Blood, Sweat, Turmeric

Shilpi Suneja in Guernica:

My very first period came to me like a stranger on a train. My parents and I were taking an overnight sleeper from Delhi to Bombay to visit my paternal grandmother. Because of a feud between her and my mother, Dadi and I had never met, but the stories I’d heard had already caused me to fear her more than anyone else in the world. Perhaps it was the dread of seeing her that sent my organs into overdrive, but sometime around the break of dawn I felt the urge to pee, and even though using a toilet on an Indian train is an exercise in an extreme form of Buddhist tolerance, I had my mother rush me there. I lifted my shirt, and from the folds of my ochre salwar, a blossoming field of red stared back.

I was convinced that sometime during the night, while we were sleeping, a man had snuck into our compartment on the train, entered my body, and punctured my delicate innards. I was thirteen and obsessed with Nancy Drew; I believed I could solve the mystery of my body’s behavior like my auburn-haired hero, by making a list of all possible suspects. By then I’d already been molested more times than I had fingers on my hands. Strange men had offered me their penises behind bushes, watchmen at chai stalls had aimed stones at my breasts with remarkable precision, and a family friend, a boy just a few years older, had explored my vagina with his teeth. What if the man came back to finish the job? I’d have to make sure I wasn’t alone for the rest of the journey.

More here.