A Modern Indian Period

Three Marks on the Wall

The stories in My Little Red Book present a range of menstrual restrictions, from orthodox Jewish women’s abstinence from sex to French housewives’ inability to make mayonnaise. Most of these taboos are intriguing because we never hear about them anymore. It is our grandmothers who remember these superstitions; girls my age aren’t aware they exist, never mind take them seriously. Recently, I’ve been working in Udaipur, India, where the situation is quite different. I was stunned by how many old wives’ tales are carried out by my generation. It is a world where men switch the channel if a sanitary napkin ad flashes across the screen, where most of my coworkers have never used a tampon, and where menstruating women never sleep in the same bed as their husbands. From the story Locked in a Room with Dosai, I knew that tradition could be particularly harsh, sometimes exiling women from their own homes. But I didn’t know to what extent these taboos were taken seriously today. To get the real story, I met up with two forward-thinking women whom I felt might share a more modern perspective. Here is Rutchira’s story interlaced with her friend Neha’s sidebar comments. This month’s story is presented in its original dialogue format so that you may enjoy—as I have—two women’s clashing perspectives that give voice on the ongoing debate inside every modern Indian woman.