blessed into a liberated family.

There is this crazy tradition in the south when a girl gets her period for the first time, matures into womanhood. Matures?? getting periods is maturing!!??? I thought maturity is a state of mind regardless of the age. Maybe something I missed here.

Getting back to the tradition, I'm not sure how many follow this, but in school quite a few of my friends had to undergo this crazy nonsense. there was major ritual, and a procession taken out on the streets, complete with band baja..like a wedding barat..and then a scrumptious meal for all the relatives. So basically what is a very private matter suddenly the whole town, your family and strangers included know. " Oh.. this girl can produce babies now!"

As if this humiliation wasn't enough for those 7 days every month, she has to endure worse. Treated like a leper, stealing in and out of the house only adds fuel to fire. The reason this was followed in the olden days was simply because, there was no such thing as sanitary pads, there was only cloth. And coupled with the pain, emotional heavels and not to mention the staining it made sense to be by your self. And plus you got the much needed rest from house work.

Following the same thing in the name of tradition and custom is sheer stupidity. We need to let go of certain customs like this as they do not make sense. This is the reason why women were kept secluded and not because its unpure and dirty.

When I got my period for the first time, it was the holidays and mum was so chilled out. Thank god no crazy customs and traditions. A head bath and I was done. Of course my maid servant would have non of it and was preparing to seclude me and what not. But my mum would have none of it and bit her head off. So I got to eat my lunch in peace and sleep in the afternoon, a luxury which was not allowed. I was thrilled. But not when I got to know about my friends and the humiliation they had to face. Their mothers had no choice either as the elders of the family demanded it and tradition was tradition. My mum had only one condition, do not enter the puja room for the first 3 days, and 4th day after a head bath. Yea I was also not allowed to exercise and told to rest a lot.

Looking at my friends all from the south suffered this humiliation, but my north Indian friends had the same experience as mine. I really don't know if such a custom exists as I never came across it.

You cherish a woman. It is the woman who is responsible of bringing a new life. Menses/Periods is just another cleansing of our bodies. If men also had menses, do you think they would be treated as impure as a leper that a woman is made to undergo? I think not.

We as women must stop this practice. Raise a voice against it. It has to start somewhere. The only reason women are still treated this way is because they take it lying down, accept that since this has been happening for ever it should and will continue to do so. I only wish that the coming generations do not follow and raise their voice against it.

With my daughter, she will have the liberty to walk into the puja room if she wishes to. I am not going to stop her. Having periods is not impurity, its natural cleansing of your body. And God made us this way. Be Proud cause this is what gives us the power to give birth. Calling it impure is calling the whole process of reproduction impure!

We as women should be real proud of ourselves, and not sell ourselves short, or demean ourselves and be demeaned in the name of religion. Only then would we have a happy period.
Its very matter of fact to me. Just a part of life and I think it is so because of my mum and the way she handled the whole thing at the onset. That makes such a huge difference.

Of course I use it to my advantage. Get that leave when you so desperately want it. Works best if your boss happens to be a man. No man worth his salt wants to talk to a woman about periods. They get so damn squeamish. Its hilarious. And a lot of women do use it to their advantage. In one of my brief stint at a BPO, the women used it all the time. And their Team Leaders could do nothing but grumble about it. This one instance really stands out. Attrition is very high, plus its the holiday season so most don't turn up to work. And we fall short of staff. So all of us log in to pitch in. Didn't matter if you are sick, if you are a TL you got too report to work. This one lady wanted a break, a loo break, kept asking for 15 min but the TL on the floor wouldn't give her one, till her turn came. so she did the next best thing. Paused in the middle of her call, stood up and announced that since she has her period, she would like to change her pad. So can she take a break after this call is over. Asked very sweetly,to the embarrassment of the TL, who never said no to another woman again.

edited to add: reading MM's post reminded me of this one incident which happened in school. Every year we would go on a 5-7 day excursion. Usually most girls esp the seniors would take tablets to postpone their periods as they did not want them during the trip. But for this one girl, the tablets failed to work. Now I studied in a co-ed school and boys were very much part of this trip. So there all these students were resting on the marble stone slabs in their white uniforms. When they get up to go these is this huge stain on her skirt and the stones are bloody. Embarrassed she begins to cry. This guy takes charge: sends one of the other guys with a few girls to get her pads and a change of clothes, gets the girls to form a circle around her and gets down to clean the place up. Not every man is squeamish.

Periods, pain when you get them and even bigger cause for worry if you don't get them!

Read what Thought Room has to say on the same here

Edited again to add: Just when I had thought that every woman hated these stupid traditions and will not allow it to continue with her daughter, this lady made me sit up. Here is the proof that an educated modern woman enjoys and find no wrong with the isolation.

41 comments:

Indian Home Maker said...

This is one powerful post. Loved it. I did not go through this since my mother hated this prejudice and both my parents were quite anti-ritual. I am totally with you, "We as women must stop this practice." And we can. With our daughters.
A friend and I have daughters around the same age, and we had discussed how we would make sure they never felt the period in any way restricted their lives or made them uncomfortable. I shopped with my daughter, bought her many brands of pads, so she could decide for herself which felt most comfortable. My sister sent her some mild pain killers meant for easing period pains. We discussed how Jeans and shorts are perfect for not showing any embarrassing, accidental stains, unlike skirts. We also went on some sites together, which talked positively about girls growing up. Still the girls did not think it was 'not a nuisance', they still hate the fact that girls have to go through period while boys have no such hassles, but at least they know we understand. They were allowed to sleep till late, miss an odd school day and generally given the choice to go out and play or not.
If it's such a pain now, just think how horrible it must be if you are treated like lepers on top of all this!

Rajeshwari said...

I loved the post! Most cultures celebrate womanhood and these ritual were supposed to be a celebration. I once saw on TV how some Native American Tribes celebrate their daughters "coming into age"
But just like most things we humans have enough in us to take some thing that was intended to be wonderful and joyous and make it seem like such a big "issue" and twist and turn it to make it an inconvenient pain. Most people blindly follow cause they "fear". They fear god or they fear society.

Imp's Mom said...

IHM: your daughter is lucky to have you as her mother :) Coconut water helps relieve those cramps.. and curds cools your body down making it whole lot bearable

Raji: celebrating womanhood is good, but not to the extent of alienating and embarrassing the woman. And I think the fear of society is greater..

Swati said...

Lovely post ..so true :) My grandmom did not allow us to go to temples or touch puja stuff during the time.

About the south indian tradition , i did not know at all. Once my maid came and told me that her daughter has matured (Meri beti badi ho gayi kal ) and I could not understand for a minute and then guessed what she meant (we have minimal conversation as she knows little hindi and i dont know Kannada). So I just said okay and she looked disappointed at the reply. May be she expected me to congratulate her or give her some gift.

Thought Room said...

Hi
Thank you for linking to my post.

I would be too embarrassed to pull a stunt like some of the women you mentioned did. Women knew how to take care of themselves. I remember my mom telling me once that women tended to have lots of kids in those days, and it helped to keep the periods at bay, because of breast feeding and all. That way, right through the middle age, some women tended to avoid periods. (Not that it was good or any thing- just an observation) I don’t know how much it was true. But I have heard that the coming of age ceremony, was once a function of the elite, like say the king and other small but powerful feudal lords, and linked to the swyamvara ceremony. It was a political agenda, to announce to the other kings, to form political alliances. But somewhere along the line, the common snobbery of the public, took it upon itself, and the custom followed, without a clue about its origin.

M said...

Good post this! I had some friends too who went through the same stuff. Big gala entertainment party arranged and an aarti done like shes a bride already! Infact in many customs, they're supposed to give away the dress that they were wearing when the 'calamity' had befallen them, I believe. Thats atrocious! What if you're wearing your fav dress and have to give it away bcos of some crap custom!
I was glad I dint go thru this kinda thing. My mom was very helpful during those days not just once but almost every month until I was confident enough to handle it on my own. As you said, a good head-bath, some tips on hygiene and some gyaan on why this occured and it was all done. Nothing great. Yes, I felt bad about it a little cos for sometime I felt I couldnt do things like before. But slowly you grow out of those inhibitions. The best consolation my mom gave was that 'every woman goes thru this and you are no special to think that it has happened only to you'. I felt good at that :-))
Your reasoning on why earlier they kept women away is totally true. That was exactly what I heard too. And it made sense in those days. Not now, definitely. I think with time our thinking and our 'maturity' has to improve in these areas :)
hey, I have a different account on wordpress (called snippetsnscribbles). Maybe you can enable the Open ID option for us outsiders :)

Imp's Mom said...

Swati: gift n congratulations prob :)

Thought Room: initially i was embarrassed too and then realized its just a part of life..

M: my god give away your fav dress!! arre baba...horrendous customs are followed.. and thnx for the heads up on oped id settings, for some reason I thought it was activated, just never checked.

Poppins said...

I was looking for you, had misplaced your url.. and Boo gave it to me. What a beautiful powerful post to come to! So glad I came by.

Suki said...

Hey, found your space via Poppins. Awesome post you have here, and PMSing me thoroughly sympathizes. :D

I completely agree, except for the "rest" part. I've found that exercise is the best way to keep up the endorphins and relax the muscles - keeps both the mood swings and cramps somewhat within control. Rest simply makes me feel worse!

Blogrolling you.

Imp's Mom said...

Poppins Thank you!

Suki: Welcome! getting through the day is an effort enough exercising is worse for me..

the mad momma said...

hey! loved this one. linked up to it.

http://thebratthebeanandbedlam.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/dont-say-the-m-word/

DivSu said...

Hi, read you post through Mad Momma's

My mom still has her way to this day and makes my sister stay separately, not touching anything, nothing. We tried to be rebellious but gave up. I tried to make her understand but gave up. Instead I used to wait to get out of her domain so I could stop with that 3-day embarassment, wash clothes in the bathroom, wash dishes you eat in the bathroom (God! I can't even tell you how dirty THAT felt), no matter who comes home, sit separately, telling the whole world what the matter is, never mind if they are gawking and not understanding why you are sitting in a corner and not getting up. The best I could manage was make her alter some of her hard set rules, sitting on a "touchable" chair instead of on the floor, letting us use creams and deos during that "time" and so on and so forth. When I left India, I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said I was overjoyed for just not having to follow this ritual. Now that I am back, I am sure she will but she hasn't yet asked me if I sit separately nor has she told me yet that I should ;) If she does, I am planning to tell her that its not the "custom" at my husband's mom's place :D So I technically don't have to follow it. I have had enough of this for 9 long years.

Sorry to rant but my mom reads my blog regularly so I can't really vent there ;) She would get all touchy if I did.

Roop Rai said...

wow! I didn't think this existed!!! I have to link to this on Unchaahi blog. fab writing!! omg! i just spoke to my husband!! he says it's common occurence in the south. i've never ever .. i repeat NEVER .. have seen it happen in the north. omg ... seriously, i am in shock!! reading waht divsu wrote ... i am in total disbelief!!! never did i realize that this was the case at all!! my parents didn't even know when i had my periods. it's really so odd. :/

thanks for writing this.

Roop Rai said...
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IBH said...

oh! eerie it is that i land on your blog on a post like this :) i said eerie coz of the sheer coincidence of discussing this topic with my co-sister on the same issue..i am born in to a tambram family and needless to say that in the name of traditions it was informed to the world - IBH can produce babies henceforth! I got my first periods while on a summer vacation during my 8th std...i was at my grannys , who lived in an agraharam...with my entire brood being there..am the first grand daughter and that didnt help this whole thing a bit...will u believe if i say i was stay put in a cow shed like an untouchable with my own set of clothes plates, toileteries and what not...the best (yeah right!) part was I had to wash everything after a very gruelling 5 day stay....

there was a huge gala function inviting the entire village to attend and fed them royally!
it was horrible and never will i make my daughter go through this! oh for that luckily i detest this whole traditional typical tambrams, that i married a mal ;))) ahahha!

anyways why i said eerie again is,my niece who is hardly in her 6th standard, got her first period and seems like my co-sis's mother wants to do this whole thing! sigh! poor thing! makes me squirm!

like ur blog a lot!keep writing!

Imp's Mom said...

mm: linked up to u too..

DivSu: Welcome! My friends went through the same thing.. but you should write a post on the same,it could be a way of communicating with your mum so that your sis does not have to go through the same thing

Roop: happens everywhere, just the levels vary

IBH: Welcome! i'm squirming too. It is time for us to make a change. If we are not going to stand up for our daughters, i don't see who else will!

mummyjaan said...

Very well-written. There's no point in perpetuating useless customs.

Lavs said...

I have written about my views on this subject at my blog. Do have a look when you find time:-0

Imp's Mom said...

True mummyjaan

Lavs linked up your post too!

Itchingtowrite said...

linked you. and loved that guy who was so understanding. wish all men & women were like that

Diviya said...

I am reminded of this trip when a girl got all bloody and we were trying to cover it up, while some of the boys in our classes pointed and giggled. GAAH!

Btw, most religions consider reproduction kind of impure. Which is why they preach abstinence! We live in a weird world.

Imp's Mom said...

ITW- Welcome! Linked to you too on my other post. And I wish more and more men were as understanding as him.

Diviya: Welcome! Weird it is..

Alankrita said...

Coke and Chinese food- perfect period pain relievers!Trust me it is a tried and tested Delhi university Girl's hostel remedy!


The whole difference between the genders, in my opinion is something that we are forced to accept and believe in because it makes it easier for others- family, religion and society to keep us in line. Men are as human and hence surprise as understanding- don't you think this "ritual uncleanness of the women" makes men out to be some sort of immature creature to be shielded from the blood and gore of life? The assumption is as demeaning for them as the ritual for us.

And on the why women accept it note, well I think in someways it gives them a feeling of "differentness" as some one's post on this topic only shows clearly. The whole "sanctified period" bit- is probably the women's way of calling attention to themselves- attention which in the normal course of their lives, their husbands and families are not capable of giving them. Of course the practices persist- religion and "tradition" are powerful memes.


A wonderful post. And a great blog( but I think i have said that earlier to you- if have not, my bad, I intended to)

Alankrita said...

oh and on another blog( you know which one I mean) I found someone accusing you of looking down on someone's non-educated behavior. Well, I personally feel a. you did not b. you have every right to your opinion of a person's behavior and education or display of lack thereof.

A si personally think, a person cannot claim "scientific" reasoning for a stupid( yes in my opinion) customs of treating a woman like a leper- no matter how much like a queen she feels.

Why us the onus to be well-behaved and not express anything against a grossly bigoted view always on the "fair minded" educated person. Why should the right thinker face the penalty of having to pussy foot around the bigoted? Isn't that the reason why a lot of BS spreads in society?

Apar said...

I came on to this entry from the link on Unchaahi. I come from the south. All of them do not have processions, but definitely is made into an event by calling in close relatives atleast in most families I suppose. I found it embarassing then when my close friend ( a guy) came and asked me what the h is all this hullagulla about? And I could not really answer...my mom and his mom managed to.
It is also customary in my place to be apart, I used to crib about it. Now when I am 30+ and have come back to live with my parents, all my mother asks me to do is not enter the kitchen or the puja room. I just remember my father or brother cooking when I was too young to do so....infact even when I was older, if they were there, they did it. I don't want to take a stand here and say this is right or the other way is wrong; but one definite advantage I saw was, my father and brother were more understanding. They also learnt to cook (and well at that ;) ) My sil does not sit apart at her place, when she comes here, she has to follow what we do. This is just so as to not hurt my mother's sentiments. btw, my mother has a masters in english lit. It is not about education or ignorance...as another person had written on her blog linked here...it is totally about choice. If they chose a particular way and it works for them; fine. Don't think we should really condemn such things as being treated as a "leper" etc., I fight my mother's views in my way if it clashes with mine. Her answer, do what you want at your place, if you are here under my roof, I follow this and expect you to do the same. Here again, we do not ask women who come if they have their period or make them sit on plastic or wooden chairs or segregate our guests. It is just the members of the household who have to follow it.
About religion, I truly don't know what is right or wrong...just know that it is taboo, esp if it is Ayappa we talk about. I am personally not a very religious person; then again it boils down to not hurting others' sentiments especially knowingly.Besides, this does not harm anything except probably one's ego if you call it that...don't really see it as segregation. If they said, women are not allowed to enter the temple anytime period :), then I would definitely stand up and probably yell above all others. It is not like I go to the temple or even do pujas everyday, that I soooo can't avoid it on those days :)
There are issues I strongly stand up against, and there are those that are left for the individuals to sort it out.
On this note, I should add that my friend actually felt bad there was no hungamma when she got her period and wished to celebrate the event!!!

Apar said...

After my long previous comment, wanted to add one more thing; I am the only girl in the family (as in all my cousins unfortunately are boys :) ) I have always been treated on par with the others. I had been brought up with the thought that I could do anything that a guy could. I have never been put down ever. Infact I should say that I am cherished in this family because I am a girl, and on occasions I am treated like a queen. My brother and I so wanted girls; but have ended up with guys as kids. We love them no less; but would have loved to have girls :D Maybe my next one God willing, if I have another ;)

Imp's Mom said...

Alankrita:Welcome. yes, but why do we need this kind of an attention calling is what i do not understand. And thank you!

Apar: Welcome. And yes to each to one's own :) and god bless you with a girl:)

La vida Loca said...

linked u

Aparna said...
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Aparna said...
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Aparna said...
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Aparna said...

am an iyer born and brought up in north india...

and my granny who came to north in the 1930's was strict with this ritual... but the women folk who came to her family as daughter in laws were rebels i guess...
its been about 4 years my granny expired now...

this restrictions were never practiced strictly at my mom's home in a village of karur district down south... she got married when she was 26... she never liked the treatment at in-law's... still managed to keep up with granny's interest in the ritual... and at the age of about 37 itself declared that she had menopause... hahaha... and my granny actually believed it... this was told to me my chachi about 2 years back...

my chachi was also not interested in following it much... after coming to our home... for 3-4 months she tolerated... and ended up saying she was pregnant... and next 3-4 months she kept mum and later told that she had a miscarriage (co-planned with chacha)... and after a month or two they flew off to bahrain for few years...

my mom had once told, how amusing and bad it used to sound.. when my dad's sister used to have her monthly days... she and her husband used to stay some odd 10-12 houses away in the same lane... her husband used to come over and shout from the streets to the balcony.. "ava aathula illa" (transliteration - she is not at home, but actually means that she is having her menses)... and then my granny used to go there and cook at dad's sister's place for her husband...

my case.. for first 2 years... i used to inform mom and granny... but then i stopped informing them when it was on and off... for sometime granny thought it was some medical issue... but later must have found out that i was not keen on informing about it... and i knew that my mom was mutually supporting me... am allowed to enter the puja rooms, but I myself avoid going near the god or idols... not because of any ritual... but that I never go there even normal days...

even today at home, unless its some very religious ocassion (like nombu, south indian festival by women) or the usual festivals... i don't inform about it to my mom... its very personal to announce it to people every month...

one of my friends belonging to some remote village in madurai... woh is shudra by caste (i did not want to sound racist here... but have heard that they are even more stricter than brahmins in these stuff)... happened to get her first menses when she was at her village for summer vacations... she had to go thru this band baja stuff... and ridiculious part is - she was asked if she would want to marry her "morai" maama ( i.e. mom's brother - who was still single)... i've heard this generally happens in many south villages...even today

Aparna said...

The beauty of being a women is that she menstruates and has the wonderful gift of being able to reproduce. Yet, that is held against when it comes to god! Even more ominous is what most rituals follow -- menstruation is a bad word, a bodily shame that must be isolated and contained, that women are not allowed to worship god during menstruation.

in my case, forget those days... going to temples is rare any day! so all this really does not bother me...

Aaarti said...

hey
This is one awesome powerful post.. Dint know your blog existed till indian home maker introd me here.. and am soo thankful... :)

I come from an Iyer family, where when a girl has her periods she sits seperately, no mixing with rest of the family, cant even have a glass of water when she is thirsty unless someone takes pity and gives a glass of water.. same applies to food, clothes etc etc... i mean, i have nthing major against foll these rules, but just hate the way ppl make it a big deal..

when a cousin called to invite us for her bro's wedding, she actually said "is it A's period time".. duh. why do u care, mom replied.... and 2days back, when a guy had come home to see granpa, he asked for water, looking at me, and granpa replied "oh, she is rest(aka menses time) and cant give it to you, hang on i'll get it"... Grrrr... hate it~~~ when i have kids, girls, they get to do whatever they want.. no rules... no way~~ :D

ok... not gonna rant anymore.. but am gonna blogroll u... :)

Imp's Mom said...

Aparna and Aarti: Welcome!

that is exactly what I mean, periods is personal why should one have to announce it to the world? And menses is the sole reason why we as a woman are able to reproduce and we are shunned thanks to it! This has definitely got to stop with our generation.. and I hope that our daughters are not put through this stupid custom..

Surbhi said...
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Surbhi said...
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winky said...

very well said!!!! I am lucky to have liberal parents in this respect! what a well-worded post it is!!

Imp's Mom said...

Thanks Ankita! liberal parents and traditions do make life easier :)) glad u liked my post. :)

pinksocks said...

I am sooo glad to have a very broad minded family :) Even dad for that matter has been kinda supportive in the initial days :) Love the post darling <3

Shakeel Choudari said...

me too...
http://perfect-brands.blogspot.com/