Dark semi-abstract mostly monochrome photograph that seems to show water against cracked rock with a blood red streak along the edge where they meet
Photo by Alex Rainer on Unsplash

She wakes up one morning,
feeling all wet– down there.
Half asleep,
but soon realizes
it must be her period.
She goes to the bathroom,
sees all the blood,
changes the panty,
wears a pad,
soaks the stained panty
in detergent water
and goes back to sleep.

The night had been tough
with backache, bloating,
and stomach aches.
She had hardly slept.

She wakes up again in no time,
rushes to the bathroom,
tired though–
the stain has to go!
“I hope nobody saw!”
If the family sees
a stained panty soaked
in the bucket meant for bathing,
they would yell!
The stain must go–
“You can’t hang a panty,
certainly not a stained one,
out on the balcony!
The neighbours would see!”
She rubs and washes
with soap and water;
rubs again,
with the brush this time
as hard as she can–
erasing the signs of her gender.
The unaesthetic sides–
the ugly ones,
yellow, red, pale, smelly–
all should be spotless and clean.
She keeps soaps of the best fragrance
especially for period clothes–
“Leave no trace of a woman who bled!”

She recalls her first period
when she didn’t know
which side of the pad
stuck to the panty.
So she wore it on the other side
thinking it should stick to the vagina
so the blood wouldn’t flow!
Lost in the memory,
she keeps rubbing the panty
and now it tears.

Following the chain of her thoughts,
she forgets the pad in the bathroom–
this time uncovered,
only to find later
that her daughter, a ten-year-old,
has already thrown it away,
just like most times,
as she hides
the traces
of her mother’s Madness.

Author photograph

Bhanu is a Delhi-based researcher in feminist disability studies. She is a Bahujan queer woman, a primary caregiver, user of mental health services, and a person with chronic pain. She does free writing to vent and sometimes be creative. Lately, she is exploring her interest in food, travel and sarees. In this highly individualized, consumer-economy that shapes youth cultures in Delhi, she finds solace in the idea of community living with her small group of friends whom she chooses to spend most of her time with.