Delhi Diary-Plenty more

photo N. leans against the door-frame, while I argue with someone on the phone. She looks down at her feet. Another ten minutes pass by till she comes over and whispers nearly voiceless in my ear: „Read On, Can I talk to you for a moment?“ „Of course you can“, say I and make space for her on the stool next to me, where a piles of notes are stacked. Firstly, she asks if I enjoy the tea she made me this morning. I praise the tea and hope Mrs Rajasthani may never find out that I drink someone else’s tea. Secondly, she wants to know, if I think she is good at what she is doing. I assure her that she is brilliant and nothing of what we do, would be possible without her. Then she blushes and remains silent and begins again: „us, women“, she says and interrupts herself, I nod encouraging and then I have to lean forward to understand her silent whispers and after ten minutes I believe  I caught her point. „You want a tampon?, I  ask, smiling happily ,because I am a big fan. Tampons are great, you can stop nosebleed, put pressure on a wound and probably would be able to fix a car engine with them, I say, while I search in my bag and finally produce a handful of them. „Take as many as you want.“ But N. looks at me in sheer horror. She stammers that her husband would not approve of such things. I swallow hardly, because I find it so very hard to understand, what a husband could not approve of the usage of a tampon. But little I know of husbands. Little I know,why a husband, who sleeps with his wife and lives with his wife does not want his wife feeling safe during her period. Little I know, why a husband tells his wife that she is unclean. Little I know, why a husband, who shares a table and a bed, a cat and a balcony, a closet and a glass of water in the bathroom pretends not to know that his wife is menstruating. Little, so little I know. N. leans forward again and tells me that she is ashamed to go to the pharmacy asking for sanitary pads. The men selling them would give her awkward looks and make comments. N. starts to cry. Listen, I say, I go and buy them. Fifteen minutes later I enter the first pharmacy. The man behind the corner claims not to sell „these things.“ The men gathering in the shop are giggling. I slam the door while leaving. In the second pharmacy I am luckier. The man behind the cashier grabs a package of sanitary pads with two of his fingers and looks at me. „I need more, say I, and while he tries to avoid my look I sternly look at him. He comes up with two more packs. „More, repeat I, I need more.“ Now the man begins to sweat. He speaks quickly with the shop assistant and the assistant blushes. He brings more packs. More, say I bring me more. I need plenty more. Both men and all the men gathered in the shop are looking at me. It is absolutely silent in the pharmacy. Only the shop assistant is to be heard, he wraps the packets into brown paper. Finally, I leave the shop with twenty-seven packages of sanitary pads. The men in the shop stare at me with sheer horror in their eyes. I close the door silently behind me. Back, I put the six bags full of sanitary pads in the middle of a table. Ten minutes later, all packages have disappeared. Before I leave, N. leans against the door-frame. „No, I say, don’t you dare to say thank you.“ „But, N. I say, when you don’t go into the pharmacy and don’t use tampons, what are you doing?“ N. looks at her feet and comes to my desk again. Nearly voiceless, she says: Newspaper or old rugs. N. is a woman of 35 years, she has a profession of her own and she is married. Little I know of husbands, not to say nothing at all, but I can’t believe that a man lying next to a woman, who has old rugs or newspaper between her legs, who is afraid to move or to change sides, can sleep safe and sound. Impossible it is to imagine that a man, who brushes his teeth in the morning can leave with a smile on his face, knowing that his wife puts newspaper into her underpants and goes to work as he does. Little I know and nothing of this I am able to understand.

6 thoughts on “Delhi Diary-Plenty more

    • Indeed. One always associates these stories with the rural countryside where no money is spent on female hygiene issues. But that this happens in the city to quite independent women came as surprise to me. You are right there are no easy changes. A first step I would think would be female personnel in the pharmacies and chemist’s shops.

  1. I don’t understand, either, and probably never will understand how this idea of uncleanliness became attached to women and their bodily functions, and yet through the ages men have professed their love and consideration for the women they routinely demeaned. You wrote about a sensitive topic today, Read On, and made it painfully real.

  2. I totall agree with you! It is so hard to understand why men do not everything they can to make the woman they love, feel most comfortable with her body at all times. It’s quite a tough topic and it keeps me awake…

  3. Those men in the shop probably start the rumour now that European women need 27 packs of sanitary pads a month. Too bad that we aren’t with you in Delhi, then we could go to the shop tomorrow and buy plenty more. Let’s hope one fine day one woman will open a shop with all kind of products women want and need.

    I guess the so called mooncups aren’t a solution, either, since husbands don’t approve of the usage of tampons.

  4. I definitely gave the men in the shop a hard time. As far as I am aware of there were projects introduced in the countryside to introduce mooncups, especially while the decision between buying milk or sanitary pads always means milk. However, amidst the rather non existing hygienic infrastructure and probably many women using one munch, I am not quite sure how successful this can be. Sanitary pads are in comparison not that cheap, one package costs 150 Rs ( 2 Euro ), which is quite a lot compared to other basic requirements, however I think for the women in urban areas Amazon or Online Pharmacies might be a way to avoid those dreadful visits. But one main problem remains, as long as the husbands deny the existence of menstruation and the need for proper hygiene measurements it will be nearly impossible for both men and women to develop a positive attitude towards the topic. Such a long answer. I apologize!

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