The PadMan effect: 7 women tell us their scary and funny period stories
Akshay Kumar’s Padman, releasing on February 9, has created a buzz in the market. While the film aims to spark a conversation and spread awareness about menstruation, we asked 7 women to share their scary, humorous and ‘blood’ tales of menstruation.Updated: Feb 06, 2018 18:01 IST
Akshay Kumar’s Pad Man hopes to spark a conversation and spread awareness about menstruation — a topic rarely discussed in the open in India.
Women and girls on their periods are often considered unclean and impure and are subjected to discrimination. They are not allowed to go to the temple, or cook and touch certain food.
They also go through the most embarrassing, weird and hilarious experiences when they start menstruating and even later in their lives.
We spoke to a few women ahead of the February 9 release of the film based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu who created a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine.
Here are the scary, humorous and “bloody” tales from seven women:
Madhuri Sen (early 40s), strategic marketing consultant and social entrepreneur, Mumbai
I was a precocious early bloomer. I started menstruating during the summer holidays when I was about nine and half years of age.
Since no one could possibly have foreseen that, my mother hadn’t yet “briefed” me in advance. My first self-diagnosis was that I was dying of blood dysentery. I declared so to my mother, who was at that moment making parathas for breakfast. I wonder now if the following five days were more distressing for me or her.
While trying to explain what periods really meant, she said that the “child-bearing machine” inside me had started. I was in tears over the fact that I would have a child while I was one myself. She explained that it wouldn’t happen till I got married. My sobbing turned to minor sniffles, but I still wanted to know the exact process by which the “child-bearing machine” could be activated by the wedding ritual.
I wanted to know next since I didn’t really want to have babies, whether I had the option to stop this messy bleeding and mild stomach cramps. This was at about 2am. My exasperated mother said yes it was possible if I surgically cut out the “child-bearing machine” called the uterus. I was exhilarated.
I waited impatiently until the next morning to ask when we could go to the surgeon to have the procedure done. She had quite a time convincing me that it wasn’t something young girls did just because menstruating was messy and inconvenient. I, for sure, am glad I never had a daughter (at least not yet) to have to explain menstruation to.
Kriti (29), lawyer, Delhi
When I was maybe around 7 or 8 years old, I saw a Whisper ad on TV. I had no clue what it was so asked my mom and dad, who were sitting right there. And in retrospect, I realise they were very uncomfortable and just changed the topic with a “You don’t need to know this” face. I had a proper chat with my mom a few years later, of course, and she wasn’t thrown off guard this time because she was the one who brought it up.
Another incident happened a few weeks ago in the company of friends when I loudly proclaimed that I needed to step out to buy sanitary napkins. It surprised me that my friends, who are married to each other, seemed a little surprised at my unabashed vocalisation.
I had come to believe that people are generally a lot more comfortable speaking about menstruation now, but I guess we still have a long way to go.
Almas Mirza (30), media professional, Mumbai
We now know that periods are a monthly thing and I prefer to be prepared for it anytime, anywhere. Ideally, one would expect every female to carry a sanitary napkin or tampon or menstrual cup in her bag irrespective of whether she is menstruating and especially around the date she is due.
But, surprisingly, a countless number of times, I have come across colleagues who have asked me for a pad. “I got my periods. Do you have a pad? I am not carrying one!”
While I readily helped them, it just made me wonder if I am the only one who is so prepared throughout the month. There were times when multiple women asked me for pads on the same day!
I started being careful ever since I felt totally helpless when I got my periods while hanging out with college friends and had to go around scouting for a shop where I could buy pads. Which is why I strongly feel we need to have sanitary napkin dispensers in our country.
Disha Doshi (29), strategic planner at an advertising agency, Kolkata
Being a part of an all-girls school, I saw 1,000 mood swings creating a symphony on our school campus daily.
I remember the phase when I had finally learnt to remember my period table and the use and disposal of pads while it was evident that not many girls had yet found a civil way to dispose of their used napkins.
There was this one time when a junior came out howling, saying “There’s a haunted broken piece of plaster in the loo!”
The rumours got so spiced up that many girls stopped using that particular loo for a while even after it was cleaned.
Navneet Kapany (35), mental health professional, Chandigarh
I got my periods when I was 9.5 years old and the first thing I did when I saw my stained undie was to run to my grandmother, who was doing a paath in Waheguru ji’s room, and before she could react I ran to my parent’s bedroom and told my dad that something terrible has happened to me.
That was the funny part.
After that, I have dealt with horrible period pains, been on hormones to help with the dysmenorrhea and gained weight. I met some sympathetic doctors and some who thought there was nothing wrong with me and that I am just a spoilt brat.
When I was in class seven I bled for six months and the only silver lining was that I didn’t give my final exams. My parents were too cute. My dad would sneak in ice cream cups once in a while or ask me what soup I wanted. My mum caught hold of a beauty parlour didi, who would come once a week to give me a head massage or pedicure. I had a constant supply of books and paints so that I never felt ‘sick’.
Two years ago, the pain during my periods became unbearable and I had to take ovarian injections. Most doctors again rubbished my complaints as they thought I was not being tough enough or wasn’t taking my painkillers properly. I was also told to get married as in India marriage is the solution to all problems.
I finally met a sensible doctor and, mind you, he is not even a gynaecologist. He suggested an ultrasound, which no gynae had thought of advising because they assumed they knew it all. I had cysts on my ovaries that were haemorrhaging.
Around that time I met a good gynae, who understood my problems and prescribed different hormones and pain management treatment. I had a high CA 125 score, a test for ovarian cancer, indicating that I had endometriosis. I decided that I need a surgery because I couldn’t deal with this.
When it came to the surgery, I wanted a complete hysterectomy but my doctor told me she could decide what to do only once she goes in because hysterectomy has its own side effects. Last September, I had my surgery and all the growth and cysts were removed and the ovaries and uterus saved.
Endometriosis is very common, so many of us suffer from it but not much is being done. The reason I am sharing my story is that I want more people to know.
Sunetra Dasgupta (30), lecturer, Mumbai
I was around 12 or 14 years old when I got my first period. Though we were into the new millennium, periods were something that was not openly explained or spoken about so my mother had really not given me any idea about what they were. I came to know about periods from someone else.
When I got my first period I didn’t know what to do, how long it lasted or what was I supposed to do. I remember we had a very dark coloured skirt and I got my first period in school — I didn’t know we needed a pad or how to wear one. I just wished if the day was over, the whole period thing will go away. I came home and I didn’t tell anyone about it.
Next morning, my mom discovered that the entire bed sheet was stained and I used to share a room with my brother. When he noticed it, he told her about the stains and mom explained that they were from my bleeding teeth. She then haphazardly taught me how to wear a pad. And, when other people came to know that I had my period they started looking at me like I had murdered someone.
Kanika Sharma (24), co-founder of Short Stories Events, Delhi
It is horrifying to wake up on a bed sheet with a huge blood stain. Then you need to wash the bed sheet and your clothes in that terrible pain as if someone is, literally, stabbing you in the stomach.
And you know what is even more horrifying? When you spend the night at a male friends place (just a friend) and it’s just too bad you can’t remember your period dates. There is a red stain on a white bed sheet as big as your palm. Sooner or later he will see it. And this is a mess you have to clean up yourself because otherwise, it’s just disgusting.
So before you can panic that you are out of tampons, you have to confront him about it. Wake him up and then have a very awkward conversation about where you can wash the bed sheet. Then you have to run back home, wash your own clothes and then be miserable for the whole day with pain and embarrassment because it’s almost like you wet someone else’s bed.
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