In families like ours growing up is not a family affair. We are born, our parents work multiple jobs, we sometimes accompany them, and at other times the oldest sister, even if a five-year-old herself becomes the guardian. After we turn about ten years or so, we begin accompanying our mothers as help and then slowly graduate into becoming full-time help in that house, while our mothers try to find another job or two to bring in more money. Time flies. It looks like we are born one day and by the next day we begin working at someone else’s house and by the next we are old enough, running around for the same kind of life that our parents lived before this. The cycle continues.
In my family, women aren’t thought of much. Men are the head of families and the sole decision-makers, irrespective of how useless they are. My mother works in multiple houses to earn a living. My father had died in 2019. He was a drunkard, would often fight with and sometimes beat up my mother and take away her hard-earned money to spend on alcohol. No one would come to help my mother and often my siblings and I did not know what to do. When he died, we of course felt miserable to lose someone we loved, but on a certain level, we also did not technically lose much. I don’t like talking about this.
She is the only one who gets me sometimes. I am the only educated person in my family and I am only in class 6. My younger sister gave up studies to start earning from a young age and my family supported this. I have big dreams for myself and I hope to make something better out of my life. My mother did not always understand me or my aspirations. When I started playing Ultimate frisbee and began traveling with my team for tournaments, she couldn’t comprehend the idea of it all. She never called me when I was traveling for tournaments. I would watch other girls speak with their mothers asking about their travel, their matches, and feel bad about it. One day, she called one of my teammates from her neighbors’ phone and that still is among the happiest moments of my life. I felt acknowledged in some way. As days went by, my mother started showing more confidence in me. I would go out to get groceries, help out with bank work and I also was the only one at home who could read and write and use a smartphone.
While participating in a workshop on periods I was listening to how girls shared that their mothers just gave them a pad and asked them to not tell anyone about it, as they got their first periods. My mother, who knew very little about why periods happened, was the first one to normalize periods for me. She said it was natural and normal and I should never feel ashamed of it. At this point in the discussion, I felt a lot of gratitude for her. In other period-related conversations, I learned about the different products available in the market apart from sanitary napkins. Did you know there is a pad made out of cloth? It looks so beautiful that even if I were to use it, wash it and dry it out in the open, no one could guess in their wildest dreams that they are reusable sanity napkins!
I used to find it difficult to participate fully in my sports training sessions while wearing a normal disposable napkin. In fact, I often felt that if I wore loose clothes then my pad would fall off, but wearing tight clothes during periods did not help me feel better either. Also, I loved wearing white, but couldn’t wear whites during my periods. While I was still trying to live with my periods and my issues with clothes, I remembered the menstrual cup that was mentioned in our workshop. I was fascinated by it! That cup would just stick inside my body and I would not have to bother about my clothes at all. Of course, I was skeptical at first. In our ultimate team, we were asked if anyone was interested in trying out a menstrual cup, and I was really hoping that some other girl raises her hand, and when they did, I raised my hand too. The lockdown happened right after and we could not get our cups until after a few months. When we finally did, I did not really know what to do with it, although we were told how to use it. I spent the first couple of months hiding it in my stack of clothes at home, holding it in my hand once in a while, feeling it and imagining what it would be like inside my body. It took a few months for me to finally insert it in myself, which I did, but on a non-menstruating day. I just wanted to make sure that I could wear it and wanted to know how it felt like before I actually got my periods. That one day went well and the next time I got my periods, I wore my cup for the first time, after months of staring at it and holding it in my hands! That experience was wonderful! I really wanted to share this with my mother, letting her know of that one new thing that I tried today, that helped me become a little more independent.
I finally shared with her a few days back and she thought I was joking, because why exactly will a young girl like me put random things between my legs!