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The Illusion of a Relationship

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Maria Thomas:

As an eighteen year old individual existing in the melting pot that is Indian society, I have had the opportunity to be an objective observer of the changing face of societal customs: people are now more open to pre-marital relationships, sex is not the unmentionable word any longer and the concept of a live-in relationship is actually recognised by law. In this context, many young individuals often feel pressurised into entering into relationships to maintain status in school or college. I believe that the very concept of a relationship is a farce in India as it does not refer to a connection between individuals but rather to a convenient arrangement that sustains the reputations of the concerned parties.

I am of the firm belief that as a society we have skipped many steps in our quest to reach parity with western cultures. A few years ago the very utterance of the word ‘relationship’ would lead to mass cringing and then punishment; relationships were for married couples, the rest of the world would have to await the ‘pleasure’ of marriage to experience anything close to a real relationship. Yet now we can spot budding relationships at every turn: students who text each other late at night and twenty-somethings who populate park benches, disinterested in the public’s fascination with them. But are these relationships real? More often than not, they are far from it.

Perhaps the true hilarity of this situation, and hilarious it is, will come out through the following example: in my school, the distinguishing feature of a couple was that they sat together outside the canteen. And that was it. Yes, a few couples progressed past this and onto more eyebrow-raising territories, but for the most part, sitting together was the privilege of the couple alone. And all those couples would look upon us singles as if we were missing out on the greatest thing in the world when really our lives were no different from theirs! Tragically, the superiority of those ‘in a relationship’ is becoming de rigueur with no one stopping to question what it is that gives them the authority to be so snooty about their relationship status!

The youth today are rushing to get through life as though it is a checklist of achievements: popularity, check; girlfriend or boyfriend, check; sex before marriage, check. In essence, we are losing sight of reality by allowing ourselves to be misguided by what we see on our favourite television shows. It is actually a vicious cycle: we like the western TV shows for their progressive themes, we are then induced into applying those themes into our own lives; this makes us more interested in western shows and the cycle continues. Today’s relationships are not about individuals, they are about making a statement to conform to what the majority thinks is right; this is highly ironic and at the same time saddening.

I find it disturbing that we are so ready to grab onto anything ‘progressive’. In our haste to become Americanised we have skipped the vital process of understanding the culture we seek to adopt and have thus included it haphazardly in our lives. Thus, while you still can’t leave the house wearing a short skirt and a tank top without being eve-teased by fellow college-goers, you can have sex with your boyfriend at the age of sixteen and not be judged by your generation at all.

The irrational adoption of western culture is certainly causing problems: rape rates have sky-rocketed in recent years and our divorce rates are increasing at the same pace. The relationship issue does not fall on the heads of the youth alone; it is prevalent at all ages as we as a society just do not know how to deal with the rapid pace of change that we ourselves have instigated.

We are treading into murky waters by focussing too much attention on the notion of a relationship without looking into its health or its benefits. A relationship is made a requirement for happiness even though this is far from the truth. As a result, girls go through numerous boyfriends before college and boys have several ‘conquests’ to brag about. What one needs to appreciate is that today’s youth is tomorrow’s political, social and economic framework. We will soon be governed by individuals whose lifestyles are firmly rooted in the cultural confusion that has been created and this is not a happy thought. Evidently, awareness needs to be raised about the true nature of a relationship so that we have a chance at improving the quality of our youth and so we can divert their attention to more pressing and relevant issues.

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  1. Anuva Kulkarni

    Couldn’t agree more. Though I doubt these ‘couples’ are in the mood to listen 😛

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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