Untouchability is a sin. Untouchability is a crime. Untouchability is something that you and i live with, every day. Sorry, we are not living in the caves, nor are we neolithic men and women. We don't even drape leaves and animal skins, but we hold our own women and girls untouchables. Strange, strange...very strange. Ostracizing our own flesh and blood in our own homes, our own sisters and mothers whom we conveniently ignore when they suffer in stoic silence.
Confusing, is it? Conservative households in cities and villages alike boast of women who spend three days every month alone and aloof. Shunned from entering the Pooja room, spending nights in the most unlikeliest of places- do we ever notice? I had a friend who used to sleep on an empty rice sack in the balcony of their first floor flat, be it rain or shine. And surprisingly she had company- her torn bata shoe and a pounding stick!
There are little girls who are forbidden to enter kitchens, touch flowers and plants, lest they wilt. Girls are not permitted to touch grain sacks, not permitted to touch tamarind, rice, salt and for that case anything in the kitchen. Funny, they had to carry a bunch of neem leaves wherever they went. And another friend of mine was afraid to look at birds in an empty stomach during those days! Reason- unknown! Even food was not supposed to be left over, the dogs were not supposed to eat that leftovers which gave stomach pain to the girl...seriously? Rolling eyes***( In that case, the dogs would die on the spot, tasting the home made curry!)
Those happened once upon a time, you could say. No sirs, it happens event today in most households. Only, the untouchability is subtle and snide. The supposedly high and mighty in the class- caste ladders who live only for the upliftment of age-old rituals and traditions, refuse to let women lead lives 'normal' those three days. One of my friend from another religion returned dumbstruck from her neighbor's home scurrying with tears. She was shunted out by her "orthodox" neighbor who had forbidden her from visiting her when she was "suffering" from those three days! What a nerve! Same incident was repeated yesterday when the wife of another friend had been to visit her neighbor. She too was shunted out citing the same reason. This time, the "orthodox" type got her lesson of a lifetime- a sermon on untouchability and discrimination.
Do they learn their lessons? No. One must visit these advocates' houses who profess 'purest' form of their religion to know how 'pure' they are! A woman's mestrual cycle has nothing to do with religion and God, is what i personally feel. Whom they choose to meet and whom they don't choose to see on those days too is their own whim and fancy. But seriously, would you mind 'seeing' one such neighbor? Definitely, no. When a section of women are gunning for the moon, there are others who spend three days in the balconies and dark crevices of their dwellings. Paradox!
|Posters announcing the funcion|
If this is the case among the very 'literate' and 'modern' families, their counterparts in villages fare no further, celebrating "manjal neerattu vizha" with full fervor. It is a grand gala festival where posters with the shy and timid bejweled, eleven or twelve year old posing in difefrent attires adorning every nook and corner of the village. Speakers balre songs 24x7. It is eleven or thirteen days of fun and frolic for the relatives, who eat and eat and eat. For those poor souls who don'gt get an idea of this function, kindly view the video link below, depicting the function.
Probably the goats and hens of the entire village would be breaking in sweat hearing a girl's coming of age! In the past, these functions were held as an advertisement to announce the availability of a girl in the wedding market. That was when girls attained puberty at the age of sixteen or seventeen and they were married off soon. But these days? The practice continues in rural areas. Imagine the plight of the little one who has to face the entire village everyday, later...Does this not amount to cruelty? Celebrating these in the confines of ones' home is one's private matter. But when it becomes a public function, it is ridiculous. It hurts and scars a girl- permanently. Hitting puberty by itself is the most confusing phase of a girl's life. Should we complicate it further? And the periods of a woman can be an emotional roller coaster for her. Why ostracize her and discriminate her?