A comic book, a video that has gone viral…Menstrupedia is getting everyone to talk about a topic that was once taboo

Remember the day when you were playing in school and discovered a red stain on your white skirt? Everyone stared as if you were an alien. For many girls in India, the memory of their first periods is filled with moments of shock and embarrassment. Such moments find their way into a comic book by Menstrupedia’s founders, designer couple Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul and programmer, Rajat Mittal. The book is scheduled to be launched in January 2014.

Menstrupedia.com is a website that explains menstruation in an entertaining manner using cartoons and illustrations. The founders raised money for the book through crowdfunding. Almost 175 people have contributed to their project from 86 cities across the world. “The book will be launched in Hindi and English and then in other regional languages,” says Aditi.

The book features three adolescent girls undergoing different stages of puberty. “One has attained puberty, another gets her periods as the narrative progresses and third is on the verge of getting there. We have also created a character called Didi; a doctor, she clears their doubts without sounding preachy,” says Tuhin.

The conversations take place in the drawing room; not in a clinic. “We wanted to create a friendly ambience and put across the point that menstruation is not a disease; that it needs to be talked about,” says Tuhin.

The comic is designed like a textbook so that children can use it for reference. “The narrative is non-linear. So, they can randomly pick the book and start reading from any page. Some parts of the text carry bold fonts to highlight facts,” says Tuhin.

The idea of menstrupedia occurred to Aditi and Tuhin, when the couple was studying in National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Tuhin found it disturbing to see Aditi go through a painful phase every month. “I grew up with two brothers. I was aware of periods, but did not know that it involved so much pain. Finally, I urged her to check online for some information that would help her.”

They found that very few sites presented information in a simple manner. “That’s when we decided to launch Menstrupedia. Tuhin made use of his design and storytelling skills, while Rajat handled the technological aspects ,” says Aditi.

In just about a year, the online platform has met with good response. They have an interactive page where one can post queries and get them answered by experts. Their two-and-a-half minute video, Beauty of Red has gone viral on Facebook and Youtube.

Joy or shame?

Created by mypromovideos, an animation group based out of Coimbatore, the video talks about how red, once a colour of joy becomes a colour of shame for a girl as she becomes a woman.

“There is a sense of negativity you associate with periods. There are so many dos and don’ts — don’t go to the temple, do not enter the kitchen and do not sit with others. We want to break these taboos,” says Aditi.