My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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2 July 2015

In which I become a full on crunchy granola hippy and switch to a menstrual cup

"A young girl tender as a flower" HOLY WOW THAT'S SOME COPY
It looked sort of weird.

The pink silicone cup came in a slightly torn envelope, sitting in a cloth pouch. No doubt some curious courier man en route had tried to fiddle with it, maybe to filch the interesting feeling contents. However, he probably dropped it like a hot potato if he even glimpsed the text on the pamphlet that came with it.

She Cup: “Let Womanhood Bloom Without Gloom.”

More and more I’ve been getting glimpses of our future on this planet, and it’s not so much sci-fi and aliens as it is the grim garbage dump depicted by Pixar’s Wall-E. And it’s not entirely preventable because there are more people on the planet now than there ever have been and this is just going to grow. But, what we can do is make that garbage dump grow a little less faster.

I began thinking of menstrual cups idly when an acquaintance came over for dinner a few years ago and went on about it. She said she loved hers, it was easy to use, especially when travelling through the villages of India where there aren’t friendly local chemists to restock you and disposal is hard. She was the first one to put the image in my mind of a child rooting through a garbage dump and picking up a used tampon. Which is a disgusting picture, but sadly too true.

The thinking woman needs to think about her period. I was reading a Yahoo article the other day that really brought the stats home to me. Called “Why are we pretending there isn’t a growing mountainof menstrual waste we need to deal with?” by Nidhi Jamwal, the article cites some shocking statistics. 9000 tons of menstrual waste every year! This is clogging up drains, filling up landfills and worse: being incinerated which releases toxic gases into the atmosphere. And still because it’s such a taboo (as I have addressed in a previous column), no one discusses the environmental damage out loud.

The article mentions reusable cloth pads as an alternative, but not the cup. The pads didn’t appeal to me at all, and I’m not sure they’d appeal to a modern young woman. All that washing! All that walking around with blood in your underwear all day! It doesn’t sound very appealing. But with the cup, you remove it, dump the contents in the toilet (maybe twice a day with heavy flow?), wash and re-insert. It couldn’t be easier.

Actually, I’m surprised we aren’t being marketed more period stuff. It’s the one thing advertisers can say are “just for girls!” They could pink it up as much as they liked. They could put cartoons on them like Hello Kitty or pretty flowers and girls might Instagram their pads just to show off their designs. And in this space, there’d be room for more companies with healthy alternatives. I mean, since food has already become such an organic space, why not the other things that we put into our bodies—arguably into the most tender parts of us?

So, I decided to take one for the team and ordered a menstrual cup online. The most accessible one seemed to be the She Cup, a bit cumbersome for those used to a smooth e-commerce experience, but delivery was fast after I made the transfer. Now all I had to do was use it.

I folded the silicon cup in my hand until it was a c-shape. Even folded, it looked rather intimidating and foreign, not something you’d be easy about putting into your body. But the accompanying instructions told me to “do it fast” and soon I’d be a pro, they promised. I took a deep breath and tried—and it wasn’t that bad. Granted I’ve been a tampon user for some time, so I’m used to the idea, but there’s a difference between an innocuous small tube and a bulky looking cup, which always looks bulky, no matter how much you fold it. Surprisingly, as soon as I had inserted it, it was just as the instructions promised: I couldn’t feel a thing. The She Cup holds about 12 ml of liquid—which seems like a lot—so you only have to empty it on very heavy days or once a day. I’m so used to pads and tampons I just wrote “change it” instead of “empty it.”

One last thing I did for the environment: as soon as my parcel came, I put it up on Instagram. Now two of my friends have ordered it already, and a few more are contemplating it. “It’s an absolute game changer,” promised one of my Instagram followers. I hope so. Think of all the money I’ll save—not to mention the trees! 

UPDATE: So I used the She Cup all through my last period. The first time removing it was a bit like that shower scene in Psycho, blood everywhere. I was rather agile about it *self back pat* so most of it ended up inside the toilet bowl and not everywhere else, but there was still a little clean up. Also, it helps that in my loo, the sink is right next to the pot, so I could just reach over. That was slightly tricky, and you've got to be okay with blood on your fingers (washable!).

By day three, I was an old pro. I even managed to rinse it out right over the pot instead of leaning over to the sink. What was also fascinating (for me) was watching how the blood changed as my cycle finished. From the torrential gush of days one and two, to a more lady like cup of deep burgundy to finally just a few droplets every day. It was quite cool learning what my body did and what my body produced, something I never thought of all these TWENTY ONE!!! years. 

Also on day one, I miscalculated how often to change the cup, so I had one little accident, but after that, I started to change it every four hours or so. It's easy enough to pick up once you get used to the rhythm of your body. 

When I was done I washed it with the accompanying soap strips, boiled it in a saucepan to sterilise as recommended and left it there till the water cooled down. Then I popped it back into its cloth pouch. For the squeamish, it's best to sit with your legs really far apart, breathe out a few times to relax and then try and insert it.

Also, there's Silky Cup available on Amazon for easier ecommerce/cheaper.  

(a version of this appeared as my column on


  1. Yay! Welcome to the fold (pun totally intended, as I said to someone else on the sustainable menstruation-related group on FB) :) Just to add: you'd want to empty the cup at least thrice a day... that's about 8-hour intervals, so as to reduce the chance of a toxic shock. I've gone 12 hours a couple of times when I got busy / forgot that I was on my period, but it's not recommended.

  2. Have you heard of thinx? I've heard great reviews!

  3. Thanks for posting about your experience with this environmentally friendly product. Got me thinking and feeling guilty about all the landfill waste that is produced due to disposable sanitary pads :( Feels a bit scary to use the cup but am sure after one takes the first step and with practice, one can manage fine.

  4. Seriously? I'm beginning to seriously seriously think about this. Well I'm going to have to give it a go now!


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