The rooftop banquet hall at a five-star hotel in South Mumbai was packed on a rainy Saturday evening. The audiences listened with rapt attention as Taapsee Pannu, known for her brave choices and supreme acting talent, spoke up about her experiences at an event held to dispense myths around menstruation. The event, named Myna Speaks 2019, was held by the Myna Mahila Foundation, an organization working for improving menstrual hygiene, generating female employment in slums etc. At this event, Taapsee made it clear that she won’t be sharing statistics and figures. Instead, she added a dash of humour and sarcasm while taking a dig at the myths around periods. Needless to say, the impact was manifold.
Taapsee Pannu began her address by saying, “It’s the year 2019 when we have just launched Chandrayaan-2 in space, when we finally have a (Section) 377-free India and it’s also the year where we are still discussing the taboo, the shame and the awkwardness of the phenomena which is as old as Adam and Eve and as natural as the apple in their story. Since the time I got the opportunity to come here, I was obviously overwhelmed. In over excitement, I also called my father and informed that I have an important talk to deliver. He asked me, ‘What exactly I am going to talk about?’. There was awkward silence! It was that pregnant pause that gave me all the more reasons to me to stand here and talk.”
She then stated, “Let’s just start by stop calling it a ‘girl’s problem’. First of all, it isn’t a ‘problem’. This is what feeding and shaping a kid inside. And if it at all is a problem, it’s for the guys because they don’t come to terms with it.”
Speaking of her growing up years, she narrated, “I remember shutting myself in my room long back during my growing up days so that my dad couldn’t see or ask what ‘problem’ I had. I have come up with multiple stories like food poisoning, headache, back ache – I am sure lot of us are aware of these excuses which were cooked in school or college – just to escape from the class and lay down in the medical room. And also to use some silly, irritating terms like chumming, ‘down ho gayi hoon’ etc. And there’s another phrase which is my favourite – we are pushing our heights of creativity here – it’s like ‘teri aunty aa gayi hai kya? Aarti ka saamaan ready hai?’” If we could actually use this kind of creativity in our films, we would have much better scripts!”
Taapsee continued, “I have seen three things getting sold in black plastic bags – alcohol, meat from the butcher and sanitary napkins. I remember asking my mom once, ‘Is it a very expensive item that you need to cover it in black bag even though it’s hidden in the darkest corner of the closet?’ There are three females out of four members in our house and we are still trying to hide the element in the room!”
She then made an important point, “The problem is not actually the man, and it’s actually us – the women. It’s us who need to come to terms to the fact that it’s not a taboo that we are so embarrassed about. It’s something as natural as eating, sleeping, peeing or even having sex. We have the fanciest ads with the hottest of stars when it comes to selling condoms. And then we have the weird blue ink-spilling commercial with the girl trying to hide the embarrassment of going through periods to sell the sanitary napkin. Who is releasing this blue liquid? I want to meet that girl or the person whose high level of creativity or wrong schooling made them change the colour of the blood!”
The actress l, known for doing memorable films like Pink, Baby, Badla etc, then asserted, “There are countless female goddesses but we are not allowed inside temples during those inauspicious five days! I wonder if the goddesses are also escorted out of the temples with due respect during those dreadful days. Or do we conveniently believe that they don’t face the issue and yet have kids because anyway, science and mythology are at loggerheads!”
The audiences then clapped and hooted the maximum when Taapsee made the following points, “(When you are menstruating) you can’t sit in a pooja, you can’t exercise, and you can’t cook. And my favourite is – you can’t touch aachaar (pickle)! Now I really feel I have some superpower during those five days. If I am believed to emit some kind of ray or smell that can contaminate your aachaar, then it’s high time the Avengers recruit me! I am sure right now it might make you feel how stupid these certain beliefs are. But the bigger question is that – what are you doing about it? Is menstruation just a chapter in biology books or do we actually need to be aware and discuss about it more casually so that it isn’t a synonym to Voldemort and never be mentioned?”
And that’s not all. Taapsee Pannu cracked another witty joke in one of her closing statements, “Humour helps break ice. So maybe let’s start respecting the men who recruited women in army because a girl on periods plus a gun is equal to a sure shot dead enemy!”
“Let’s just hope our generation doesn’t grow up ridiculing, disgusting the phenomena that are actually responsible for their very existence,” said Taapsee and signed off to a huge applause.