Uma Bista: Stay Home, Sisters
The first memories of a twelve-day confinement: restricted from going outdoors into the sunlight, from seeing any male family members, fear and uncertainty, days and nights of my eyes fixed on the ceiling while rays of light came and went…
This was my first period.
It took time to grasp the taboo surrounding menstruation. Even now I’m still trying to understand it.
Despite being outlawed, Chhaupadi –– the banishment of women and girls from family activities during menstruation –– is widely practiced across Western Nepal. Each month, women are subjected to a ritual of isolation. Deemed impure, they are often forced to stay in cowsheds. Elsewhere in the country, the oppression takes other forms. In every Nepali household, the fight is with the older generation. Mothers make their girl child suffer just as they and their mothers had, under the same patriarchal oppression, subjected to the same dark rooms, to the same fear so deeply rooted, upholding the same harmful beliefs. The young are told that while they may enjoy certain freedoms in today’s society, they must follow these rules and restrictions inside their home. But where is outside? Who are the outsiders? In my previous work, Our Songs from the Forest, an old woman is heard singing, “Stay home, sisters” in the Achhami dialect. Stay Home, Sistersis an inquiry into the psychological trauma passed down through the generations.