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Everything Comes At A Price. Even Happiness! [MUST READ FICTION]

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By Sandhya Nag:

The weather was warm, the coffee exactly the way he wanted it, but this was not what Nick had expected. He had not expected someone of that age to come and meet him in person. And he certainly hadn’t had the slightest idea why the man wouldn’t just speak out the terms. He had insisted on Jason reading the letter, and walked away, not even staying long enough to finish the coffee. When Nick opened the letter, the contents of the letter and the handwriting had no connection, it seemed, because only an angelic hand could’ve scripted the words in the way they were, but the content, the content! He had to make a decision. And, he made one.

Walking away was not a choice he could make, simply because this was about his daughter. When somebody was offering what he could not afford, he wasn’t going to turn it down, even after knowing the price he had to pay. He knew that everything comes at a cost.

Kendra, a devout Catholic, had her hands joined in prayer. The old man in the last row watched her silently. He’d been a witness to her grief, and he knew what had to be done. For him, it was a simple transaction- he had a problem, and so did she, and now, they were going to be each other’s solution. But of course, she wouldn’t know that. A frail and emotional mother would not understand that everything comes at a cost.

Coffee mug in hand, lost in thought, Jason didn’t look anything like the responsible elder brother that he actually was. The nice part was, he didn’t take life too seriously, which was just as well. The doorbell rang, and he went to answer the door. He was surprised to find his father standing there, his shoulders weary. He couldn’t remember the last time his father had done that. Not one day in those twenty years of his work.

Nick walked in, and pulled his son by the shoulders. Looked long into his eyes, and then gave him that letter. Jason didn’t understand why, but he didn’t speak a word, because he knew his father wouldn’t listen. He looked like a man on a mission, and nobody could stop him. Jason tried hard not to show the tears as he bid goodbye to his father. It seems, he’d just learned, everything comes at a cost.

Sandra slowly opened her eyes… Now, she could feel the light hitting her eye, and it hurt. But they’d promised her that this would be her last visit. They’d told her that they’d found a match and she’d be getting a bone marrow transplant.

Sandra was 12 years old, a thin, frail-looking girl, and hardly knew her father. The only people in her life were Kendra and Jason. Nick would come home to find Sandra sleeping, and his work demanded that he leave before Sandra woke up. She hated the fact that she had to visit the hospital every fifteen days, hated it that her blood had to be transfused every 15 days, hated the pain it would put her through. She knew it was because of her bone marrow-or the absence of it, but she hoped one day she too would be cured just like her brother. But despite her ill health, she mingled well with classmates, had a positive outlook to life and believed in God. Many students in class didn’t even know of her condition, they thought she was frail because she hardly ate anything. But those who knew her held deep respect for her in their hearts. On the outside, she was just another 6th standard kid, who had trouble with her weight.

And today, her wish of having a successful bone marrow transplant was fulfilled.

The time had come.

One- Jason broke the news to his mother, and she broke down. Not that she was very young, but that she had an untouched innocence about her, which was shattered today. It would be months before she smiled again.

Two- Nick walked towards the sacred palace-Pope’s residence. He’d travelled a long way from Rome to arrive at the holy city- yes, Jerusalem. He could not stop if he wanted to, so he marched right on, with only one thought-God loves the sinners. He didn’t have to do nothing, except be physically present anywhere around 100 yards of the Papal residence. His belt of course contained the timed bomb. 2 minutes left. He sat there with a calm composure, knowing his daughter would be well. He’d seen that the bone marrow was a perfect match. The results were all there in that letter he’d first received. 30 seconds… Peace.

And the explosion took everything in and around 500 yards.

Sandra, oblivious to everything, was just happy. She thanked the Jesus that her mother had taught her to believe in and drifted back to sleep. She of course, had a lot of time before she learnt that everything comes at a cost.

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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