Wife's plight prompted real pad man to innovate

Last Updated 08 February 2018, 21:05 IST

The much-awaited social drama 'Pad Man', starring Akshay Kumar and directed by R Balki, is finally reaching the audience today. The story of a man on a mission who broke all social taboos has been garnering attention on social media.

The saga of the real pad man, Arunachalam Muruganantham, goes back to 1998 when he got married. He noticed that his wife Shanthi was collecting filthy rags and newspapers to use as sanitary napkins since the ones available at the store were expensive.

That's when he made it his mission to make sanitary napkins. He started by making pads out of cotton which were rejected by Shanthi and his sisters. He even went to a few medical students to be test subjects but they too refused to help him.

He looked for female volunteers who could help him but, as many would expect, they were too shy to discuss their menstrual issues with Arunachalam. So he decided to test it on himself. He created a 'uterus' for himself by using a football and filled it with goat's blood. He roamed with this tied under his clothes. This was his way of checking the absorption rate of the napkins. When this became a problem with the villagers, he decided to distribute these cotton pads to medical students for free as part of his research.

It took him nearly two years to understand that commercial pads used cellulose fibres derived from pine park wood pulp; it helped the pad retain the shape. But as the imported machines were expensive, he devised a low-cost machine that could do the same thing.

His hard work finally paid off and in 2006, he visited IIT Madras to present his idea and they registered his invention for the National Innovation Foundation's Grassroots Technological Innovations Award. He won. He then founded Jayaashree Industries and his commitment has since earned him several awards.

Arunachalam's story became the subject of the prize-winning documentary 'Menstrual Man' by Amit Virmani and 'Phullu' by Abhishek Saxena. The rest is history.

As Balki's 'Pad Man' releases today, a delighted Arunachalam says, "This is the first mainstream movie being made and when a superhero does it, the awareness will spread."

He recalls that he had more failures than successes in convincing people. He says, "I always believed that if you are committed to making something happen, you will find the power and strength to do it. Menstruation is not a taboo. One man can make a difference."

"We had to talk to husbands and fathers of these women before we could speak to them and explain the advantages of using sanitary napkins. My curiosity to do something in order to gift my wife a pad led me to understand that women are the strongest creation," he adds.

Asked about the #PadManChallenge undertaken by celebrities, he says, "It's good that people are talking about this. Menstruation and pads which were considered taboo are being talked about a lot these days. This is bringing a change in the mindset. We hope that this is going to be a movement that will revolutionise the menstrual hygiene awareness."

He's also happy that there are other entrepreneurs like Maya Vishwakarma, a scientist from Madhya Pradesh who is recognised as 'Padwoman', are trying to make a change. "In the last few years, many people have started voicing their thoughts about menstrual hygiene and are offering pads. I'm happy to see that and look forward to many more to join in. The cause we are addressing is a big one," he exclaims.

He also has a word of advice to the society. "If you want to do something to make a change, help our farmers. It's important because one day we will have everything but no food to eat. I have a few ideas that I'm working on and hope to bring about a change."

(Published 08 February 2018, 12:48 IST)

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