It is my 146th menstrual anniversary today. Which means I’m bleeding to what feels like death but isn’t half as eventful. But instead of cutting a cake and eating a tub of ice-cream and doing everything else that popular culture has taught me to do in order to shut up about the pain that makes my uterus feel like the most disposable thing for the 146th time in my life, I’m sitting down with pen and paper to give you a hisaab.
At 12, I found the idea of pads exciting, and used a brand my mother handed me down and taught me how to use in whispers. At 16, when I had greater autonomy and could exercise this illusion called choice in matters of vaginal mattress, I played around with pretty ones in pink and blue that came wrapped in butterflies or smelt like flowers. I’d spend painfully long reading labels full of promises on the supermarket aisles, and ask questions much to the discomfort of the otherwise eager salesgirls suggesting women how to stay free and secure. I was easily lured by aesthetic but had a keen lookout for technology. I discovered the blessing of tampons at 22, and am yet to have somebody explain to me how a menstrual cup works before I invest in it. At 24, I’ve settled for an earth-shattering technology that helps blood transcend to wine, oops sorry, gel, and would you care to imagine what might have inspired this innovation. Anyway, I digress.
My point is, that all of these cost more money than I’d like to spend if I had a choice. On an average, each menstrual cycle costs me ₹200, including the bare essentials of pad, detergent, salt, painkiller and candy. So in a year, I spend ₹2,400. Therefore, I have already spent at least ₹29,200 on my menstrual life of 146 months.
This is exclusive of the cost of special panties with strong elastic that are needed to hold the damn thing in place, Dermi Cool for napkin rashes and occasional visits to the gynaecologist who cannot suggest anything without an ultrasound or a bunch of other tests. Those things taken together would easily drag the amount upwards of 40K which I’ve shelled out so far behind bleeding every month, and making sure my baby making machinery is in perfect condition to usher another instance of my species into this doomed planet.
If you thought that was all, your parents have been doing a pretty great job at passing off those adverts after 11 p.m. as ice-cream. Those cute little packs of responsibility cost more money than they should in a population like ours and after spending ₹150 on 3 test kits for two preggo scares, one decides to buy their own based on their appetite. Exception is only made for the anniversary when one’s partner chooses to surprise them with tiramisu flavour for the vying dying vanilla sex. That’s around ₹5,000 a year if one is Kilauea or Etna and by now they’re too tired to split with their partner.
In case one decides to cut slack on contraception and gets knocked up, that’s an additional dent of ₹15,000 to buy the comforts of hygienic clinics, discreet doctors and good riddance that their partner will most certainly deny all liabilities to. He shall pull out like he promised.
You see, that’s a lot of money. I’m stuck in this vicious financial loop carefully orchestrated by the capitalism driven pharmaceutical order that compels me to spend competitively on bleeding eggs and blocking babies, only to bleed eggs again that leaves me relieved but with just about enough to buy peanuts with and grind my own butter out of it. And I’m blessed. I’m blessed I have access to proper menstrual hygiene for every month my uterus does its KonMari. I am blessed, for I can still stock up on my favourite absorbing technology while countless women out there, somewhere, not too far away from us, are bleeding to death.
With blood and sweat,
NOT my PMS talking
Mahashewta Bhattacharya is a research scholar at the Centre for Media Studies, JNU. You can find her on Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Daily Titan