It was awkward having your extended family along with your family friends, colleagues of your parents, and almost half the town celebrating the fact that your vagina now bleeds every month. But then again, in a country like India where the taboo surrounding menstruation is so stringent and entrenched, I guess having yours celebrated was a privilege I was entitled to!

I am an Assamese and we have in our culture what is called the “Tuloni Biya” – a celebration of the onset of menstruation, of a young girl’s entry to womanhood. There is an entire ritual that follows after a girl gets her first period. It eventually leads up to the final celebratory day which is like a wedding without a groom. I too had been subjected to the same experience.

Assam Periods Ritual

It all began with a Rapunzel like situation, I was locked up in my room and fed fruits and sprouts for three days, until my ritualistic duties began. I was gifted new Mekhela Sadors (Assamese version of a saree), underwear, jewellery, all of which I had to wear the following days for the various prayers and pujas I was to perform. At the end of it all, was the day of the reception where I got to dress up like a young bride (literally!). The celebration pretty much resembles an actual wedding reception. My parents invited whoever they could think of, and it turned out to be a huge crowd because I come from a small city where everyone knows everyone. But then again, I did not have any complaints because they all came bearing gifts as a part of the ceremony.

It was a luncheon party and that afternoon remains one of the most memorable ones of my life. Although I was excited to be a ‘pretend bride’ accepting gifts, I felt nervous when it all began. I guess it finally hit me at that moment that I was no longer a little girl anymore but a young woman who bleeds every month. And then the thought of all those people, half of whom I had never met in my life before knowing about it immediately made me feel uncomfortable. However, as I sat there alone and awkward, gawking at everyone present, I noticed people chatting and laughing away while at it. Some of them even shot back warm smiles at me, and it instantly lifted my mood back up (mood swings ugh). Everyone seemed to be having a good time. I was congratulated by strangers and caressed by elders, and it was then that I realised how lucky I was to have been in such a loving environment.

Having your period celebrated is not something everyone is privy to. The realisation of the same only made me feel overwhelmingly thankful. The pinch of discomfort arising from the social awkwardness seemed so trivial then. Also, at the end, the gifts and money made it all worth it!

| By Ipshita Gogoi |

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