I am a Harmless Young Girl

I am generally known as a sweet little girl in my circles. The way I dress or talk or make my hair, adds to that notion about me. I don’t look threatening at all. My parents are migrants from Assam, we stay in a small slum inhabited by ragpickers. My parents leave early in the morning to collect trash from the houses in nearby colonies and sweep the roads. We are poor and both my parents have to work extra hard to make ends meet, but they have raised me like a princess. They say that I am already working as a student, so while they hold their job to keep the city clean, I should earnestly do my job of studying. They hope that one day I will be educated enough to break the cycle of poverty and do better for myself. On my part, I reciprocate with absolute sincerity in my school work and have always been among the highest score getters in class in my ten years of schooling.

While my parents are exceptional in how they treat me and support me in everything I do, the rest of my family is much more regressive. According to them, I should already have been married! My parents understand me very well and also their own families. They know that we both belong to two different worlds, and every time we take a trip to our hometown in Assam, my parents request me to stay patient with my family, because they do not know any better. I understand where my parents are coming from and comply. I know that this will be just for that one month that I am there, but once when I am back in Lucknow, I am my own person. While I think that I have been successful in dodging all pressures put forward by my family in Assam, my friends, teammates and my coach points out how after every trip back from home, my body language is completely different. They say that I slouch, I hold back in my pace while running, my arms, instead of being free and aiding me in my run, is closer to my chest and I appear more hesitant in how I use my body to play frisbee. Initially, I would think that they are all teasing me, but after a couple of similar trips and reflecting on myself, I realized that this was actually happening.

In 2019, I went back to Assam, more determined than before, to not get influenced and instead influence some of my cousins to be more open and comfortable in occupying their space.

This trip was not for a regular summer vacation, but for my cousin’s nikah. While my parents put no restrictions on me during my periods, in my hometown, we were specially instructed by an elderly relative to not actively participate in any wedding festivities, if we were on our periods. I paid full attention to what was being said, the do’s, the don’ts, and the exact tasks that we were to help out with. I volunteered to grind the fresh turmeric for the bride. I was an athlete and although I am petite, my aunt trusted me with the responsibility to grind the entire bulk of turmeric needed. We all had a great time in the nikah, the food was good, we danced a lot, my cousin was happy and her in-laws seemed to be nice people too. When I returned to Lucknow, my mother was all praise for me for being a good girl and helping out so actively at all the functions and was also happy at how smoothly everything went. I asked her why girls on their periods were asked not to participate directly at the nikah, my mother mumbled that it is a common belief that menstruating women are impure, so their participation in a wedding might ruin the festivities and turn the happy event into something sad.

I gave out a burst of evil laughter right then and shared, “you know, amma, I got done with my periods two days after the nikah!”. My mother was taken aback for a moment, but understood what I did here and just shared her usual supportive smile.