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Me and Royal Calcutta Golf Club: (A Short Story)

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By Barsali Bhattacharya:

My eldest cousin was getting married in less than a month. Consequently my family was on a cleaning spree, trying to get everything in perfect order for the wedding. Our big, old-fashioned, ancestral house was being white washed and emptied of the molding garbage that lay in its various corners. It was while clearing out the attic that I stumbled upon my old red Frisbee, amidst piles of old books, toys and other nick knacks. The chance discovery brought in its wake vivid memories of childhood … that of my failure in every imaginable form of sports and consequently the delightful afternoons in RCGC (Royal Calcutta Golf Club)…

Even today, I never protest when my friends declare me clumsy in sports. It’s a label I had acquired as a toddler. As a kid, my inability to hit the ball with the bat or to take a simple, short-distanced catch had me ostracised from the unisex cricket team formed by my neighbourhood pals. My only recourse was to join my older cousins in their game of badminton on our warm and sunny terrace or the stretch of the road facing our residence. But considering the number of shuttle cocks that I sent flying, with my random and hopeless strokes, into the gutter or some untraceable corner of that nasty neighbourhood Aunty’s garden, I was soon shunned by them as well.

My success in outdoor games was thus modest and mostly limited to those games of Frisbee which I played on the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) grounds.

Growing up in Golf Garden, an upcoming locality in south Calcutta, which lay to the south of Prince Anwar Shah Road, the RCGC grounds lay within the perimeter of our regular evening walk. In those days, the access to the lush green grounds of the oldest golf turf in India was not restricted solely to the members … I spent most of the afternoons of my summer holidays on those grounds and I never went without my frisbee. The frisbee was a safe option for a clumsy player like me. On one hand, its diameter was larger than that of a cricket ball, and thus was easier to grab. On the other hand, it wasn’t as heavy as a football and consequently did not threaten to smash my nose. Being not as light weight as the feather cock, it did not get lost with my random throws. Soon it not only became my favourite game but also the sole one at which I excelled. I heralded myself as the Frisbee champion of my locality and every afternoon dragged my cousins to the Golf club for a game of Fr! isbee.

The grounds were vast and I explored them vastly — particularly after the day’s game was over and my tired playmates refused to throw the Frisbee around, any longer. There were stone benches beneath shady trees, on which I perched myself to savor the fresh air and the twitter of the birds. I loved the fountains that sprang to life suddenly at around 4o’clock everyday to water the grounds. I remember running bare feet on fresh grass and withered leaves… picking up wind-felled flowers, taking them home and preserving them… riding a tractor whose driver chose to be friendly with us… spotting many a jackal hiding in a thick bush, waiting for daylight to disappear…

There was an old gateway into the grounds; at the north eastern corner of the boundary wall, through which we made our way in. It required one to walk past thickets of banyan trees and cow dung plastered walls of mud houses. However, we were not the only ones to visit the grounds for purposes other than playing golf. Senior citizens and health conscious morning walkers and yoga enthusiasts, poets drawing inspiration from its verdant beauty, young artists aspiring to replicate the nodding ‘kash phool’ and the ancient trees that peopled those vast grounds, and besotted lovers, were also to be spotted.

In those days the political parleys between our very own Dadas and Dadis were of a different nature and did not involve building fancy parks in every neighbourhood, as a show of concern. Thus, unfortunately the RCGC grounds served as the only decent playground available to us.

In some of my most random imaginations, the old frisbee served as a kind of transporter, which helped me enter the magical world that lay beyond that ancient entrance. the world which spurred on my day dreams…

It’s been many years since they blocked that ancient entrance… Probably, a few years after I replaced those afternoon frisbee sessions with tution classes.

I left behind my childhood interlude to RCGC… The old red Frisbee alone remained as a relic of those days.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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