Things I Am Not Allowed to Touch During My Period

1.

my soft, cosy,
warm, absolutely out of this world,
blanket.
comfort, and that is only
the beginning.

2.

food and clothes,
unless dropped from a few inches up
into my hands.

i am careful not to spill
my impurity everywhere.

3.

god, (i mean metaphorically, because
really only the men in the house can)
not that i want to.
but it’s fun watching them go
from breathing down my neck
forcing me to write hymns in Devanagari
30 times a day,
to refusing to request me
directly
for silence.

my mother shuts the curtain in my face.

they all hope a metal idol hasn’t taken note of my existence.
or that my father hasn’t heard my voice.

4.

self-esteem,
self-expression.
once upon a time,
bleeding meant bawling
tears and snot down my face
hormones down my system
i’d try to “reason” with
testosterone, more like
testoste-stone,
and fail.

you see,
they could always touch their box of
pseudo-scientific explanations.

taboos always play
hide and seek with me.
courage and patience counting down,
7, 6, 5
i call tomato.

5.

tomato-like red
nobody touches my head… obviously.
but don’t worry,
because they say i should be grateful.
that i don’t touch their stories as my
reality.
stories of walking to the well to bathe (source: grandmother),
washing their cloth pads and not bathing for days (source: aunt),
sleeping on thin mats (source: mother)
at least we’re okay with
giving you a mattress,
my mother says.
an attached bathroom, a pillow,
disposables so you have less to wash,
your period is a luxury! change takes time. it is not overnight.

but my defeat is. i don’t know if she’s trying to make me feel better,
or exhibiting how lazy they have been.

i’m going to explode.

6.

i grew tired of the conversations.
i needed to “calm down”

it’s like playing a game of lava,
except the lava is all over the house;
it has you cornered.
and the volcano is in your
abdomen.

the sofa has been separated, carefully, so
not a thread is left behind,
from its twin
so you can take it hostage.
a second class status,
simply normalised.

7.

vessels,
flowers,
waters, liquids,
cosmetics,
toothpaste

the crimson rule: what reaches the dark side,
stays in the dark side.
there are code words:
in – not bleeding
out – bleeding
rinse your clothes,
yourself, on the fourth day.
dry your lunchboxes,
your hair
for revival.

i hope someone tries to write a book on these rules; they’d be surprised at the inconsistency.
and how, like good girls, we remember them all.

8.

dignity,
without benevolence.
it topples over
a trail of relatives.
move, before they fall on you.
don’t taint their day, make them
take that bath, sprinkle
holy water on all that has your trace.

my house is three people,
and a hundred and twenty eyes.
no wonder adults past their mid-life crisis
can’t make decisions without dogma.

9.

unlearning. at university,
my own autonomy
baffles me.
but i still feel undeserving, sometimes.

10.

progress.
i watch my cousins go through
the same cycle,
almost congruent with the menstrual one.
we smear the blood on our faces,
and become sisters-in-crime
when no one is looking.

we have no option.

skip holidays, can’t getaway,
absorb complicity like a Whisper napkin.
quietly.

i shut my eyes.
it really is a period
they are sleepy and painful
anyway.

11.

hope
is a battle,
without an army.
my comrades are
busy, reinforcing,
menopausing

only the stain lives on.

 

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