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Let’s Put A Period To The Drama Around Menstrual Leave

A positive move that doesn’t warrant all the outrage.

19/08/2017 10:54 AM IST | Updated 19/08/2017 10:54 AM IST
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"She has passed out twice already," my friend Tanu said, in a worried tone. We went to Shama's room where she was throwing up, yet again. I could not bear to see this and rushed out of the room, in tears.

I had always had a difficult time during my periods and they were awfully painful, but I never threw up or passed out. I talked to Tanu and we discussed how every person's body, physiology, and biology is different and my experience, therefore, might not be the same as someone next door, or for that matter, someone living in the same household.

Your experience may not be the same as that of others. Don't assume that you represent an entire species, everybody is different, everybody's physiology is different.

It was the beginning of my work life. I had just started my professional journey and was a trainee at the time. Although earning only a stipend, I was now officially employed. Work was serious and so was I. Taking a day off from my job every single month was a complete no no. Popping pills and struggling through the first day of my periods was something I had to live with, for the rest of my life, I had told myself.

Life moved on and so did I. From Delhi, I was now in the city of dreams, Mumbai. I had bagged my dream job and now had access to an in-house physician consultant. I had only one question for him every time I visited him—would I ever get rid of this pain that came like an uninvited guest every single month? The physician told me I was absolutely healthy and there was nothing wrong with me. All he could do was prescribe painkillers. When nothing helped, I called one of my friends who worked in the medical field and who I trusted completely. His recommended medication is something I take to date to deal with the massive pain that I get every month.

We were a batch of new hires and all lived in the same building. There was a huge park in the compound that I rarely visited as I worked late most nights. This was perhaps an unusual day when I decided to leave office earlier than usual. As I was walking by the park, I saw Sia sitting there. She told me she had to come back from work because she just could not bear the pain of her periods sitting in the office chair. I asked her if she needed anything, but she said she was doing better.

Unless someone is abusing this privilege, it does not call for any outrage or drama.

Mumbai, it turned out, was not the last stop of my journey. I moved to the US. Here I have seen people take time off on the first day of their periods. Recently someone from another country visited and told us that their company offered one day paid leave to their women employees on the first day of their periods. My colleagues and I commended the move and thought it was a great step towards acknowledging that there may be some people who genuinely need such leave.

I have many more stories to share, and I am pretty sure you do too. It isn't a secret that many women suffer unbearable pain during periods. Painkillers are seldom helpful, even if they provide temporary relief—there is so much more than just pain that we go through.

I am not saying that everyone needs time off from work during their periods, but I also believe that there are many who do. I know some women experience no pain during periods and I also know women who go through hell during that time.

Recently a company in India announced paid leave for first day of periods for its women employees. And I saw many people declaring it "urban privilege" because they never took any days off during their periods. At the cost of repetition, let me say it—your experience may not be the same as that of others. Don't assume that you represent an entire species, everybody is different, everybody's physiology is different. Don't waste your energy outraging against a move that could really help some people. Unless someone is abusing this privilege, it does not call for any outrage or drama.

Paid leave on the first day of periods is a positive move and I am glad that it is gradually picking up in different parts of the world. I would just urge women to not abuse this wonderful privilege extended to them so that those in real need of it can benefit from it.

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