A School-going Illiterate Fool

Growing up I was an obedient and giggly little girl. No matter what I said, it was easier for people to hear my giggles in a sentence than the words I had used. However, as I grew up, I met a wonderful group of young teachers who would visit our shelter home twice a week to facilitate play-based sessions. They taught me the value of presenting myself as I am. They encouraged me to be myself, ask questions about things that I don’t understand, to understand and act according to my context but also to stand up for and do what I deemed was right. Because of them, I started seeing a newer side of my personality which sometimes came across as rebellious and other times as incorrigible to the staff in my shelter home.

One day, there was some construction work going on on the roof of the dispensary and the masons were all men. As I walked in to take a sanitary napkin out, the staff in the room asked me to hide it in my kurta and walk out carefully, because there were men outside who would see it. I gave her a disgusted look and walked out waving my napkin for the whole world to see, especially the uncles who were working. Aunty was furious. I realized that the men hadn’t noticed, so I walked back into the dispensary and banged the door hard while walking out again with my napkin at display, trying to get at least one of their attention. By then, aunty had lost her cool and yelled at me, I shouted back saying, “what is there to hide in this? If you are on your periods like me, then you can take one napkin too!” Aunty retorted, “You are a school-going illiterate fool!”

I personally didn’t like that I had to be disrespectful and I also don’t believe that one needs to announce to the world about our periods, but this is our space! We are all women here and these men, barely a handful, have entered our space and if we still need to be ashamed about our natural bodily functions, how will we ever get to feel confident as and when we walk out of this home as adults? Also, I reject the idea of a good girl being one who is embarrassed about herself and her body and hides her napkins because that reflects on her dignity.

“…as I turned 18, continued to perform better, became more confident in leading my sessions and giving feedback constructively to my colleagues, most of who are older than me, I was offered to join as a full-time team member while continuing my studies in a long-distance format. I am now being given newer responsibilities, am learning about all the hard work that goes into planning a session, beginning from pre-planning for sessions, time management within a session and more importantly I am learning to be responsible for myself and become a professional. At Project KHEL, everyone is considered an equal without any discrimination. I feel free to try and learn new things and bhaiya and didi are there to correct me. Currently, I am learning to use Photoshop and all of Microsoft Office tools, while studying in class 12 and also doing sessions and the additional work given to me at work. In the near future, I want to establish my own business and I am hopeful that all my learning from Project KHEL, before, during and after sessions will help me thrive.”

- Santosh, Youth Leader (2017 – till date)