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Reality TV: Can We Relate To Them?

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Shreya Krishnan:

Recently I was watching MTV and I wondered if all their shows had their share of never-ending tasks, politics, bitching et al. I wonder which channel has not been bitten by the reality bug. And top it with all languages and varieties of the same concept. What keeps reality TV ticking in India or for that matter the world? From shows like Bigg Boss, Kaun Banega… to Sa Re..and Dance India Dance, everybody has something of their interest on air. All the shows sporting celebrities seem to have a racing TRP. Is it because we are sadistic to know that even celebrities aren’t spared the ‘realities’ of life or are we just plain curious? Are these shows as real as we assume them?

From the ‘who is who’ of Bollywood to the boy-next-door, everyone seems to be grabbing a share of time in the idiot box. No one wants to be left behind in this race for instant publicity. Every baccha baccha of the household seems to want to get into one show or the other on the pretext of showcasing their talent.

Ok, so what does the ‘stupid common man’ gain from all this. Depends on who is watching and what are you really looking for. For some it could be a giant leap to success and publicity. For others it could be the best platform to showcase your talent and get the leverage needed for success. Students who cry and fret for standing in queues in the outside world wouldn’t mind spending overnight waiting for a small chance of getting into a show. I don’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want their piece of fame? From toddlers to senile everyone has something to offer.

Now, what does a viewer gets from these shows. What starts as a curiosity about the show can turn into a complete addiction. From shows like Roadies, where participants are screaming at each other in a high pitched voice to shows like Bigg Boss where there is nothing but tears and more tears. These shows are on air because people like us watch it. We detest them yet we watch it not waiting to blink. Who does not face these emotions these days? These shows succeed because they are cashing on our emotions, desperation and weaknesses. When we see a participant going through difficult times, we relate to it. We relate to their worries, their pressure to succeed and perform. Are we actually sadistic to enjoy seeing someone else’s pain? Or is it just an escape route to forget our own problems? Or does it make it more enjoyable to be able to see another soul whose pain you can relate to? An answer to these depends on what kind of viewers we are and how vulnerable we are.

The next question which comes to my mind is how real are these shows? Are we just hyperventilating over nothing? If the entire show was scripted to be in a certain way and in turn get racing TRPs then aren’t we cheated? Well this will still remain a mystery unless the real truth is unveiled. When we watch shows where inmates are ‘supposedly’ in the house for months, we would wonder how real are these people or the show itself. How much editing would have gone in before the viewer sees the final version? And we assume it is for real.

There are shows on air of ‘reality dance and music’ for kids and adults alike. How many cases of suicides have we seen of children post these shows? Does this just simply prove the fact, that these shows are modeled wrongly and are conveying the most condemned message? When a child is getting ‘eliminated’ from the show, the child cries, the mother cries, the judges cry. Why!? What are we teaching our children? Is it not basic education to teach children to accept failure? And first of all why call it a failure? Children just ape their surroundings. They are what they see and learn. If a child gets frustrated and is depressed enough to commit suicide, something is inherently wrong with the system. We are encouraging a very unhealthy competition. We should instead teach our children to learn more importantly than winning. I would urge all parents to build the spirit of sportsmanship in children. Winning and losing is a part of the game. Accept it gracefully. I guess the thing not earned, never belongs to you. Instant celebrity status does shake your ground. People are not well equipped to handle fame. If the fact that a billion people are watching you and are fond of you sinks in, it is hard to live away from it. It is probably a deeply grounded yearning to be ever famous.

In recent times there is a show on air which deals with infidelity. If you let the whole nation witness you spying on your partner, where are we headed? If you are indeed doubtful, why not hire a freelance spy instead. I wonder where the age-old trust-your-partner theory has gone. Is it too cliché for our generation to trust? Are love and relationships a thing of the past? I hope not.

On the other hand, shows like Dance India Dance have got India tapping its feet. It is a fresh flavour of real dance and less reality. I wouldn’t deny the tear-shedding on the show but the show is entertaining with healthy competition and the participants grooving to nice music. Similarly shows like KBC were something that made everybody glued to television and improving their knowledge too.

On a final note, Reality shows can have a positive impact on our mind if we selectively take in what motivates us and consciously ignore what has a negative message.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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