I love Bollywood movies, Lord knows I do. There is just something about them (the good ones) that leaves me wanting for more, each time I journey back to reality once the film is over. Most of the inspirational stories ever told on the silver screen, which I have thoroughly enjoyed are stories that stemmed from the country of India.
Exceptional movies like Lion (my favorite!) Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar arm and Dangal, are a few I hold near and dear to my heart, and now the prestigious movie, Pad Man just made the cut. Wonder why? Let's talk!
Introduced to this motion picture by my good friend, I was in awe of the exceptional true-life story of Arunachalam Muruganatham, a social entrepreneur, depicted by the amazing Askay Kumar. Primarily told in Hindi (with English subtitles), the movie takes us through the life of this great man, who hails from a small village, Tamil Nadu, and his rise to becoming a man of great influence.
The subject, Lakshmi, is a married man who lives in a house with his wife, mother, and two sisters. Surrounded by females, he begins to notice whenever they have their monthly visit with mother nature, as it was with Indian culture, especially practiced by those in the villages, they spend the time of their menstrual cycle outside the house. Lakshmi's wife also is uncomfortable discussing her period woes with her husband. That left me saying as I carried on; is he not your husband? what are you shy about?
So for five days out of the month, Lakshmi has to stay separated from his heartthrob. This becomes increasingly difficult to uphold as he loves his wife exceptionally well and desires to spend every waking moment with her. Just to give you a snippet of how much he adores his wife, he does all he can to provide for her, ensuring that she is comfortable, so she has no desire to return to her father's home.
But the monthly separation anxiety is one he has to contend with. Being unable to be with his wife sexually during those days, is one thing, but not getting busy with her when it is his sisters turn is another thing he wants no part in. If you are conversant with the way the female body operates, you will discover that if a group of women reside together, they get their period in turns, hardly at the same time.
Of course, this shouldn't be a big deal for Lakshmi, except the outdoor living area where the women usually set up camp for a period of five days, is outside his bedroom. And as such, enjoying his wife is no easy task; she does not want her sister-inlaws to pry into the most intimate times a husband would share with his wife. Which causes Lakshmi to lament—15 days out of the entire month? That can do a number on a married man's mental health (haha).
But this isn't his only frustration, for all of you that might be rolling your eyes at poor Mr. Lakshmi saying; marriage isn't only about sex!
One day he discovers his wife to be using a dirty rag in place of a sanitary pad. Broken by his discovery, he goes ahead to borrow some money to purchase pads for her.
She immediately refuses his kind gesture, scuffing at him she says—“55 rupees for a pack of pads?”
Certainly, this was no sustainable expenditure for a family of five, who all depend on Mr. Lakshmi for their daily bread.
A Passion is Ignited
Then Lakshmi decides that he is going to make pads for his wife and sisters. He confers with the local vendors who are experts in selling cotton, glue, and whatever else he thinks is needed to create this masterpiece, which conventional manufacturers, often use to rip off women, every month. The cotton he purchases is at an incredibly cheap price which pales in comparison to what the final product eventually sells for. He also purchases some pieces of clothing to wrap the cotton and seal it off with glue.
An ecstatic Mr. Lakshmi presents his wife with his million-dollar invention, expecting her to accept them with open arms. You would anticipate for every woman to fall in her husbands arms saying; you went through all these lengths just for me? little ole' me?
With the husband beaming with smiles, like someone who just conquered Goliath, but this isn't the case. Although reluctant, she receives it and decides to give it a go, when next her period comes around. Lakshmi waits for her in great anticipation like a dog wagging its tail at the sight of a treat it can see, only for him to discover she still uses the rag, a piece of cloth he wouldn’t even use to clean his bicycle. Lakshmi is disappointed.
Then Gayatri his beloved wife, reveals that when she used it, she got stained and it ruined her sari. This causes her to be no longer interested in his product and advises him to quit. His sisters aren't on board either, they mock him, telling him to leave the matters of women, to women. So Lakshmi is pushed to test his product on himself instead. Jesus is right when He says "no prophet is accepted in his hometown."
Lakshmi then sprinkles animal blood on the pad he created and puts it on not having a care in the world. He then goes around town on his bicycle and soon becomes a laughing stock as the blood has seeped through the cracks and created a map on his pants. This causes him utter embarrassment, which leads his in-laws to take his wife away from him; they couldn’t stand him embarrassing his wife any further on issues that only had to do with women.
If at all their move did anything, it was to motivate him to pursue his passion all the more. He had one goal and one goal only—to provide low-cost sanitary pads for women, especially those in his village. At the time it was said that only 12% of Indian women, in India, used pads.
Since no one in his family or circle of friends will give his product a try, he journeys to a near-by medical college and hands the products to some of the students to test it out. It is at this time he meets with Pari, a lady who would become instrumental in his journey. Slowly as they become acquainted, she suggests different ways as to how he can improve his product. At this time, he is also introduced to the internet, where he researches multiple ways on how to effectively design the product he so desired. (His story is taking place around 2001.)
After much tweaking, he gets a sense of approval from her. A medical student, commending an illiterate man? That is surely one for the books! Lakshmi calls home elated to share the good news with his wife, even if they are separated at the time, she hangs up the phone on him, stating that he is so obsessed with his venture and failed to ask about her well-being, for the first time.
Putting his wife's stank attitude to marinate on the back burner, he borrows money to design his low-cost sanitary pad production machine and is invited by Pari to an event where he could showcase his invention, and possibly win the competition. With the prize money, he could pay back his loan, and ramp up production. At the event, his invention was recognized as the life-changing innovation of the year, and he immediately becomes a fan favorite amongst his villagers. Lakshmi and Pari then apply for a loan from a local bank to design more machines, then outsource production to the local women, who learned how to use the machines and sold the products to other women.
UNICEF soon catches on to the great work that he is doing and invites him to New York City to deliver a keynote speech. Pari at this time begins to develop feelings for Lakshmi, I mean, who wouldn't? And Lakshmi’s wife, Gayatri realizes that her husband’s innovation has taken off, and wants to get back with him. Lakshmi is then caught between a rock and a hard place.
Pari is the one who believed in his dream and helped get him to where he is, but he also loves his wife so much, and all that he has accomplished was motivated by wanting to make life easier for her. So what is he to do? Eventually, he gets back with his wife, leaving Pari understandably heartbroken, although she realizes that Lakshmi is a good man and is devoted to his wife, no matter what. Other men would have fallen if given the opportunity, but Lakshmi dared to be different and she respected him for that.
Image courtesy of @indicarj
1) Live a purposeful life: Lakshmi discovered his purpose when he found out the unsanitary ways his wife and sisters took care of themselves during their menstrual cycle. He soon discovered that the majority of the women in his village had that same problem because pads were expensive. He then vowed to provide low-cost pads for them and fought tooth and nail to do so. Even when big companies approached him to commercialize his product/design, he refused, stating that if he obliged, the cost of pads produced with his machines were going to be the same as the products on the markets, so what was the point?
Their offer went directly against the cause he was dedicated to fighting.
In a time when everyone wants to become the next big thing, live in million-dollar homes, drive the best cars, fly on private jets to private beaches, Lakshmi teaches us that there is more to this life than material things we can amass. The Bible equates true riches to helping the poor and the needy, indicating that when you take care of those who can’t take care of themselves, that is when you are rich towards God. Lakshmi not only designed a product that could help women, by improving their health and productivity, but he also provided means for them to become independent.
Through his purpose, he was able to empower women who had no education, lacked skills, and were often reduced to just being at home, to live a purposeful life. Lakshmi provided them with job opportunities—opportunities that keep making a difference.
2) Love Unconditionally: this was the kind of love Lakshmi displayed with his wife. He tried to provide everything for her, he devised means to make her life easier, like creating a product which chopped onions, so his wife wouldn’t do so manually, all he did was to please her.
“Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”
Whilst I watched this movie with my sister-in-law, she was mad in the end that Lakshmi reconciled with his wife. She argued that she had treated him unfairly, and the other lady was the one who helped him become who he was, and as such, he owed her his love. But my counter-argument was with scripture; God loves us so unconditionally, that even when we treat Him unfairly, by all the atrocities we commit, still He loves us, and He is devoted.
That is why He commands husbands to love their wives the same way, and Lakshmi did so effortlessly. She was his driving force, and he wanted to let her know that no matter what, he was never going to leave her side, even when she made mistakes. In a world where divorce is so frequent and rampant, with people not giving their spouses, second chances, there is a vital lesson on love and marriage we can learn from this remarkable story.
This incredible work of art, based on the true-life story of Mr. Arunachalam was directed by R. Balki and produced by Twinkle Khana. It grossed $29 million worldwide, as well as becoming the tenth highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2018. Currently, the mini-machines which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, have been installed in 23 of the 29 states in India, with plans of expanding production of the machines to 106 nations, according to Wikipedia.org.
This movie is currently streaming on Netflix.
Be sure to watch it to see why it is a movie with a message. I believe such stories should be spotlighted now more than ever as a lot of people are focused on amassing material wealth. There is so much more to life, and a lot more to live for. When you make an impact on your generation or sphere of influence, that is when you have truly lived.
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About The Author: Evi Idoghor is a Christian, writer, and content creator on Letstalknationblog.com. She is also a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Consumed by her love for writing and desire to effect change, she launched her online platform to tap into her creativity and start meaningful conversations that would make a difference around the world.
Most of her writing has been influenced by her time spent in America, where she lived for about 11 years. Also, she lived in Nigeria and South Korea and currently loves traveling the world while learning about other fascinating cultures. You can find her on all social media platforms with @eviidoghor.