“I was 12 when I got my first period. When I went to my mother, she handed me a cloth and later, my grandmother kept a ‘celebration’ for my ‘womanhood’. She made sweet dishes and invited people over — I was given a lot of attention. But that night, I was told to eat separately, I was told to not touch anything in the house. I had to sleep on the floor and wash my clothes before anyone else touched them. I was celebrated in the morning and shunned at night. I didn’t understand these superstitions and when I’d ask for an explanation, there was no answer. I bled for 15 days — doctors believed it would normalise but for years, my periods were erratic, lasting 7-8 months. In fact, once when I was 19, I was bleeding profusely. My mother rushed me to the doctor in a rickshaw — I was bleeding so much that I couldn’t even get up and go inside the clinic, we had to go back home. From the rickshaw driver to the people in my society, everyone saw the blood, and looked at me in disgust. Slowly questions were raised about my fertility and marriage prospects — because that was more important than my pain. I was called ‘impure’, there was such a lack of awareness and no one wanted to learn!
There were times when my haemoglobin was so low that doctors feared I would go into a coma! I spent 30 days in a hospital, trying to normalise it, but it took a long time because I kept losing blood. A ‘Mirena coil’ was put inside me, to stop the bleeding. For 5 years I didn’t bleed but when I removed it, I bled for 282 days. I was at my wits end – I was tired of people and the stigma they associated with my health. Once when I was at work, I collapsed — that’s when the doctor realised I had ‘Endometrial Hyperplasia’. Finally there was an answer, I couldn’t have been more relieved! All I’d have to do was take a pill and my bleeding would stop. But…the battle wasn’t over.
I still had to make my way through a society and family that stereotyped me, that put me down and treated me differently because of something I had no control over. I was still asked to follow the same practices as earlier…But now things were different — I was different, more empowered. I knew that people on their period were not impure and I was going to make sure everyone understood that, even my own family. I fought to have these so called superstitious practices stop, I made sure no one around me, on their period, should have to do anything that I had to. Why should they? Periods are normal, natural and essential. It doesn’t make a woman weak – it makes her brave, it makes her beautiful, and most importantly, it makes her empowered.”
Reproduced from Humans of Bombay.