*Sanvi, 19, is a college student in Chandigarh and shared her story with Arpit Chikkara, who writes for Love Matters India.
My dad, my mom
*Rohan bhaiya and I were raised by our father – he was our friend, philosopher and guide. I remember him dressing me for school – doing the neatest plaits anyone ever had, packed the most yum tiffin and single-handedly holding the fort at all PTA meetings.
As I moved on from primary school, I grew a bit shy changing in front of him or my brother. When my dad sensed this discomfort, he told me I was my own person and I should do whatever I felt comfortable with. And so from age seven, I bathed on my own, got dressed on my own and took care of myself.
When I was about ten or so, one day, I saw Rohan bhaiya quickly change the channel when a sanitary napkin ad appeared on TV. I felt curious and confused but wasn’t sure if I should ask bhaiya. He clearly looked a bit flustered.
And then one day at school, my friend Tanya broke into tears and then ran to the washroom, clutching her skirt. I saw there were some red spots on it. Our teacher later asked her to go to the medical room and then her mom came to pick her up. Everyone in the class was curious about Tanya. Was she sick? Why was she crying?
I asked Tanya the next day and she said it was ‘girl talk’ and that I should ask my mother more about this. I came home and since Dad was not around I asked bhaiya. He seemed embarrassed by my question. ‘Yeh sab bado ki batein hain, tu abhi choti hai,’ was all he could say.
Dad to the rescue
Bhaiya’s comment made me really confused. How could a bado ki baat be happening to Tanya! Dad was travelling for work and so I had to wait for him to return. Bhaiya and Tanya’s responses had made me a bit hesitant too. Should I be asking my father about this? But I was really close to was my dad, and he was the only parent I had.
And so when he returned from his work trip, I caught him on the doorstep. I told him about what had happened to Tanya and if something like that would happen to me as well!. I could sense whatever had happened to Tanya was linked to that advertisement on TV but I was not sure how.
I still remember the look on his face. Unlike bhaiya, my dad was very calm and composed. He did not make me feel embarrassed. He held my hand and walked with me to his study, asking Rohan bhaiya to join us.
Being a biology professor, he had a number of diagrams in his drawers and took out one. My brother now realised where the conversation was headed and could not hide his embarrassment when dad showed us a diagram of the naked human body. My dad sensed his awkwardness and told us both that our body was nothing to be ashamed of.
He told us that we were both growing up and it was important for us to know what was happening to our bodies. He then explained how my brother and I had different organs and that was because my body was designed to carry a baby but his was not.
Addressing my body
He then told us about menstruation, explaining that during a menstrual cycle, a woman's body prepares for birth. And when the body does not conceive, the body lets out the blood and that this happened every month! And if a person is not prepared for their period, this blood can stain their clothes and that it was perfectly normal.
He told me that I too would experience this soon and it was nothing to be scared or embarrassed about. I asked if it happened to all the girls. He said yes. Tanya's mystery was solved!
After that night's conversation, I went to sleep with a clear head but still some fear in my heart that all this would happen to me soon.
The next day, after dinner, dad said he wanted to prepare me for my first period – so that I am not caught unawares and know what exactly to do when it comes calling. He asked my brother to join us saying it was important for all the boys to also know about menstruation. He took out a sanitary pad – similar to the one shown on television. He then taught me how to use it. He asked me to go to the bathroom and try it. I felt hesitant at first but then played along.
I stuck the pad on my underwear as instructed on the back of the packet. It wasn't hard at all and I suddenly felt confident and less intimidated by this upcoming change. I started with my periods soon after and when I did not freak out like Tanya did.
As told to Arpit Chikkara.
*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.
Love Matters and Miss Menses wish all women a happy and safe period on the #NoMoreLimits World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28).
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