when it pours, muscles twist
like a towel rinsed by hand needs
to be wrung hard to squeeze excess
water out; and it becomes a habit,

frustrations of waking up to stains
in impossible spots, triumph of
accurate predictions where fails
calendar in its counts;

for it comes and goes as it pleases,
too much, too little, days of acute
discomfort before, uncertain days
after, nightmarish during;

twice a month, once in two even,
longer than mandated, then worries
sow their seeds; when it ceases
for weeks, some gel and a sensor

discover extra toppings cradling
the ends of the tubes, nothing a
little weight loss, and bunch of
pills cannot regulate; until

gains return, armed with sacs
of fluid, home again, vicious
cycle in motion; chocolate and
sugar cravings, hot water baths

on particularly clotty days, desire
to stay curled up like an armadillo;
but what can be detested when even
the goddesses have their days

which with pomp do we celebrate,
four days mid-June, Bhudevi and
her rajas cycle; when girls dress in
their finest, adorned in jewellery,

hands stained in mehendi, feet painted
red in alata, liquid kumkum in elegant
designs on forehead; doli under trees,
days in play and dance and rest spent,

with merry folk songs in the air;
indulgent helpings of podapitha served
in honour of fertility, potential mothers,
the wrenching pain hailed in reverence.

Author’s Glossary:

Rajaswala: (Sanskrit) menstruating woman
Bhudevi: Goddess Earth, wife of Lord Jagannath
Rajas: (Sanskrit) menstruation
Mehendi: henna dye
Alata: (Odia) liquid dye, red in colour, usually applied on hands and feet during festivities
Liquid kumkum: multi-coloured liquid dye applied mostly on foreheads
Doli: (Odia) a makeshift swing
Podapitha: an Odia delicacy

Manisha Sahoo
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