The next morning after our daughter was born I found myself in the kitchen making coffee. Actually I was full of energy and felt great. Our neighbour already had heard about the good news and stepped in for a visit. When he saw me in the kitchen, his eyes became big like saucers.
“What are you doing in the kitchen?!?”
he asked. With the coffee maker in my hand I answered with a grin
He asked me for a small plastic jug and said that he would be back in a minute, dashing out of the door. Indeed, he came back pretty quickly and immediately started to sprinkle a liquid from the jug with the help of a leafy twig not only over me and my coffee, but also all over the place.
“What is it?”
I wanted to know
“Cow urine. Purifying!”
He also told me that from now on I was not to enter the kitchen and that I had to stay in my room for the next ten days.
Right, I forgot!
Women after giving birth or while they are having their period are considered impure in India, and so is everything they touch. I assumed that it was not a very good idea to ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee…
I shook my head and once more was amazed about the cultural differences: A perfect and beautiful little being just came into life through my body and I was impure, but cow piss was not?!?
I think that actually in case of confinement after birth the true reason behind it is to give the woman a real rest from all the hard work in an Indian household, to take care of her changing body and to get to know the newborn. Maybe one day women told men something about impurity so they would understand and respect that very womanly matter, I don’t know. Birth and its details are exclusively considered a ladies’ issue here, so people were pretty shocked when they learned that Baba was not only present during birth, but in fact received the baby with his own hands.
Menstruation, of course, is also a big mystery to most common Indian men, just to tell you that once I went to buy diapers and the shop keeper gave me sanitary pads! During these days of the month women are also not allowed to step into the kitchen and are supposed to keep a physical distance to others. On the last day she has to undergo a purification ceremony and wash her hair. In this case, too, I personally think that in the beginning women had the need to be with themselves to connect to their strong meditative energies that are part of the menstrual cycle. Somehow knowledge got lost, forgotten and manipulated and therefore at some point turned “impure”. Maybe because men were scared of the unknown and the energies involved. But, even if it seems so, in the West it is not much better: Menstruation is considered nothing but an annoying monthly phenomenon. But the sacredness, wisdom and deepness behind it has mostly been forgotten.
Anyways, it might be nice for the new mother to get a total rest and in Indian families there are usually several females living in the same household or at least present after a child was born. They are allowed to step into the “polluted” room where mother and baby are resting and are there for all their needs.
Well, Baba and I were alone. Was I supposed to die of thirst if I needed a glass of water when Baba was not in the house, because I couldn’t step into the kitchen?!? We managed it our own way and the house would be sprinkled anyways again and again with cow piss if visitors would come by; and like that it would be purified again! Problem solved!