Maybe it was the physical exertion resulting from ascending the 20-odd (give or take a few) kilometres from Tatopani to Ghasa, or the psychological stress and anxiety surrounding the trip to Nepal; maybe it was the release of a year’s worth of sexual and emotional frustration, or the unbridled exhilaration and disbelief at being able to complete the first day of the trek; maybe it was the ridiculously affordable and effective locally-brewed liquor or the canopy of stars blanketing the skies above me. The list of what can affect your menstrual cycle is rather long and unimaginative.
On the morning of the second day of the trek, I was awoken by an uneasy feeling in my stomach that immediately resolved itself to be the start of ‘that time of the month’. So there I was – ten days early, a person who has never been early even for a single day for all her post-pubescent life.
Disclaimer: Do you remember the girl, who runs around in white trousers while on her period, in the commercials for sanitary napkins? I am not that girl. I am the girl who falls unconscious from the pain in her belly and who the doctors tell that all she can do is pop pills. I hated helplessly swallowing down those pills.
I wasn’t alone and I did not want my weakness to derail the trek so I popped pain pills, sparing only seconds to curse the universe at large, as is routine, and started off. As I made the slow progress from Ghasa to Kokhethanti, I was quiet, breathless and alone for the most part, perennially lagging behind, ever so reminded of the fat to muscle ratio in my body. In the serenity of the world’s deepest gorge, amongst other things, my mind was a bundle of calculations.
Why can’t I tell my companions that I will need bathroom breaks oftener than usual? Why can’t I tell my companions that there’s a party in my uterus and I wasn’t invited to it? Why can’t I tell them that I need another minute before we start again? What is this strange sense of martyrdom that I am resorting to?
We climbed a mountain that day. I thought I was going to die.
The day after, we braved the infamous roaring winds of the Jomsom basin and crossed a river on foot. I thought I was going to die. I popped more pills that night and drank more local liquor (less affordable, the higher you are), the combined effect of which strung me up high as a kite. I slept like a baby that night, feeling triumphant, triumphant that in the war that my body was waging against me, it lost. I won.
It was the fourth day of the trek (and the third day of the period), when I couldn’t move a hundred metres without my legs giving away. I was foolish to believe that it would only get easier from the third day on. I was giddy and nauseated yet I refused to accept help or acknowledge that I may lose the war that day.
But I did lose the war that day: I resigned to take the bus. In the hours I gained by hiring a ride, staring at the dried blood at the base of my fingernails and biting down on bars of chocolate, I untangled the calculations.
Why is it easier to blame AMS for your inability to walk any further today? Consider this: once in every 35 days (barring the occasional irregularity), you are ill. Menstruation is not a weakness. Weakness assigns a sense of volition to itself. No. Menstruation is an illness, because what is illness but a condition of the body that you did not choose and only have an ounce of control over. You did not want to add to the prejudice against the physical abilities of women; to make matters worse your fat to muscle ratio also did not help your case. You wanted to prove that once in every 35 days, you were no less, but the truth is that you are less. Your body is expelling blood. Take the bloody day off.
Reaching the summit of the trek on the fifth day, at Muktinath, my happiness was still weighed down by the disappointment that I could not walk all the way, that I had somehow failed by revealing and succumbing to the ailments of my body.
I solemnly resolved to return, fitter and stronger, bereft of any malformed instincts to prove or validate the worth of womankind to mankind.
It is still sexism if you are trying to ‘equal’ a man. Women and men are not equal. Human beings, for that matter, are not equal to one another. Sexism only lies in the prejudices you derive from the differences.
Love Affairs In, With & After Nepal