All that makes you: Period!

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It wasn’t very often that Grandma visited us for summer vacations.

Only this time, my parents were very skeptical about how my traveling would be a real fuss, and trains aren’t that comfortable. We took to staying home in the scorching heat of May and the joyous company of mangoes, coconut water, and the wood apple juices famously known as Bel ka Sharbat.

Between the chocolate-flavored “Complan” and “Boost” which only added to the painful process of having to shove a big glass of milk every night down my throat, I didn’t have a choice which made me happy.

And so passed the first week of my vacation!

Grandma arrived the next week, with a lot of pickles, chips, sweets, and wheat flour.

I was lying on my bed, shifting sides when she gently tapped my shoulder and announced in excitement- “My little girl is finally not so little anymore.”

And she left, asking me to rest properly.

That night on the terrace, trying to adjust the kerosene lamp and sit cross-legged and bend and write my science project felt very unlike the other nights! I kept fidgeting and heard Grandma sigh from a distance, cursing the Gods for being so unfair to women.

Growing up, that thought stuck with me.

This one time, the anticipation of pain led to me passing out. And the ECG scan and every other report still said, “Normal.” A neurosurgeon was kind enough to explain that it’s all in the head. And I got to accept my fate. And move on.

And therefore, through high school and college, I didn’t resist when asked to step down from a position or not be considered for outdoor competitions on the pretext of my illness.

Not until one day while facilitating a guest pilot who was at my college for an orientation about Defense!

She casually asked me if there’s someplace nearby she could get a sanitary pad, and I almost proclaimed, “Oh my God! You are ill. Are you sure you want to continue the session? There’s a restroom nearby.”

The pilot was stunned. And quickly gathered her backpack from the lounge and was about to leave when she suddenly rushed back to grab my left arm gently and asserted, “Hey! It’s normal. Who taught you otherwise?”

Sheepishly, I pursed my lips.

With a soft smile, she continued, “Come on. Say it with me. Periods are NORMAL.”

I took five minutes, and I did- this remains as one of my most embarrassing and liberating moments both!

Nothing fit anymore, and the questions got louder inside the head!

Why the need to hide the sanitary pads at home before the husband and the children?

Why suffer under the pseudo, crumbling titles of “that time of the month” and “illness”?

Why succumb to fate and suddenly grow “untouchable” to temples, kitchen, and all the other favorite things/places one would love to indulge in otherwise? Not once, not twice but every passing month of teenage and adulthood!

Everything has got to imply that women MUST hate being born into their bodies!

Except for that pilot from the college orientation who loved flying planes, anytime, anywhere!

And the female Formula race drivers and bikers, to the likes of producing a world champion in motorsports!

Women CEOs, lawyers, musicians, scriptwriters, directors, sports players, poets, and homemakers- there’s just not been any shortage of females acing all these roles and being extremely vocal about embracing their womanhood.

It’d still feel less juggled if it were limited only to the women!

Lo & behold, for some recent past, we have also taken to celebrating drag queens and transgenders- some of these would be men who strongly feel they are better represented as women and have taken solid stands on transitioning! And their stories would startle you. One of my trans woman friends named Sophia David, who was David Albin earlier, says even as a child, she knew she didn’t like her male body. Her love for women grew because of their ability to love selflessly and infinitely, the balance between being gentle and powerful, and the desire to inspire people with grit, grace, and gumption.

On a prior discussion about periods with Sophia, she says she would always wonder and wish to have one because it’s a nudge from nature that tells you that you can carry life within you. And that’s the second reason for her to envy the cis-gendered women. The first being giving birth. She carries this spirit of being a woman which is a beautiful burden and an enduring honor even in her TED talk, Have You Ever Met Someone Who’s Worn a Mask Her Entire Life?

In another reality of empowering support and accepting identities, Vogue has respectfully done a cover shoot with a few drag queens, one of whom I happen to share my pen name, Maya, with. Maya, the Drag Queen aka Alex Mathew, is using drag as an art form to create awareness among the Indian audiences. His inspiration to dress like a woman came after watching the famous Mrs. Doubtfire, and if Robin Williams could pull off a character like that, Alex knew he had a shot too!

In the 26th year of my living, I’ve come to realize that 13 of them have already passed in the “hush” and “sush” moments of self-pitying. And some of it had to do with the beliefs of my family and a lot of women around. Between the ones who find womanhood a pain and the others who crave towards becoming one, my heart wanted to choose faith.

I chose to match the color of my dress with my spirit and not “Day 1” or “Day 2” of “that time of the month.”

I chose to run, drive, teach, cook, write, and smile, with or without the company of sanitary pads and tampons.

I chose to not hesitate in telling young girls and men and women about menstrual health & hygiene and how important it is to grow beyond the shame of having to ask for pads in the medical shops and get rid of the black plastic covering them.

I chose to wake up every day feeling blessed about womanhood and wear it like a badge of honor.

I chose with you, to respect all identities and celebrate all choices.

P.S: Let the anthem Always #LikeAGirl shine to remind us forever that we got the scope to stay a dreamer, no matter what identities we are born into!

A lover of mornings, yoga, akki roti and narrations, Asambhava is a Communications & Media consultant. She is a storyteller with her own YouTube channel, Zaikaana India.

Featured Image Credits: Sri Harsha Dantuluri

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