by Pankaj Yadav
NEW DELHI, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Conversing openly about sanitary pads used by women during menstruation had been a big taboo in the Indian society. But over a month there has been a craze about the thing, and even popular Bollywood stars are posting their pictures or selfies on social media holding a sanitary pad.
Initiated by famous film-actor Aamir Khan, of "3 Idiots" fame, now the "PadMan Challenge" has become a craze among the famous film-stars and other celebrities. This is all in the run up to a new movie "Padman" slated to be released on coming Friday. Normally, Bollywood movies are released on a Friday in India.
In the Indian society, menstrual sanitary pads have been a big taboo. Women feel shy buying them off the shelf. And the shopkeepers, as a matter of practice, wrap them in an opaque carry-bag to enable the women to take away without facing embarrassment. In families too talking about menstruation cycles, or sanitary napkins, openly is still considered an embarrassing situation and avoided religiously.
The film is based on the real life of a social worker "Arunachalam Muruganantham," a school dropout from Coimbatore district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. According to one of his employees, it all started in 1995 when Muruganantham gathered that local women used old rags for sanitary pads. Astonished, he tried making a prototype but that reportedly did not work.
Thereafter, he tried different materials making new models of sanitary pads every month. He tested them on his wife and a few students in a medical college. Though a few female students agreed to try them, they were shy to give him the right feedback.
It took him another two years to find the right material and another four years to come up with a way to process it. Finally, by the year 2000 Muruganantham's efforts bore results and he got manufactured an easy-to-use machine for producing low-cost sanitary pads. Soon Muruganantham's machine became a revolution, and so far, he has sold over 1,000 machines in almost every Indian state.
Muruganantham's machine costs around 5,200 U.S. dollars which includes raw material for making 10,000 pads.
"We send the machine, and then personally go to the spot to assemble it and also train the workers how make the sanitary pads and what kind of material is to be used. Our one sanitary pad costs nearly two Indian Rupees, as compared to other brands which are more than double or triple than our cost," says Kannan, one of Muruganantham's employees.
In one of the videos available on social media, Muruganantham says "even in the 21st century only 2 percent women in India use proper sanitary pads, others depend on old rugs or other unhygienic materials. The biggest reason is unaffordability. Poor women in rural areas can't afford the expensive pads sold by multi-national companies."
Now, women self-help groups (SHGs) in both rural and urban India buy his machine for making sanitary pads for the community, and sell the surplus. Thus, Muruganantham's machine has created jobs for women in rural India, besides spreading menstrual hygiene.
For his amazing feat, the "Time" magazine named him as one of the 200 most influential people in the world in 2014, and in the same year he got felicitated by Bill Gates in the United States. Two years later, he won the country's top civilian award "Padma Shri."