What is it like to menstruate? (Hint: It’s definitely not captured by the expression “those days of the month”)
Here’s one answer, a typical experience for most girls soon after they hit puberty:
This is just one of the haikus that the students of the Calicut Medical College received when they organised an intra-college event called "Haiku: Micro Tales On Menstruation Taboos". Notices about the event put up on social media soon took the campaign to other cities, including some abroad, as people began sending their haikus to the organisers.
Third year student James Paul hit on the idea for a haiku competition as a means of shattering menstruation taboos. Students were planning ways to spread awareness and support the "Happy To Bleed" movement ahead of the International Women's Day this March.
It was clear during the discussions that a majority of the students- both male and female- were uncomfortable talking about a very natural process. "I thought that such conversation will be good for both boys and girls," he says. Haiku is a type of very short Japanese poetry which includes seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count.
"When you speak about sex, you can feel your friends feeling awkward. Similarly, people feel uncomfortable when speaking about menstruation which is also a very natural process. It is nothing to be ashamed of," James says.
22-year-old Sreya Salim, student magazine editor of the college and a third year student, says the whole world changed for her when she started getting her period.
"A lot of restrictions were imposed on me. There were restrictions on where I could go, on the way I dressed and what I ate. It was time of depression for me. I felt ashamed if people asked me anything about my menstruation," she says.
The haikus were meant to shatter exactly these mindsets and received a massive response: around 100 entries, from both men and women. The students published 87 of those on social media, and even brought them out in the form of a handbook, a copy of which is available in their college library.
Not only have these micro tales helped in spreading awareness, but these have also got people to speak about it openly without being embarrassed.
Sreya talks about two students, one male and another female, who were responsible for the layout and printing of the haikus.
"Prior to this, the boy had never spoken openly about menstruation. However, after he got involved in this project, he grew comfortable and spoke to his female friends and classmates about the issue," she says.
(All images courtesy: Sreya Salim)