Tampered Spatial Anxieties

In the brahmin household, I followed her into the kitchen for a glass of water before I was asked to confirm my purity.

Photos by Prajaktha Gurung

I believe that the places we inhabit, the spaces we find ourselves in and our social relationships are all political. The spatial structuring of inequality begins right from these places and they have mostly served as my first encounters with the challenges of an intolerant world. 

Whilst visiting a family friend, I was yet again struck with the familiar question – “I hope you’re not on your periods?”. Belonging to a typical brahmin family, my mother’s friend seems to be anxious and volatile about maintaining the purity of her kitchen from women like me, who bleed and also do not belong to her caste. I believe that even within the caste system, women are a caste in themselves, going through not only the oppression meted out due to one’s caste identity but also because of one’s gender, a sort of double oppression. Identities overlap and they always exist in a spectrum for many of us. 

In the brahmin household, I followed her into the kitchen for a glass of water. Right before I could step inside, I was asked to confirm my purity. The women there went on to tell me about their family traditions and customs and about how they generally do not let women other than their own family members enter their kitchen. However, I was an exception since we were close. Access to this space is also a matter of my socio-economic background, which they do not particularly disapprove of. 

I politely told her I wasn’t menstruating when in fact I was. I could feel the blood on the cloth pad under my pants. She told me that it would be an act of desecration if any woman menstruating ever entered her kitchen. I didn’t ask her what she meant by ‘desecration’ but I did go inside the kitchen and made light conversation while the women cooked. 

I’ve done this several times in temples as well, where I’ve been asked if I was “clean”. This has become my own form of resistance. Sometimes I wonder how they would feel if they suddenly saw this red blob spotting my pants and how they’d react to it. What would be the consequences for me?

Prajaktha Gurung

Prajaktha Gurung

In a wide world of words, expressing is so simple yet so difficult. I could never write or speak the way I really feel- passionately, with hunger. My visuals are a space that doesn't dictate me to be someone or something. I create my own meanings that didn't exist before.