I vividly remember the poetic parlance of ‘Ringa Ringa Roses’; the discordant teeth biting the glee from the west to east and the fragile torso swinging in a circular motion to finally thump on the ground with a magnanimity that leaves the butt itchy and wrinkled. The crisp symphony of ‘we all fall down’ is a clarion call to leave the obnoxity of life behind, and then rise up again to start another round of collecting sclerotic virtues.
Did we ever realize that we ‘women’ would actually ‘fall down’, not literally but ‘down’ in the imprimatur of menstrual strait-lacing? And, a bit down in the mouth because of the puritanical palavers that have made menstruation an effluent of past life peccadilloes and a present incubating proscriptive rebukes.
Going back to the poem, the descant of ‘a husha-a busha’ has invariably turned into a ‘hush-hush’—a woman has become a coherent watchman guarding the rough turfs she is subjected to; a pantomime of five days, a fence of intolerance and a moral policing of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. The word ‘down’ in itself is a misnomer. The adventure of sticking to ‘falling down’ is palpable but ‘getting down’, the word is an effrontery to her dignity and self-sustainability. A simple usage of ‘I am having my periods’ should roll the log rather than the inexplicable dismay on the face, down and dilly-dally of ‘I..I am d…down’.
What about the internal scrimmage, ‘once bitten, always shy’, month after month till the flow ceases to exist; till then the rampage of inner tributaries is a molten bed of scurrilous bon-fires.
- The kitchen that siphoned aromas of various delicacies is an anomaly. I am unclaimed by the rising fragrances as I am ‘down’.
- I watch imperceptibly standing across the temple. My feet curve the spine to move farther; a rebuke may gallantly walk to my illicit curvature if I set foot inside. The blood stained cloth, only visible to my soul does not make me less pious or weigh me down in my gratitude to the almighty; many think so and they make sure to eclipse my shadow.
- I keep it on the down-low when it’s time to buy a sanitary napkin. It’s even tougher than buying an avocado paste to my taste. I literally down-step a stair where side glances are an imperfect synchrony. The black polybag wrapped around the packet is downly glop. Is this all necessary; my moving back, my hurried speech, the weight on my eyes and considering the veracity of my body as a pariah.
- And wait, the impertinent blotch at the back of my dress accuses me of being careless. “Don’t’ lose your integrity by pushing off the house”, I am suggested. I ask myself, “why it is so difficult to carry a stain when mental subservience has been a woman’s biggest accompanying truth’?
Stiffening under the four walls to hide the emotional delinquency flowing as a comeuppance, I ask the enshrined purveyors of faith and the patriarchal misfitters if the stain is questionable or a privilege that a woman has been bestowed with to change it to a celestial womb?
The pain, the tiring whimsical pain, says the mother to the unevolved daughter, “you should know how to bear the pain. There is a lot more ahead. The blood, the waste it is called by the misunderstood will flow till it makes you wise to handle the perfidies. Learn to take the pain for nobody will comfort you as I do, no one will make you feel like a princess; you will be a stubborn clock that would not chime to the pleasures of a man’s desire in those five days.”
I look back today when the body has dilapidated and the flow ceases to exist. It got undue attention when all it was doing was to make me more of a woman year after year. I learnt to be a passive traveller in those five days, but most importantly became resilient. I assessed that pain is an intrusion to help your body regain strength to fight it, and then be ready to fall down again.