For those of you who follow my posts, you know how much I love movies – especially from Bollywood. This week I felt inspired to share about Padman- a comedy/drama just released this past month. It is based on the real life and achievements of a social entrepreneur from South India and how he invented a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine and revolutionized the thinking of many people who consider menstruation a taboo.
The story begins in 1998 when the newlywed Lakshmi realizes that his wife is using old rags during her menstrual periods. He is shocked because the rags are so dirty that he would not use them even to clean his bicycle. Out of his love and concern for his wife’s health and well-being, Lakshmi rides his bicycle 14 km from their village in Coimbatore (a town in Tamil Nadu- which is in South India) to a medical shop to buy a package of sanitary napkins which he wraps as a present for his wife. She refuses the gift since the cost is prohibitive. To afford the sanitary napkins for herself and the other women living in the household (Lakshmi’s younger sisters), the family would have to stop buying milk.
Here is where Lakshmi’s unassuming and unlikely hero’s journey begins. Even though he has only a ninth-grade education, based on his skills and aptitude as a welder and mechanic, he sets out to create a sanitary napkin that is effective and affordable for his wife and younger sisters. However, this is no easy feat. Not only does he face technical, manufacturing and financial challenges, but his mother, wife and sisters along with the rest of the village view his mission with shameful disgust.
Menstruation as taboo
The movie highlights the paradox how a girl reaching puberty and her marriage are celebrated with festivity, family, food and fun, but menstruation is a private, lonely, and shameful event. This is a time when most girls and women are shunned from temple, prayers, and confined to a separate area of the house away from the rest of the family members. Even the women attending a local medical college feel uncomfortable giving Lakshmi feedback on the sanitary napkins he has designed- because such matters are not to be openly discussed. Furthermore, as a man, Lakshmi’s intentions are misinterpreted as him being somehow perverted. What kind of man interferes in matters of women? Lakshmi is judged as being mentally sick and even as possessed by evil spirits. Eventually his wife and mother leave him, and he is shunned as an outcast from his village as well.
Accepting what is Given
The one thing that resonated most for me is the main character’s commitment and steadfast devotion to finding a resolution to this problem. At Coaching for Inner Peace, I share how our true power lies in changing how we see rather that what we see. Lakshmi teaches us that instead of seeing our life’s challenges as a sign of lack or something going wrong, we can instead choose to give this a purpose of healing, an opportunity to access inner resources that would otherwise remain dormant and idle.
To view a trailer of this movie, click here.
To view a video about Arunachalam Muruganantham, who is the real-life social entrepreneur and activist on whose life the movie Padman is based, click here.
As of this writing, the movie is currently playing at theaters so happy movie watching!