My God and Me

We are three sisters and used to live in a village not very far away from Lucknow. We were still in school when our father passed away. While living in extreme poverty and with no one else to support us, my mother was forced to send the three of us to a government shelter home for girls. Having lost a parent for life and separated from the other one, only to be sent into a new world within a boundary wall, was one of the most difficult times of my life. We were surrounded by young girls our age, each with a life completely different from ours. I used to feel sorry for myself, but on knowing the other girls, I realized how much more hardships some of them have had to face and yet they start the day with a smile. Unlike others, I at least had both my sisters there with me and that was all the support I needed to accept this new place as home.

I started my new life at the shelter strictly living by my mother’s last instruction to us – “listen to the elders around you to avoid getting into trouble.” I have been the most obedient girl in my school as well as my shelter home, which brings me a lot of responsibilities, along with appreciation.

In the shelter, a group of young women had started coming to play new games with us that also taught us important life lessons. Although they were our teachers too, they did not like being called ma’am, they liked it better if we called them Didi. I learned how to be considerate, that two people with different viewpoints didn’t need to have one as wrong, the need for self-love and such. I loved engaging with them and being a fun-loving person myself, I am sure that these Didis enjoy my company too!

One day, they facilitated a session on Menstrual Hygiene Management in my shelter home. Being a curious person, person, I soaked in all the information that I could. I realized that everything that the Didis had shared was quite different from what I had heard all my life. From every conversation that I remember with the women in my life, menstruation was always something that happened to all the girls in the world and along with it was a list of don’ts that we needed to strictly follow. One on this list was about girls not entering a temple or even participating in any kind of prayers while on their periods! This was starkly opposite to what the Didis had shared! They said that our relationship with our God is personal and if we felt like visiting a temple then we could, and if we did not want to, then that was OK too. Didi had said that it is our choice but my elders said that we absolutely shouldn’t! To make matters worse, most of the senior girls as well as the staff at the shelter shared things that matched all my aunts’ thoughts. I struggled with choosing the side I wanted to be on. This time it was not an easy choice between the word of an elder against a peer, but where different adults had different perspectives to share. One perspective sent me away from my god for a few days every month and the other gave me the right to choose my relationship with my god. I liked the latter, yet, for two years I struggled between my need for being obedient and choosing what information I wanted to believe in.

This went on till one day I joined a conversation between two senior girls in my shelter home. They belonged to two different religions. While one said that her holy books do not allow to even take the name of their god while being on periods, the other said that she has been praying whenever she wanted to, irrespective of periods. The second girl was an amazing dancer, was great at studies, and also among the more dependable girls in the shelter. I had not known for anything bad to happen to her, despite her audacity to offer prayers during her periods. Encouraged by what she shared, I started by applying a small tika from the praying area on my head during my periods and waited the entire day for something to go wrong and then the entire week. Nothing bad happened! No god was upset with me!

Now, I offer prayers whenever I want to, because my relationship with my God is personal.