Aditi came into Arushi’s life when she was ten years old. Ten is a tumultuous age. Arushi wasn’t a little girl anymore, and did not like being treated like one. She was almost a young lady with opinions of her own. Though she was rebellious on Aditi’s attempts to come close to her, she still felt vulnerable and secretly craved a motherly figure to comfort her during times when she was confused or hurt. It had been more than four years since her mother had passed away, but it had left a hole in her heart and she missed her Ma terribly. Her father, Arjun’s job which involved extensive travelling didn’t help either.
And at such an age, Aditi came into her life. Aditi was aware that it was not going to be easy replacing her mother, and was happy to settle for being a friend. She tried her best to talk to Arushi. But Arushi snubbed every attempt she made. She did not like Aditi telling her anything. Her response always was ‘Stop acting like my Ma!’ The more Aditi tried, the more Arushi resented her trying to become a part of their family. Aditi was heartbroken, and tossed and turned on most nights, wondering how she could create a bond between her and her step daughter. Archaic fairy tales like ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’ didn’t help step mother’s image either!
A year passed by, and Aditi slowly began observing changes in Arushi. She was getting more sensitive and liked spending quiet time of her own. Her breasts had begun to swell and armpits had started showing light hair. One day, she saw Arushi fretting over a spot on her face. ‘My baby is growing’, thought Aditi. She continued her attempts to get close to Arushi, but was shut down even more now. She tried talking to Arjun about it, but it was a busy time of the year for him. ‘We will talk about it soon dear. Let’s all go on a family vacation once I am done with my year-end closing. I am sure it will help us bonding as a family.’
Soon one day she came to know that they had ‘The Period Talk’ in school. The class teacher had encouraged the parents to talk about the issue openly at home as well to make sure the kids were comfortable talking about it and saw it as a natural phenomenon. That evening Aditi came to Arushi’s room and gently broached the subject. ‘Do you want to talk about what was discussed in school today?’ she asked. But Arushi just shrugged. ‘Well, inside every girl are parts which help her grow a baby. Every month the body takes steps to grow a baby even if the girl isn’t ready to have a baby yet. An egg is produced in a baby bag, and this is discarded if the girl is not ready for a baby yet. This causes bleeding, and the process is called menstruation. You might notice a few more changes in your body,’ said Aditi, and went on to explain these further.
‘They told me all that in school’, Arushi said curtly. Aditi sighed, and thought inwardly, maybe she will come to me when the time comes.
‘Please come to me if you have any questions dear, or just feel like talking’, she said tenderly, and walked away quietly.
The very next week, Arushi’s tummy was hurting. She was cramping, but tried not to show it to Aditi. Crankily she retreated to her room, shutting Aditi’s attempts to ask her what was wrong, and if she was feeling ok. By the next morning, she noticed some discharge on her undergarment. ‘Blood!!!!’ Now she was scared! She slipped to Aditi’s room and said, ‘I have something to show you’ and she held up her panty. ‘It’s alright dear. Let me get something for you,’ said Aditi gently. She got her a pad and showed her how to fix it. ‘Is your tummy hurting?’ ‘Very much so’, said Arushi as her eyes welled up. She gave Arushi a warm heat pad to ease her cramps, made a warm bowl of cinnamon and chocolate porridge, and asked her to lie down for a while.
Just as she was leaving the room, making sure Arushi was comfortable, she heard Arushi ask softly, ‘Ummm…Can we talk?’
‘I would love to’, replied Aditi. They talked over an hour. Arushi asked all about periods, pains, pms, how Aditi has felt when she had started her periods and lots more. And then, just when Aditi was about to leave, Arushi murmured softly, ‘Thanks………………… MA!’
Aditi couldn’t help tears streaming down her face. She finally had a bond with her daughter. One which would last forever.