Last month … 10 am: It is Valentine's Day and I have promptly informed the man of the house that it would be rather nice if he came home in the evening with a substantial gift and a bunch of white flowers. After 14 years of matrimony, I have discovered that hoping your other half telepathically reads your mind only leads to someone wanting to punch the other one in the face.
11.15 am: Trying to work from home today, I find myself sipping coffee and wasting time on Twitter, where two minutes magically stretch to 20 minutes in a second. Interstellar beat that!
1.30 pm: My desi Jeeves walks in carrying a brown plastic bag with a few parcels neatly wrapped up in newspaper and leaves them on my desk. I guess the man of the house has really outdone himself this year and sent presents even before his arrival.
I hastily open the packages only to find two packets of sanitary napkins and a bill for Rs 620. Apparently the local baniya has delivered all the monthly staples today, and this is my share of the loot.
Point to be noted, milord: Why are sanitary napkins treated like radioactive isotopes? They are wrapped in layers of plastic and newspaper, then someone ties a string over this mysterious package and then it's put in a bag of its own — separate from any vegetables or cereal boxes that it may contaminate by its very presence.
Is it the fact that men will see a corner of this packet and read 'Whisper with wings' and collapse with empathy at the thought of the agony we go through every month? Or is this biological function which, in fact, enables us to give birth to specimens like them, still considered sort of unclean by mankind?
I remember a few of my school friends from conservative backgrounds telling me stories about being made to stay in isolated rooms with plates of food being left outside their door during 'that time of the month' as they were considered impure for that duration.
Myths about menstruation have always been part of society and not just in India. In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder wrote in Natural History that dogs who tasted menstrual blood turned rabid; mares miscarried and corn in the fields withered when menstruating women were around. In Europe, it was believed that menstruating women could spoil jam and turn wine to vinegar with their touch.
The last nail in our coffin was provided in 1919 by Professor Schick, who cooked up the concept of 'menotoxin'. He propounded a preposterous theory that a woman's menstrual flow contains a poison, 'menotoxin', that was responsible for everything — from roses wilting to bread not rising.
Even today, menstruation is seen as dirty or unholy. My cousin once told me about having to go to a Mata Ki Chowki on the same day that she got what she calls 'the monthly curse'.
Her mother protested but my cousin insisted on going along. When they reached the venue, the dupatta on the idol suddenly fell on the diya and burst into flames. My aunt caught her daughter by the ear and dragged her back home, screaming all the way that defying the period taboo led to this calamity. My cousin's protests that a gust of wind that blew in through the open window was more likely to be the culprit was countered with another bout of religious jargon.
Well, if God disapproves of this fluid then he should disapprove of all body fluids. So when pundits are doing yagnas and sweating copiously in front of the holy fire, shouldn't they also occasionally get burnt to a crisp by divine cosmic forces?
Menstruating doesn't cause pickles to spoil, temples to collapse or food to rot nor is it contagious, though it would be rather nice to infect the male population with this socalled 'curse' for a month or two, just to sit back and view what I am sure would be a highly entertaining spectacle.
At the very worst, menstruating is slightly uncomfortable, sometimes painful and one of the most natural functions of the human body.
But we ourselves stash our sanitary napkins in secret places, are embarrassed when one falls out of our purse by accident and sort of tip-toe around the whole issue instead of being proud of our miraculous bodies that go on optimistically churning out eggs, month after month for decades.
Err … some of you that carry the XY chromosomes in your gene code may have found this theme rather disturbing. Could you please tuck your tail between your legs and go back to watching 11 men running around with a bat and a ball while we decide to stop 'whispering with wings' or whispering at all and yell and scream about this being a vital part of our biology that, in fact, just happens to save our entire species from extinction?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.