The Time of the Month, I’m Untouchable


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As an Indian student,we all have read and crammed the lines, “Untouchables were not allowed to drink water from the village wells,because it was believed that this would make the water impure”. How could a human being pollute water, just by being from a different neighborhood or having a different surname? Pretty illogical,right!

Back then, I used to see things in black or white. According to me, these lines were illogical and hence, wrong.I never once stopped to consider the emotional implications of an untouchable person.Little did I know that I would feel the same, when things get RED.

Yes, that was a reference to “that” time of the month. Read on, I’m just getting started.

One summer, my first summer after hitting puberty, I was visiting my maternal grandmother who lives in a small village of an unknown district in Maharashtra. Well, just like every month my periods came but surprisingly, this sent my mom into a fit of frenzy. After a bit of commotion, I was taken to the almost abandoned back bedroom of the first floor where my mom told me………

Giddy up! Here’s the climax!(too soon?😶)

She said, ” Because your periods started you are impure and everyone you touch will also become impure, so you will have to spend the next three days in this room.No one is allowed to touch you.”

Didn’t feel shock yet? Here’s more..

“You’ll be given separate utensils, separate clothes, you’ll sleep on the floor and you have to wash everything you touch.”

Still not illogical enough?Well, here’s the bomb!

Oh and if your siblings ask anything, tell them a CROW touched you so, nobody else can touch you.”

If your reaction was “What?” ,my reaction was “What the * insert profanity* ?”. Normally, my mom would’ve slapped me, but she couldn’t. Kudos to the fact, that I was indeed, Untouchable.

Over the course of these three days, food was dropped onto my plate from a height. See, you can’t be touching the utensils I’m using and if I left any food on my plate, it had to be disposed off in a dump outside the house.

My mom, having experienced the outer shell of the world, had a sliver of idea what was going through my head and brought me loads of chocolates and books so that I could escape my thoughts. I couldn’t.

At the end of my sentence,I was asked to take a head-bath and clean up everything that I used ;which was later cleansed by holy water.

Truth be told, I had seen my mother and every other female in that house use that same lame excuse about the Crow, but I never said anything, because these women didn’t seem sad or irritated. Their belief in the tradition was perhaps, more stronger than mine. They excepted their fate.

So did I, but I felt disgusted and detested being in that house. Loneliness is the least of your worries and being untouchable sucks. It’s not just your dignity or self respect but your existence that gets crushed. It may seem exaggerated but I was just facing the emotional implications of  being an untouchable.

When I asked Google to provide reasons for this tradition(my mother won’t give me any), it showed that it not only happened in this village but various small villages across Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerela and Karnataka. I was also shocked to discover that I was suffering from a milder form of this tradition. In some places, women were kept in completely different households with no access to the outside world, while in a village of Kerela, to remove connections with black magic almost exorcisms are also performed.

To sum it all up, having periods is just a biological process. Considering all the side effects(cramps, fatigue, fear of leakage etc..), it can be a nuisance but what it is not is a reason, to regret being a girl. This tradition, in all it’s history, stands a mystery and is still saddening. After all, being told that a devil resides in us every month, is not exactly a pleasing thought.


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Mabel Kwong

Asian Australian. Multiculturalism

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