Essential items like sanitary pads should be provided in public spaces to cater the regular needs of women
Back in 2013-14, I was headed to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College in New Delhi for my second year semester examination. It was a typical hot and humid afternoon and I could feel the exam jitters taking hold of me outside the centre. We took seats inside the examination hall and then the bell rang. The invigilator started distributing the answer sheets and I had only finished filling in details like my name, roll number and college when I realised something was wrong.
I started to feel uncomfortable and then it hit me–I am having my periods. I was secretly hoping it was a false alarm but I had to be sure, after all I was wearing white. However, the clock was ticking and I had a paper to write as well. I started focusing on the questions instead but concentrating on the exam became difficult since I could not help thinking about the public embarrassment I will have to face in case my fears came true.
Everything I studied became a blur and I finally asked the invigilator to allow me to go to the bathroom. That is when I finally found out that I was having my periods, indeed. To make things worse, I was not carrying a sanitary pad and I blamed myself for not being prepared. I became nervous and was clueless as to how I should handle the situation.
I went back to the examination room, took my seat and pretended to read the question paper. I thought of seeking help from the invigilator but was irked by the public embarrassment this would cause. Why should something as personal and relating to my body be made public to strangers in the examination hall? In my head I kept imagining all the embarrassing situations like my white kurta turning red and the invigilator announcing in the hall that I needed a sanitary pad.
Struggling to find a way out, I could feel the cramps setting in. The pain was excruciating but I realised that I had to do something. For the second time, I excused myself out of the examination hall under the pretext of filling my water bottle. My secret plan was to begin a pad hunt in the building. I searched for napkins, even tissues, in the bathroom but alas, I found nothing. Next, I tried to locate the reception office but since I was not familiar with the building, I failed again. Instead, I was left exhausted and without a sanitary pad. I was in pain and could feel time slipping out of my hands.
I returned to the examination hall and realised I won’t finish writing the exam on time. Finding myself helpless, I handed over the incomplete answer sheet to the invigilator saying I was not feeling well. I left the hall with watery eyes, an unspoiled white kurta and a spoiled exam.
I am still unsure if my decision to walk out of the examination hall without writing my paper was the right call. However, the realisation that a girl or woman should be forced to choose between writing an examination and leaving it simply because she got her periods and could not find any sanitary pads within the school/college premises. Had there been a provision for sanitary pads and medicine at the college, perhaps I would have written the exam. Essential items like sanitary pads should be provided in public spaces to cater the regular needs of women like me. That would have been the right choice.
* The writer has completed her LL.B from Delhi University and is currently based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.