I was on 6th grade when I first got my periods. It was Wednesday and I was on my sports dress all white from top to bottom. As, I stood and started walking everyone was saying, “Saniya you are bleeding.” While some were shocked, some already had their menarche, so girls helped me realize that I too got my periods. I studied in all girls’ school which made it easy for me to know about menstrual pad, its usage through my receptionist. I even got a spare under-wear and a skirt to change.
But, did you know, person who took me from my class located at first floor to reception (ground floor) which was almost 3-5 minutes’ walk catching my hand and leading me was our Technician brother. I realized this way too late and never told this part of my menarche when-ever I shared my story of having first periods during workshops.
In culturally diverse country Nepal, my home country it is believed that we are not allowed to see our male members of our family during periods. First person as soon as I reached home and saw was my ‘Daddy’. There is also a culture of hiding girls for about 10-12 days and in some parts almost for 22 days during menarche. I was hidden only after few hours of seeing daddy. It is believed that one should not be given nutritious food and especially milk during menstrual days in most part of Nepal (extremely in some regions).
Now, in place I was staying, not only they served me with nutritious food but, I was also allowed to freely enter and exit out of their kitchen. I was never barred or restricted to anything be it seeing sun, or, entering to kitchen or, having any food that I liked. I was only restricted to do one thing and that was not to enter temple.
I was attending school regularly, my childhood male friend and his sister came to give me my books half way through my home, I was staying with a family of 4 having 3 female and a male and I was walking freely for all those 7 days, I was kept away from my home. My kaka (father’s younger brother) personally came to visit me with sweets, chocolates and chips telling she must be in pain, I want to see her. Surprising huh!! No one stopped him; he was a male member of my family. I also received a set of Kurta Salwar and a purse from my relative granny and that was a step to celebrate my womanhood.
This story consists a massive learnings out of my periods and hence use of the word often. It might be relatable to most girls of Nepal. There are three crucial stages of a revolution I made regarding menstruation which I believe everyone should know and here it goes:
Stage 1: My second periods and thereafter:-
I came back home, and after a month I got my periods on a regular manner. My granny treated me like untouchable, restricted me from doing so many things, I had to have my food in a separate plate, I was allowed only limited movement and this behavior was not bearable to me. I spoke about it to my mother and she suggested a brilliant idea.
She supported me to a lie which was not a lie. It made my life so easier until 3 and half year when I had to disclose that I was menstruating when there was a crucial religious rites performed in our house. So, God, temple, rituals, rites, poojas were only factors which I was restricted and no restriction at all and all was because of a “Mom-Daughter” secret. Now, what was the secret???.... It was, “My menstruation went to Kashi for 3 and half years.”
Basically, most girls do not menstruate regularly after their first periods as one does when one grows old. That time-period when hormone takes time to make our periods regular is called ‘Kashi Jaanu’ in my home. So, we told Grandma that, mine monthly cycle also went to Kashi. After that also I still did not follow all rules set up and grandma eventually adapted with new rules and restricted me only from not entering puja kotha (worship room).
Stage 2: After-Death Rites and Rituals:-
In Nepal, one cannot help nor involve in any activities during 13 days of death rites in most communities during menstruation for seven days. It was sixth day after my Grandma passed away when terrifying earthquake 2015 came in Nepal. It was my mother’s seventh day and my kaki’s (aunt’s) fourth day of having periods.
Now, we had no option but to stay at Kriyaputri itself (place near Pashupatinath temple where families perform death rites for 13 days). We brought kaki inside and all of us slept together. Next day priest had no problem with kaki staying with us despite her 4th day. Now, see how contextual and situational our norms and rules were. It was modified right then and there according to our situation. No one had problems with it being modified.
It was my first day of menstruation, and that particular day was when my soul mate passed away. No one but I only knew that I was menstruating. The thought of me not being able to see my friend, touch, feel, hold, hug and kiss, if I were to tell the truth made me so hopeless and fatigued that I did not let it out to anyone. And trust me this no one knows, not even my mother.
I deceived everyone that day for that would be the very last time I could ever and ever behold my soul mate while I am alive. You know seeing someone in a picture and physically are a different thing. I did not want to miss that moment with my friend that was last time I could hold my friend so close. So vulnerable those thoughts made me and kept me quite. I thought if I have to face difficulties and if this means bad lucks are going to pour on me, let it come, I will face them but not let go of this moment and kept shut. See no one but, only I knew, that it was my first day of periods that day.
Stage 3: Religious rites, Temple and meeting a rebellion:-
It was Tihar: festival of lights, and I worshipped by brother on my first day of that month’s periods in support of my family member and it was totally okay. Who would miss celebration that would come once in a year? I also know a friend’s family who do not care if a girl is on her periods and say, “One should be clean by your heart, bath and you can perform all venerations and enjoy festival.”
It was month of mid January 2017 and I was reading this holy book ‘Swosthani’ which we read for a month long from mid January to mid February. There are lots and lots of belief revolving around this book and Hindus like mythologies mentioned in this book. Because of my personal issues, I had procrastinated and piled up almost 9 chapters of this book. There are 31 chapters in it and each chapter is to be read each day.
There is closing day on full moon night of mid-February for this book which gave me an option to read all those 9+3 chapters in three days. I got my periods…bruu. I was too scared to ask my mother to read it all so, I touched the book, read and kept only two chapters for my mother and told her I menstruated late in the evening. So, if people around me come to know this then, they will sue me of committing a sin, a big big sin.
I was on my 19-days life changing solo travel trip which was a part of Solo Woman Travel Challenge -2017 and I was one among 18 winners and was at Pyuthan. I met a girl as rebellious as me who had been doing things like me, who did few things to know what would happen if we touched a sacred string (janai) during those days, touching pickle, etc.
I have very irregular menstrual cycle these days. I had to have my normal menstrual cycle before I started my trip but it postponed and I had it after 21 days than usual date. Now, on my itinerary, I had mentioned to visit one of the must visit religious site of Nepal Swargadwari “Doors to Heaven”. I thought of all places why it had to be here, I thought and thought.
Right then and there, my rebellious friend and I made a plan to not to let anyone know that I was on my periods. I decided to go to temple. How could I not go there when I had been planning for the same since months and months. I decided to regret it once then regret it for a lifetime.
All scary thoughts were pondering in my mind. I was having second thoughts just before entering the temple. But, I did it. I was feeling what if God will know and curse me, what if people around me will know and throw me out, etc. But, hey I roamed and roamed. I even put tika and spent few hours there but no one came to know.
So, I finally broke last barrier and restriction imposed on me. Now, there’s no limitation for me to follow and am as free as I can both on and off periods. With me writing these here, have lifted burden off my heart and am feeling much more relaxed. I do not care what people are going to say but instead assure that all those bad myths and taboos are not going to pass to generation after me in the family. Only good traditions are to be carried forward and I will do that. Stories of taboos will be only a ‘tale to tell’.
I say to both boys and girls during workshops that no one becomes impure during menstruation and that there is a God Kamakhya devi who menstruates. If God herself is not impure then how can a girl be impure just by the fact that she bleeds. I explain all biological process and they learn it to a great extent. Of course, I agree it will take them some time to change their perception. After all it took me a decade to change mine.
Through all these, experiences and me doing things we were asked not to do, I have come to realize that everything said was a myth. I have seen male member, worshipped, touched a plant, read holy book, entered kitchen and even entered a temple during my menstrual days. I did so because I did not find proper logic and reason behind those restrictions. I have come to know that these are just ways to delimit us and these should not stop us.
If all those things that would happen that people around us told, then I would have a crooked nose, crooked eye, probably been dead by now because I have committed too many sins by doing all those activities. I would have been most incapable human being on Earth and bad fortune would have surrounded me, but seems like it’s not the case.
Always try to connect with others experience and learn from them. Try to find logic and reasons behind everything. Always and always ask ‘why’ until you find correct or most appropriate answers to your question. If it’s hard to change your mindset from others learning then do it yourself. Learn it by yourself and make sure to not to repeat the same mistake. Let’s give it a try and learn by ourselves, instead of blindly following someone or something. Always search fullest to your query and react. These are thoughts which provoked me and helped me make a difference. Aspire, Inspire and Empower!!!