In high school, my closest group of friends and I all somehow managed to work on Yearbook. After a long night of cropping photos, making layouts, and reciting lines from Titanic* we decided to call it a day. A friend joined me as I walked home. “So do you think we’ll have much of a weekend?” she asked. I snickered. “Yeah. A weekend dedicated to writing papers. I’ll probably go to the gurudwara with my family just to change things up a bit.” She laughed as she adjusted her peach-colored hijab. “Oh yeah? I can’t go to the mosque this weekend.” “Why not?” I asked. She paused for a moment. “Well, it’s because I’m having my period now. Women aren’t allowed to attend then.”

I didn’t say anything at first. I was debating whether to reply with either:

1. Um, I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.

2. What the fuck?

3. May I ask why?

or

4. I see. Interesting.

I chose #3. “You have to be clean and pure when you go to the mosque to pray. We aren’t seen that way when we are bleeding.”

Although I respected her reply and the beliefs she maintained, I couldn’t help but feel helpless, sad, and a bit angry for her. I was completely unfamiliar with such a scenario: the idea that something could restrict me from entering a place of worship. My friend, an educated, moral and spiritual young woman, was going home to help her mom feed her father and brothers (and probably clean up after them by herself) and yet she wasn’t allowed to attend prayer services because her body, designed by a higher power, was undergoing a process that she had no control over. A process that in part played a role in her ability to bear children without gender discrimination.

It was this conversation some 10 years ago that came to mind today as I sat behind and respectfully waved the chaur sahib over the Guru Granth Sahib. It was quite a moment for me when I realized that I,:

1. a woman

2. wearing jeans

3. with a cough and runny nose

and

4. in the midst of her period,

am able to tend to the embodiment of the gurus without fear of being criticized or punished. Neither time, place, appearance, nor circumstance dictates my ability to remember Waheguru. I can argue this using the ultimate feminist manifesto: it’s my choice and my choice alone. (Well, with Waheguru’s blessing of course, but you get what I mean.)

If only everyone could experience what we as Sikhs sometimes take for granted.

To the guys: please respect the period as a continuous cycle and not limit it to the time when someone may be PMS-ing. Respect its implications. And more importantly, to the women: Look inward and respect yourselves. Look outward and demand it from others. Honor your body and the sacred gift it shares.

* = denotes mild embarrassment

Advertisements