My association with the Delhi NGO, Goonj in 2010-11 was my first brush with the crisis in menstrual health in India.
My own experience with cloth has been, at best an irritant, but nowhere close to what so many Indian women face. I was perhaps in Class VIII, when out of compulsion, I had to use a clean and dry dhoti as a pad. I too have washed and re-used the cloth, but I had the luxury of availability of clean water, an antiseptic and disinfectant like Dettol and sunlight. I didn’t have to struggle with any taboo. I now recall how my elder aunt would talk of life in her times — how everyone, of course, used old cotton saris and dhotis during periods, how privacy was never an issue because the men of the household would hardly come to certain sections of the house, which were exclusively the preserve of the women. Hers was, of course, a privileged upbringing.
The film is based on The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land, a short story from Twinkle Khanna’s book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, which, in turn, is inspired from the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham.There was more to come — many women used the same piece of cloth among other women of their household as menstrual cycles were different, some used the same piece of cloth for months till it tore off, others still were forced to have their uterus removed at a child-bearing age or face infections and risk of cervical cancer because of unhygienic menstrual practices. This is not to discount the restrictions and taboos they constantly faced.
Akshay Kumar as Lakshmikant Chauhan.They insisted that old clothes being contributed should adhere to a certain standard — no torn and tattered clothes were accepted, for instance.