Monday, October 24, 2011

10 Being untouchable during periods

A child is considered a "Bundle of joy" (male child?) and "A gift from the divine" but the production process and pain that women have to undergo years for this valuable gift are sins - this refers to Menstruation and its associated untouchability.

This tradition prevails across the hindu society irrespective of class and caste. Seems in Nepal, the practice is more inhumane and rigidly practiced despite human rights groups protesting against the issue.In Tamilnadu (and most other Indian states) when a women reaches maturity, its a sign that she is ready for marriage and should be shown to the world. The girl is considered untouchable for the first 4 to 5 days but after that its celebration time! Arrangements are made in mandapams (halls) and the entire town is invited(especially in the rural areas) - they print invitations and have video and photography sessions! I guess even my marriage wont be that lavish:).

This topic is important enough to be discussed when selecting a mate for marriage in these families. During "ponnu-paakardu" (arranged marriage setting when guy's family comes to scrutinize the girl.. similar to when you go to a pet-store or vegetable market to buy things that suit you). There is usually a discussion among the prospective mother-in-laws, where its assessed whether the bride has been taught to follow the practices. More on these conversations later.

I had revolted against this entire practice at home - I dint want to follow it. Note that I come from a highly educated brahmin family but alas a conservative one. I used to cry all night when they would seclude me   - (seclusion for me meant I slept on the cot+bed and mom on the floor on a mat.. it should be the reverse.. he he for heaven's sake I cant sleep alone!) - still I would make a huge issue. I created a havoc when they said I cannot sit on sofas, have to eat separately, cannot touch anyone, not enter the kitchen, pooja room and a long list of rules. I find it very embarrassing that every person in the family knows when I get my periods and I suddenly become untouchable. In a neighboring apartment, the lady would be isolated in one small room and no one can even see her! She had to live in that cage like an animal and would be given meals when needed. Atleast, my condition was not that bad! So ultimately, my family settled for this - I would not touch dad nor the cooking utensils and pooja items. For anything else I said - Go to hell.. am not following them. Still, every month I get disgusted when I have to share(!!!) the news.

No one tries to understand the reason behind why some traditions are followed. This is especially true when this has to be levied on women - Older women and men force them to fall in line. During the olden days, women did not have sanitary pads nor detergents and antiseptic soaps that would help in hygienic living during periods. They had to use clothes/cotton and live in separate rooms. But one advantage was that they got total rest and could relax - after all in those times, gender-inequality was more prominent - men dint help at home and women had to do all the work.
When I asked my mom for a reason, this is one I got - " Women have bad vibrations during this time and they are weak. These bad vibrations should not interfere with Pooja or other people's vibrations. Their energy will come down". Hmmmm.. wish I was gullible and lame enough to believe this. People go for work, meet women, travel, need to work with women - how will you ever know that you are touching someone with periods? And men have not died when they did this. What is the use of practicing something half-way? - there are no explanations!

Over the years, many families (urban and some rural) have stopped following this but it still prevails. The worst part is these are handed down by women to women and the men folks hardly understand what happens during this phase - but please they want to protect their lives from the bad vibrations - they would not care less if women feel ill-treated or discriminated.


  1. Came here from IHM's! You write well, I must say! Although mine was a religious family too, menstrual taboos were not as strictly enforced, except the not touching dad during the pooja et al part. That however was the the starting point of my questioning our many rituals and traditions and the inanities and distorted logic thereof!

  2. @erstwhilekoopmandook

    Thanks Mandooka:-).
    Questioning is good but as of now I have settled for something in between. Such practices get reinforced because of other women in my age following it. Recently my SIL(a recent additon, wonderful lady) follows it. So you can imagine the comparisons that follow.

  3. Like you mentioned, it is handed down from women to women. My mother decided to make it stop. So, even though my grandmother was very strict in this regard, my mother never ever let me do such things. So, you can say the traditions stopped with my grandma:).

  4. @Paro
    Thats a bold step from your mother - she must be a strong person. Such meaningless traditions need to be necessarily stopped by women who believe in them.

  5. Well my MIL told me that women become impure during periods , What I answered : “Yes I know you are correct , One Maha Pandit told me this thing is absolutely correct but women who are pure in this time come to know that they are pure by themselves and women who are impure and dirty come to know that they are impure by themselves during this time.So I came to know I am pure , May be you are very dirty hence u are impure…So that is fine.”
    So this way was very tough for her to handle.
    All women in my colony some how or other believe in this in some or another form…they are all educated and no matter what you say they do not get the logic .So the above statement works well where they prove themselves dirty and want to get out of this shame else traditions make them accept the same nonsense.

  6. yes u r absolutely ri8 sam my mother was following in her home n then in the in laws home n everyone forced me to follow this n i was following for everyone's happinesss now i m following this in my in law's home because my mother in laws n sister in laws also following it they are educated then too they are following this even they restrict me to drink milk during period n i love to drink milk daily what to do with this educated people who are following this I explained them that its just because to give rest to the women because weakness in the women prevails in the period as in the previous time there was a lot of heavy work as there was no electronic equipments so they can relax in the period n now we are taking it wrongly as untouchablity

  7. It's been three weeks since I'm married and the same system is followed in my in-law's. I feel like an incapable piece of scum. What a waste of my education and their's too. I'm being handed food like its thrown to a beggar, I'm not supposed to touch my own clean clothes and just because I brushed past the curtain, my father-in-law asked me to put them to wash. WOW !! Feels like I'm secreting waste all-over and I'm spreading it by just being there. It's not a disease god-damn-it !

  8. It sometime feels like the elderly Ladies at home wants to make sure that every other girl should go through the same torture (untouchability) that they went through.What pinches me more is the role of males in the entire scene. Speaking on personal ground at my place my husband will not spare*** me even in those days(if you know what I mean) except if my MIL comes to stay at our place. In front of her he will behave like another old lady happily following untouchability.
    Another twist here is even she knows that during other days when she is not here her son is kicking off all rules of so called purity, right from eating my hand made food up to doing ***.Then what is the use of this drama.Is there any scope of sprituality or is this their(mil+husband) way of dictating that yes like every other furniture at home for show and some use even I am there for some use.
    I would really be obliged if any lady would help me understand this.

  9. I share same views as yours... U r absolutely right . I can't find way how should I prove to my mom that all such practices have no valid base and that with time she should change her views .

  10. I am too from a brahmin family that is too conservative and the same happens at home.. How can they be so conservative.. Its meaning less when they claim pooja will be effected.. Cant touch food.. U can touch your own clothes.. If u need them u will be provided.. The whole family knows when u have periods.. They shout at u when u just enter the hall or sit try to sit somewhere beside them.. God will punish u if u dont follow.. I kept doing the practice of untouchability till date.. and I made no complaints but now I couldnt take it..again I feel like losing self dignity.we need some sort of freedom. There is no use of trying to make them understand.. U wont believe me with the replys I get when I ask the reasons behind all these taboos. All u need to do is stop passing it to the Generation coming.. Women to women as u said..


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