Come let’s unite with a stigma-free mind to get (tax) free period products in the country.
Bhadra 23, 2078: It was almost midnight. Like always, I had just kept my phone aside and was trying to sleep. I could hear nothing but the ticking sound of the clock in my room. Suddenly, a feeling of mild abdominal pain and a different kind of urge to urinate hit me. I was still trying to fall asleep so that I could get up early the next morning since it was Teej the next day. But, the situation got out of hand and I went to the toilet when I realized my night partner: loneliness and overthinking had already left me in the company of pain and discomfort. As soon as I started urinating, the red stain on the white toilet pan and my undergarment made me realize that I was menstruating and that abdominal pain was actually period pain. Having periods at night time is enough to irritate me and to add to it there were blood stains on my undergarment as well as my bedsheet. I became so sad and my heart shattered into pieces acknowledging the bitter truth that I won’t get to celebrate Teej due to the period. The situation became more strained when I couldn’t find any sanitary pad in the room. I remembered and regretted not buying a sanitary pad before while shopping because the good and affordable one that I was habituated to was out of stock in the store and there were only the expensive ones left. I somehow managed to make a pad out of a small piece of spare cloth I found in my room. But….How could I expect a sound sleep with such period pain and uncomfortable pad that didn’t even stick to my underwear.
Time was passing by and I still couldn’t sleep. So, I checked my phone for a while. It was when I was checking a group message of my friends discussing the probability of having physical classes in college before Dashain that I noticed there’s only about a month left for Dashain now and this suddenly created anxiety in me. Girls…You must have already known why I became anxious. Guys…You might have guessed it as well or not maybe. I became so worried and anxious that I might get my next period during Dashain that will ruin my whole festive mood. Neither will I get to put Dashain tika nor will the period pain let me enjoy the celebration. With such thoughts roaming around my head and unbearable pain in my lower abdomen, I was constantly changing my sleeping position in the hope of getting a comfortable position that could ease my pain. But, the cloth pad I was wearing was changing its position along with my changing sleeping position and making it more uncomfortable for me. Only if I could go back in time, I would buy a packet of sanitary pad instead of buying chocolate for my small brother even though it was an expensive one.
What if I had taken Ruby’s suggestion of switching to a menstrual cup seriously on time? What if the pad available in store wasn’t that expensive? What if I tell no one about my period and celebrate Teej, Dashain or any other festival normally? What if people around didn’t make a big fuss about the blood stain on our clothes during periods? What if……… All these ‘what ifs’ took me into another world. Well, I don’t know whether this new world was the imaginary world or the world of my dream. But, I never wanted to return to this real world after I got there.
There was a celebration going on when I reached there. The celebration poster said: ‘Menarche: Period Begins……Congratulations’. A little girl in an early adolescent stage all dolled up in a white gown was receiving gifts from her family and relatives. There were gifts like menstrual cups, reusable pads, tampons, Handbooks on “How to handle and control period pain”, “A Guide to Yoga Positions to ease period pain” all around her. I overheard a guy in his early fifties saying ‘My daughter always drinks hot water during her menstruation to control period pain. So, I gifted her a thermos flask and electric water boiler during her last period.’ Everyone seemed so happy and comfortable explaining to that li’l girl about the biological process of the menstrual cycle.
Next day I went to the supermarket for some grocery shopping where I saw a separate block for menstrual products and there it was written “Taxes on periods are sexist. Sexists are not us. Take it….It’s for you.” Thinking that menstrual products were cheaper there due to no luxury tax on it, I inquired about its price with the staff there. To my surprise, he replied that all those products were for free and anyone could take them whenever needed as per the requirement. A guy in his early twenties took his time to explain to me how using a menstrual cup has been a life-changing decision for his sister and suggested that I use it as well. I got out of there astounded and headed toward my home. On the way home, there were period-friendly public washrooms where there was a pad vending machine inside. There was a facility of period leave or work from home for female staff in every workplace in case of severe pain during menstruation.
One day I was in my college taking class when I got my period. As I got up to ask for permission to go to the washroom, one of my guy friends noticed a blood stain on my pants and informed the teacher. I immediately sat down out of nervousness. But the teacher asked me if I was fine or if I needed that day off. Since I was not feeling much pain, I decided not to take the day off but gathered my courage to go to the washroom despite my stained pants. Though I had forgotten to take my menstrual cup with me, there was nothing to worry about since there was a pad vending machine in the college washroom. Getting back to the class still felt uneasy for me. But I was surprised when a senior brother noticed the blood stain and told me to take good care and take that day off if needed while I was on my way to class. One of my close friends who was angry with me due to the discussion we had the previous day came to me after class and apologized for being aggressive rather than understanding my PMS phase. My brother served me warm soup as I got home from college. Since my mom wasn’t at home, I went to the kitchen to cook dinner. My dad reached home from the office when I was cooking rice and told me to go and rest if I was not feeling well and cooked the dinner himself. This was such an emotionally comforting day for me despite the period pain I was going through physically.
I could go to the kitchen whenever I had food cravings, and go to the temple whenever I wanted. There was nothing to be ashamed of in opening up about menstruation in public. There was freedom that hardly any girls have got in this real world. No taboos, no unnecessary restrictions, no stigmas, no tax on period products, no period poverty, no stereotypical beliefs…just realistic beliefs, progressive approach, free period products, positive attitude and dignified menstruation. The relief, freedom and joy I felt there was something incomparable. Who would want to return from such a land of dreams?
But sadly the festive mood at home from early morning woke me up and brought me back to the real world. Getting back from that period-friendly world gave me courage to challenge my own stereotypical belief and I got up with the determination to enjoy Teej celebration to the fullest no matter what. Oh and I did fast and performed puja on Rishi Panchami during my ongoing period not seeking for any forgiveness but to spread this message that menstruation is never impure and doing what our heart wants in this time is never a mistake that needs forgiveness. Now I’m here paving my own way from this real world to the world of my dreams because I believe change has to start from oneself. Come let’s unite with a stigma-free mind to get (tax) free period products in the country.