Enough with Batman, Spiderman and Superman here comes the PadMan, the real life hero. Arunachalam Muruganantham is the man who made our very own Mrs Funnybones to showcase his inspirational story in her production debut and Bollywood’s Khiladi Akshay Kumar to play the lead. He is the man who revolutionised the ease of access of affordable sanitary pads across the country.
Twinkle Khanna has narrated the life journey of Muruganantham in her second novel ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’ under the title ‘The Sanitary Man from A Sacred Land’.
The heart-warming journey of Muruganantham began when he discovered the struggle his wife Shanthi has to go through every month during her menstrual cycle. Shanthi used to gather rags and newspapers to use during ‘those days’ as the sanitary napkins available in the market were expensive. And thus, with the love for his wife and other women in his life, his journey to make affordable and hygienic sanitary napkins began. And there was never looking back, from a social entrepreneur to lecturer at premiere institutions to speaker at TedX to biopic on his life.
His journey entails several ups and downs, success and failure and hits and misses. Here are some of the interesting elements from the life of the real Padman:
- Born in Coimbatore to hand-loom weavers, Muruganantham is a school drop-out. To earn livelihood he started doing various odd jobs such as farm labourer, tool operator and welder.
- Initially, his sisters used to test the cotton pads but after few months they rejected to be the subject of his research. He also started testing the product on himself.
- Years later his neighbours started calling him ‘pervert’ and his wife left him as she could not handle the awkwardness the project caused her.
- Muruganantham started distributing the product in medical college with a condition that they should return it after use.
- Machines to manufacture sanitary cost could have cost him Rs 35 million so he invented a low-cost machine for Rs 35,000 that would grind and sterilize the pad using ultraviolet. Regardless of several attempts by corporate individuals to commercialise his venture, he turned down the proposals and continues to supply the machines to only self-help groups run by women. His invention not only made women’s life easier but also generated a source of livelihood for many women.
- In 2014, he was featured in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world. In 2016, he was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
- He has given lectures in premiere institutions like Harvard, IIT Bombay, IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore. He was a speaker at TedX. A documentary on his life ‘Menstrual Man’ by Amit Virmani has won many accolades.