I was always curious about why any discussion about menstruation had to be done secretively and sanitary napkins were hidden deep in the bags. When my mother explained to me first what periods were, I asked her why the need for secrecy. She gave me several evasive and vague answers but did not teach me to be ashamed of my monthly bodily function.
While I couldn’t care less about the whole secrecy around menstruation, it has a huge role to play in me not wanting to go to temples. My parents told me only good things about religion and God. Yet I was also told that if I was menstruating, I must stay away from temples and religious events. While my mother simply told me it was the norm, I read aggressively about the reasons menstruating women were not allowed to enter temples. The notion of ‘purity’ was top most among them.
Argumentative and aggressive by nature, I refused to believe I was impure simply because I was menstruating. After all it is the age of sanitary napkins and hand sanitisers. So where was the question of the lack of hygiene? Instead I rejected the notion that God refuses to treat me as an equal to any other male, or the patriarchal society that insists that menstruating women must stay away from places of worship. Why do they not insist that men who have gambled or were drunk stay away from temples? Does it not interfere with the ‘purity’ of the place that is being upheld so piously?
Today my parents have to drag me to go to a temple. It is not God that I have a grouse with by society who along the way made rules as to how he must be worshipped. Why must I adhere to these rules? Who made them? People who implement them have never had answers to my questions and hence they always reacted angrily, calling me arrogant and saying that I was ‘talking too much’. A definite no-no for any decent ‘Indian’ girl.
I chose to instead focus on what religion teaches us instead of the unending rituals. It is very difficult to be the kind of person that any religion demands that we be – compassionate, loving, forgiving, generous and fair among other traits. I decided long back that arguing with those that claim to uphold the faith will get me nowhere and I cannot get lost in minor details like whether or not I can go close to a deity while I am menstruating. Instead focusing on what the religion I was born in and other religions teach and trying to imbibe some of these values seemed a much better alternative. Yet it also is sad to watch how even educated women so easily accept the rules that clearly have nothing to do with religion and were evolved along the way to simply make women look and feel like the weaker sex.