He has been the talk of the town with his Period art project that has gone viral for all the right reasons. Through his art work, he is bringing to the fore a very important discussion about women and menstruation, which is the need of the hour after the government levied 12 percent GST on sanitary napkins.
Meet Raj Kamal Aich, an artist by profession (he is an art consultant with a media house), who is in the news these days and is being lauded for his art work where he illustrates blood soaked sanitary napkins and tampons.
So here we are, in conversation with him where he talks about menstruation, the hypocrisy of the Indian society, GST, and more.
For World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th) he decided to buy a pack of tampons and pads for his project and this was the first time he actually held a tampon. He also described the scenario where the shopkeeper gave him an awkward glance as soon as he asked for pads and tampons. “When I received this awkward response, I realised the plight of women who have to face this on a daily basis, especially when they have to go buy sanitary napkins for themselves,” he exclaimed.
India is a country where we are always hush-hush (and like to sweep it under the carpet) about menstruation and conversations regarding the same. Aich did not really have a clue as to how people would respond to his work. But he still went ahead with a series of 7 to 8 artworks surrounding the taboo topic.
And then, GST happened. “I’m probably of the idea that something which is so necessary and so natural should have been given more priority over bindis or even sindoor. It is quite insensitive to tax women for bleeding,” he stated.
He next discusses how growing up as a man in a patriarchal society, he was quite unaware of the problems that women faced during their periods. “It was only when you start dating, or living with your partner, you realize how this (menstruation) is a part of who she is. If you really love a woman, this is what makes her woman. And there’s nothing to be ashamed about it”. He then admitted how the series of images were posted on Instagram in the month of May, but only became viral a couple of days back after an American lady re-posted it.
When asked about his message to the government (if any), his response was, “They need to find cheaper alternatives for women given the fact that India is a country where about 70 to 80 percent of women do not have access to sanitary napkins and resort to using a cloth, which makes them vulnerable to infections, if you come to think of it. We definitely come from privileged backgrounds, but think about those from rural areas. What do they do?”
Raj Kamal Aich likes to call himself an artist as opposed to an activist and states: “The irony is that we are a country that worships goddesses, but then women aren’t allowed to enter temples when they’re menstruating. This is hypocrisy at its very best.”
About his male friends, he discloses how some weren’t even aware of what a tampon is or even looks like. He doesn’t blame them because in a society that we live in, we sometimes take women for granted. And this project did, in a way, help him clear all misconceptions that most men he knew had about periods.
“As a man I sometimes question myself. Do I really need to bleed myself in order to understand a woman? No, right? And if you were wondering this is some sort of a political agenda, then no, this isn’t. Also, I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I’m just a normal human being. I don’t really know the definition of feminism, but if you call this feminism, then you can call me a feminist,” he exclaims.
When asked whether he seeks to bring about a change in the society with this project, he straightforwardly concluded with, “We all have a responsibility towards society and this will certainly bring about a conversation. Changing the world is not in my hands, but bringing awareness surely is”.