Aditi Gupta and her mentor Gayatri MenonAditi Gupta, co-founder of Menstrupedia, pays tribute to her NID project guide Gayatri Menon who understood her commitment to menstruation education when few others did
“I was never a teacher’s pet. I met with a major accident in childhood and spent my time recovering, rather than shining at academics. We lived in a small town – Garhwa in Jharkhand – and it was my parents, rather than teachers, who were there for me.
“My first true mentor was Gayatri Menon, my project guide at the National Institute of Design (NID). Up until I got to NID, everyone had discouraged me from taking on menstruation education. My now husband Tuhin Paul and I had participated in incubation programmes, and ended up being bullied by the so-called ‘mentors’. Gayatri was very different. She understood society, education, gender and gender norms very well; she even understood where I came from – how I had not had access to sanitary napkins, not because my parents could not afford them, but because buying them was considered shameful. I struggled with all of these thoughts, my history. Gayatri pushed me to read books, watch documentaries, go through tons and tons of research papers. She recommended I read The Naked Woman by zoologist Desmond Morris and watch Anand Patwardhan’s Father, Son And Holy War – both were eye openers on gender dynamics in society. I use those learnings, the mindset she helped me cultivate, even today when solving an issue related to gender.
“In NID, there are faculty juries who evaluate your work, rather than exams. Having suffered years of discouraging teachers, I used to be fearful and intimidated, but Gayatri knew how to motivate me to work things out. She would show me a completely new way of looking at things, make gentle suggestions to clarify what was in my head. Not many understood what I was doing, why I was doing it – I had given up a prestigious internship in Mumbai with a handsome stipend to concentrate on this project, so Gayatri’s support and encouragement were precious.
“Today, the Menstrupedia comic is read beyond India. It is locally printed in eight countries in their native languages. The tools, the strategy, yes, they have evolved over time, but it was under Gayatri’s guidance that it all first truly took shape. And she has always been mighty proud of us and how far Menstrupedia has come.”
As told to Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza
Also see: Arundhati Bhattacharya Has Always Admired Mentor Bharati Rao’s Outlook