"I was thirteen years old when I got my first period, and I didn’t understand it at first. Nobody had told me this would happen and in the days and weeks that followed, I thought I was dying. When I finally mustered up the courage to confide in my older sister, she told me that the blood would descend every month, and that it was a mark of impurity. She taught me to use ash left over from logs of firewood outside our hut and to sleep outdoors when I bled. I wasn’t allowed to cook or touch food because my impurity would spread to the others. My mother didn’t ask me why I slept on the mat outside during such times. Maybe she knew. When I was 16, I was married off to a boy in the neighbouring village and we both decided to come to Bangalore to find work. I got a job as a house help, he as a truck driver. One day, in one of the houses I was working in at the time, I was emptying the contents of the dustbin when I noticed a soft plastic object soaked with blood. I’d never seen anything like it, so I rolled it up and slipped it into my bag. When I got home, I asked the akka in the slum next door and she told me it was something called a sanitary pad. She told me that rich women used it in place of ash and that it didn’t cause any of the chronic itching and dryness that we felt. When I gave birth to my daughter last year, I promised myself that I’d earn enough to be able to provide her with sanitary pads. I don’t want her experiencing the itching and discomfort that I went through. I work hard everyday to one day fulfil that goal. I really hope I make it."
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