A Symbolic Punch

I am sixteen years old and among the first generation of girls in my family who is studying in high school. It is an exciting journey for me and a difficult journey for my parents who want to encourage me to get more exposure but are also scared of me getting over-exposure that distances me from my roots and makes me look like a ‘bad girl’. On most days I understand my family’s concern. I understand what belonging to our society means to them and their fears for me in this big bad world.

In an effort to show respect for the support that my parents give me, I try my best to be as responsible as I can. I am also extremely aware and conscious of what I do and how I present myself. While I don’t want to let my parents down, I also don’t like being on the wrong side of an issue or a situation. I often feel like I am a bundle of paradoxes. I am meek and dainty but also fierce and fearless. I bow down to certain gender roles that exist in our society and I fight furiously to break some other gender norms that exist. This can often make me a difficult person to understand, not just for others but also for myself. Anyway, as I make my journey to grow as a person, I feel the weight of constantly balancing out how I look to my family and myself. As I grow older, I feel extremely image-conscious. It bothers me if someone laughs at me and my early experiences with periods had started out with just that.

Once when I got my periods, I was in school. I was not wearing a sanitary napkin and had stained my skirt. I noticed that girls in my class were pointing and laughing at me. I asked around but no one shared what had happened and only responded with giggles and I had started to get irritated.

I tried to look around and figured that my sky blue coloured skirt was stained. I had had my periods once before, so I knew what it was. I went to my teacher to ask for a sanitary napkin, which I wore before cleaning my skirt in school, working hard on holding my anger back for all this time.

As I had said, I don’t like being laughed at, but also don’t like being on the wrong side of things. In a fit of rage, I did have the urge to punch some of my friends, but I knew that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I thought hard on how I could get to the better end of the situation and at that very moment, decided to let any girl with period stains know about it clearly and also vowed to always carry a couple of extra napkins in my bag to give to whoever else might need it. I loved this idea, it felt like a symbolic punch to the faces of the girls who thought periods were shameful. In school, I am now known as that girl who always has a napkin in her bag, so, the girls who are embarrassed to ask their teachers, come to me for one when they get their periods unexpectedly.

“…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)