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A Short Trip to Tripura

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By Sampa Kundu:

Tripura, one amongst the eight gorgeous and astonishing northeastern states, has international border with Bangladesh towards its north, south and west and the state is connected with India through Mizoram and Assam. The tiny state of Tripura is full of green and blue: green by its trees and blue by its abundant water bodies. My journey to Tripura was designed for a seminar which I was committed to attend. It was a short three days trip to Tripura, particularly to Agartala and Sonamura. Agartala, as we know, is the capital city of Tripura. And, Sonamura is a district located in west Tripura.

We reached at Agartala airport by a Jet Airways flight around 5.30 in the evening. The moment we left the airport by an auto, we got the impression that, ‘wow, such a quiet place it is’. The area outside the small airport did not have much pressure of passengers, receivers and vehicles. Everything was calm and peaceful. I had my mother with me on this journey as she had a plan to meet some of our relatives staying in Agartala. We were happy as my uncle came there to receive us and lead us to the famous Jagannath Bari or the Lord Krishna temple cum rest house where we had an arrangement to stay for one night and meet the relatives.

This Krishna temple is very famous among the Bengalis living in Tripura. It takes nearly 45 minutes to reach the temple from Airport. The temple is situated in Agartala. They have nice arrangements for guests and every day they host around five hundred people. The temple is surrounded by huge green everywhere and they have their cows whose milk is distributed among the people living within the temple.

The Krishna Temple

Next day morning we left the temple as we were planning to visit Udaipur and Kasba Kali Bari (Temple of Goddess Kali). The car which we reserved was running towards Kasba Kali Bari. This place is well-known as here India is separated from Bangladesh by one large water body. We could see the fencing between the two countries and the people on the other part of the fencing. The place is a celebrated one because of its temple of Goddess Kali too. The common people of Tripura strongly believe that Goddess Kali saves Tripura from all sorts of natural disaster and thats the reason they really admire the Deity. The legacy of having faith on the Goddess Kali can be seen in Udaipur also which is famous for its temple called Tripureswari or Tripura Sundari Temple (The Owner of Tripura or the beautiful Deity of Tripura). It is respected as one of the fifty-one shakti-piths in India. It took nearly 6 hours to visit these two places and by the end of the day we could reach our lodge, Sagar Mahal (Palace on Water), situated in a place called Melaghar, near to Sonamura.

A scene near the Kali Bari which shows the fencing between India and Bangladesh.
A View inside the temple of Pagli Masi or Madly Aunt

The lodge is at the bank of a big water body named Rudrasagar, which is famous among the tourists because of a palace situated on it, popularly known as Nirmahal.

View of the Nirmahal

I got busy with the seminar on the next day which was a Sunday. After the seminar, we went to the Melaghar local market for shopping. One surprise was waiting for us. I don’t know, whether I should call it a surprise, or a shock. The local rickshaw puller whom we contacted to visit the market place took us to the Pagli Masi (Madly Aunt)’s temple. We saw a very old woman who had been sleeping on sand and everybody kept calling her ‘pagli masi’ and seeking for her blessing. Many people were donating money to the fund box kept aside her room. Her room was very small and dark as well. We asked one local woman about the mystery of the woman. She said, ‘This lady is very old, about 100 years in age. She has the super power to tell the future of anybody she wants. Her predictions never go wrong. She is very rich as people who were blessed by her have donated crores of money to her fund. But she likes to live in this small room. Even, she refused to lie on bed; instead she likes to lie on sand.

I don’t know the truth. But, I was shocked at the mindset of the people. They do come, seek blessings from her, donate money for her cause, but nobody is concerned for her health. The old lady must be attended by medical practitioners and provided with medicines, proper food and clothing. Nobody asks where the donated money goes. Some people have created an office in the name of her and perhaps, they are the persons who are collecting the donations. India still lives with superstitions and self interest seems to be more important than humanity.

We left Tripura next day morning. This short trip to Tripura will not be forgotten and I am thankful to Tripura for the fresh oxygen she gave me. I am thankful to her people for their warmth and honesty. But, I am sorry for that old lady – I could not do anything for her.

[All photographs used in this article have been clicked by the author herself and complete copyright is held by her.]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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