All hail the "Tampon King," 49 year old Arunachalam Muruganantham, whose obsession with developing the perfect low-cost and localized sanitary napkin has revolutionized that time of the month for many Indian women.
Muruganantham's rise to period power started when he asked his wife why she was gathering dirty rags around the house. He was shocked when she told him that she was using them for her period, because she had to choose between purchasing expensive sanitary napkins at the store and buying, say, dinner for their family. (Working very hard here not to be snarky about his sudden realization that his wife of many years was stuffing gross rags in her underwear on the regular, because, well, just listen to the rest of the story.)
In some parts of India (and in many developing countries around the world), menstruation is still a taboo subject; women are considered "unclean" while on their period. It was not so in the Tampon King's house. Muruganantham became so devoted to constructing the perfect pad that he once wore a football bladder of animal blood to test out a prototype and was kicked out of his home by villagers after he started storing used napkins from medical students. (Sidenote: why was he dubbed the Tampon King if he developed sanitary napkins? I guess "Pad Prince" just doesn't have the same ring to it?) Even his wife and mother thought he was crazy and temporarily abandoned him, which seems like a dick move — but I guess you can't talk until you've walked a mile in someone else's bloody shoes.
Finally, Muruganantham cracked the code by calling a US-based multinational company and asking which raw materials he needed. The answer surprised him: wood pulp. (Who woulda thunk?) Now, his award-winning napkins are produced by groups across rural India, and he is in talks with several African countries about reproducing his low-cost model (his napkins sell for as little as 10 rupees, way cheaper than multinational brands) elsewhere.
Everyone wins: women across remote parts of India are finding job opportunities thanks to his local and co-operative production model, fewer people are stuffing dirty rags in their underwear, and Muruganantham's wife and mother don't have to worry about stepping on bladders of animal blood.
"We feel a lot more freedom," one 25-year-old woman said about the napkins. "It gives us a lot more freedom to go out." We'll know India's women have truly caught up to us, sanitary napkin-speaking, when they rep the pads while jumping around on a beach dressed in white.
The 'Tampon King' who sparked a period of change for India's women [The Independent]
Image via Colour/Shutterstock.