This is the english translation of the article about 'The Real Padman' Mr. Muruganandham, , published in 23rd May, 2012 Ananda vikatan.
Muruganandam is the one who made the miracle to happen by making the sanitary napkin for women to reach the poor girls at the lower strata of the society. But it is quite unimaginable to know the price he gave for that to happen. Let us read it through his words.
‘I belong to Pappanaicken pudur. My father was a handloom weaver and mother is an agriculture laborer. I have two sisters. Suddenly we lost our father and our whole family was utterly shaken. In order to save my family I opted to work at a steel grill workshop. I tried many new designs of grills. I made window grills based on the rangoli designed by my mom at home. The owner of the workshop started liking me because of my commitment.
But I have a tendency not to stick to a particular job for long. When I informed the owner that I wished to quit my job he offered me to take up the whole workshop and guided me for the fund. I continued it successfully. I got married. One day I saw my wife taking something with her secretly. When I enquired about it she tried to dodge me, saying ‘it’s something to do with women‘. When I tried to grab what she was holding, I realized it was a dirty rag. I rebuked her asking, ‘why can’t you use a sanitary napkin?’ But she replied that ‘if I need to spend on that how can I buy milk to feed our baby?’ I was shocked to learn from her that most of the rural women not having adequate purchasing capacity, tend to use only those kinds of dirty rags.
That was when it occurred to me to make napkins on my own. I bought a napkin from a shop and opened it. There was a cotton like stuff inside. Immediately I made a napkin using cotton. Who else I can approach to make use of it? I hesitantly approached my wife. I continued my experiments in different ways. But there were many disappointments. At a particular point, out of frustration my wife scolded me to stop my experimentation. Not knowing how to proceed, I approached the women at the nearby medical college, explaining about my experiments, seeking to have some support. Most of the women treated me as weird and rebuked me. But some of them came forward to help me. But they too were not able to cooperate with me in a few weeks. Having no other option I decided to make myself a lab rat for experimenting.
I bought goat blood from my friend at a butcher shop and filled the warm blood in a football bladder. I fixed the bladder in my hip and made a hole on it to connect a tube to the napkin. I arranged it in such a way that when the bladder is pressed a drop of blood will fall on the napkin. I tried different types of cotton for the napkin. By this experiment my dhoti used to have stains of blood. Within a hour there will be obnoxious smell from the blood. By the time, there was a rumor in the village that I was suffering from sexually transmitted disease. Because of that my wife permanently got separated from me.
I sold the last scrap from my workshop to conduct experiments. But I did not lose my confidence. I gathered the napkins already used by the neighboring women, allowing them to dry and then experimenting on them. My mother too left me thinking that I was afflicted through sorcery. People of the village cast me out from the village.
When I left my village with tears, the only companion that came along with me was the dog that I kept as my pet. I went to Coimbatore with my pet. I rented a house and ate only the bread and continued my experiments relentlessly. Only then I realized that the cotton used by the multinational company is from pine tree. I was told that it would cost eight crores to buy the machine that makes napkins.
I imported pine tree cotton from America. For almost six months I slept only for two hours and toiled to fabricate a machine, which cost about Rs 65,000 only. I did not even have a penny in my hand when I succeeded in fabricating that machine. I lost all my savings and other properties. But when I heard a college girl who volunteered to use the napkin made by me said, ‘Brother, I never felt that I’m using it. It’s very comfortable’, I cried loudly.
It was my dream for many years. I have lost my life for that dream. Having been aware about my newly made machine there were many who gave orders to fabricate it for them. With the machine that I fabricated women can easily make napkins on their own. The price of one napkin is rupee one only. Recently, the IIT awarded it as the ‘best invention for social reformation’. I had been to those kinds of institutions as a chief guest. Ratan Tata and Narayana Moorthi have also come forward to support my project. My aim is to make my technology reach all those rural women in India. Henceforth ‘none of those sisters should ever use dirty rags during their menstruation’. He concluded with a satisfaction of having innovated a machine which could transform the lives of millions of rural women.
He provides the machine mostly to women self help groups, widows and tribal women in order to help them
So far he has commissioned 643 machines in 23 states