America has Superman, Batman, Spiderman and India has Padman, who wore a sanitary pad himself to break a Taboo and tried to solve Menstruation related problems that every Indian girls had to face.
Meet Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham aka Padman, the real superhero of Indian society whose real life story is all set to hit the big screen on 26th January, 2018.
Known as the Khiladi of Bollywood, Akshay Kumar has done umpteen number of action movies throughout his career, but strangely he has never portrayed a superhero in any of his films but it seems like his wife Twinkle Khanna has finally brought out the superhero in him in Padman.
Padman is a biographical comedy drama based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, written & directed by R.Balki featuring Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte & Sonam Kapoor in lead roles & cameo appearance by Amitabh Bachchan. Arunachalam, a social activist from Coimbatore in Tamilnadu, is the man behind world’s first low cost machine for making sanitary napkins. He is credited for innovating grassroots mechanism for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.
Menstruation related problems in India vs the rest of the world
Yes, Menstruation is still a taboo subject to India. It’s 2018 & most of us know that Menstruation is the natural part of the Female reproductive cycle in which Blood & mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus exits through the vagina. However, Indian girls have to experience many difficulties everyday since ancient time and we’re listing out 7 real problems that most of the Indian girl have to undergo –
1. Menstruation and Mythology
Culturally in many parts of India Menstruation is still considered dirty & impure. There is a story described in Sreemad Bhagavad Purana of Indra killing Vishwarupa and to get rid of the sin , he distributed his sin of killing a brahmana (Brahma hathya) in four parts to Earth, Water, Trees and Women. So, people believe that guilt of killing a brahmana appears every month as menstrual flow in Women.
2. When a natural process makes you impure
In many parts of India, girls are still restricted from entering pooja rooms, kitchen & also from offering prayers & touching holy books while menstruating & considered to get purified before they are allowed to return to their family & day to day chores of their life.
Kamakhya temple of Guwahati Assam has an annual fertility festival called Ambuwasi Puja in which the goddess is said to be going through her yearly menstrual cycle. The temple remains closed for three days and opens up with great festivities on Day 4. On one side, a girl cannot worship god during her periods, but on the other side we worship the bleeding goddess.
3. When animals are better than us
Menstruation is the characteristic feature of Primates like humans and is also seen with Gorillas, Chimps & Orangutans which are evolutionarily similar but We don’t see any instances in the animal world where other primate species distant their female partners from the herd during their menstrual cycle. We don’t see it either with the rest of the world. It happens only in India.
4. Sssshhhhhh…Don’t talk about this
Despite being a phenomenon unique to girls, this has always been surrounded by secrecy & myths in many societies.The silence & shame around the menstrual cycle has caused severe problems for Girls. Many girls and women are subjected to restrictions in their daily lives simply because they are menstruating.
5. Its time to do some diet
Some strict dietary restrictions are also followed during menstruation such as sour food like pickle,curd and tamarind are usually avoided.
6. No education when you enter into adulthood
Such taboos about menstruation present in many societies impact on girls’ and women’s emotional state, mentality , lifestyle and most importantly, health. Large number of girls in many less economically developed countries drop out of school when they begin menstruating. This includes over 23% of girls in India.
7. I’m a girl and I don’t know what sanitary pad is
There are health and hygiene issues also to consider relating to Women and menstruation. Over 77% of menstruating women in India use an old cloth, which is often reused. Women of rural India uses sand, ashes and straw instead of Sanitary Pads. This makes them extremely prone to reproductive tract infections and their varied adverse consequences.
8. You become impure when you bleed, you become neglected when you don’t bleed
There comes the Padman
Many years passed but nobody cared about their poor situation. Then, a school dropout from Coimbatore, Muruganantham decided to challenge the ‘taboo’. Muruganantham, whose father was a handloom worker, was well aware of the nitty-gritties of machine and cottons,what he didn’t know was the hardship faced by women during the menstrual cycle,something he learnt from his wife Shanthi in 1998. He was shocked by the fact that women often used things such as old rags, sand, leaves and even ash while they were on periods.
His struggle in the early days
He soon fashioned a sanitary pad out of cotton and asked his wife to use it. But he couldn’t wait for a month to get the feedback.Then he went to his sister who refused to use it. After that he approached the local college medical college students but did not get any fruitful result. It was then when he decided to try it on himself.He created a ‘uterus’ for himself from a football bladder and filled it with goat’s blood.He mixed an additive to prevent the blood from clotting but the smell did not stop. He used to roam around the whole day with the bladder tied under his clothes.His aim was to check the absorption rate of the sanitary napkins made by him. It took him two years and three months to discover what sanitary pads are made of and almost after four-and-a-half years, he successfully created a low-cost machine for the production of sanitary napkins.
Out of 943 entries in a competition for a national innovation award, his machine came first.
Today, he is successfully running a napkin business, Jayashree Industries, with 2003 units across India, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. More than 21,000 women employees work in his venture.
He was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014 and in 2016, he was awarded the Padmashri.
So this is the extraordinary story of an ordinary person and we can proudly say that our nation truly needs more people like him. We need more people who can free women from this myths & taboos. Women need to have more access to information and sometimes they just need to talk about those doubts, worries and queries and we should solve these Menstruation related problems. We need to educate Boys as well so that Menstruation is viewed as something natural and not treat it like an alien concept. Families need to talk about it openly & not shy away from it. So that every women can proudly say #HappyToBleed !!!!
Let’s enjoy the trailer for now, and get ready to book the tickets before it hits the silver screen