With time, people are slowly opening up to the idea of discussing periods freely. The taboo, while still exists, is not making its place in the newer generation’s minds. However, as much as we talk about periods, there still remains a question of accessibility of sanitary menstrual products – even in a city such as Mumbai.
There are statistics and research available, and numerous activists are making efforts to make sanitary products available to every woman in the country - rural or urban. But there has to also be responsibility from institutions, companies and establishments to contribute to this cause.
Related Article: Are Menstrual Cups Making Their Way Into Indian Women's Life?
While I have had a rather scary yet ‘funny when I think of it now’ experience, there are women out there who may have had straight up horrifying experiences due to lack of sanitary products. Speaking about my own experience, it happened few years ago. I was at Marine Drive taking a casual walk after a meeting with some time to kill. It was then that my uterus decided to be adventurous and give me an unadventurous surprise. Realising what had just happened, my mood changed from serene to seething in a matter of seconds as I frantically looked around for a medical store. Of course, I should have been ready but stuff like this happens when it has to. Ugh!
Now, Marine Drive is a sprawling, thriving area with the promenade making an exciting view for everyone. But I did not want my pants to become a part of that view. I had to do something, urgently. I did not have the courage to ask random women on the road for a pad, and most of them were couples, making approaching the girl even more weird.
So I stood there, frozen, unable to walk fast enough to find a medical store which would take a good ten minutes. All you sisters reading this know the value of these minutes when mother nature decides to take its course when you decide not to be a mother.
I called a friend up, who had an office nearby (well near the High Court which again takes a good 10-15 minutes via cab because, traffic). She said she would reach as soon as she can and take me to her office. All the restaurants opposite Marine Drive are the good ones, fancy ones with food making it to tabloids every month. I decided to enter one of them, and they were super kind to let me use their washroom. I semi-expected there to be a pad there – even if one of the smaller ones, and did not find one much to my chagrin and increasing blood pressure.
I did not have the courage to go to every restaurant washroom and look like a retard. The sheer pain of being in this situation – literally and figuratively – is enough to shut your brain off. So I came out of the restaurant and decided to stand wherever I was, waiting for my knight-in-shining-kaali-peeli to come and take me away from this misery and a shortly destined embarrassment. A good right minutes later, (of course I was counting!) the friend picks me up and takes me to her office where I finally get to her workplace and I get my sanitary napkin in place. Phew!
But since then, it has made me more precautious and kept me wondering on why there are no pads available in restaurants, even in Mumbai. I was at Marine Drive, on one of the world famous landmarks, and yet I did not have access to a pad. Of course I remain prepared now at all times, but this is one of the major issues for a girl. Indian society is not as liberal as certain western ones where even for a protest, women can ‘let it bleed’.
I know that Social keeps sanitary napkins in its washrooms since a couple of months, and a lot of other restaurants as well. But why not each and every restaurant – all over India? We require it during menstruation – which happens at the most unexpected moments. But doing this will help girls out there stuck in a similar situation may not be as lucky as I was to have a friend working nearby, or be able to walk even as much as I did because of the flow. This may not be a statistical thing, but it is the reality women face each day and it is time we did something about it, and brought some change to keep a sister relaxed in times like these.