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The Fallacies of ‘The Good Life’

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By Siddhartha Roy:

They say that IT holds tremendous potential. Skyrocketing salaries, abundant opportunities to fly abroad, higher stature and maybe even being the ‘preferred’ bridegroom with ample suitors. Yet something seems amiss. With thousands being recruited in herds and your Bachelors’ education deemed redundant and unnecessary for getting into a reputed firm, a new flux of teeming engineers seems to be directed towards the IT universe.

For starters, the services sector contributes about 57% of India’s GDP in revenues and IT is a huge chunk of that number. Undoubtedly, India — the world’s outsourcing backyard — is generating new jobs at a rapid pace and a large number of college campuses play host to IT firms and hence the alluring placement figures of 90% and above of every second engineering college.

Companies pick up hundreds, sometime thousands, from the same college and take them along on their “bandwagon”. Those who are not from Computers/IT no longer worry about landing a job. A few worried lot (parents) do exercise caution and advise their wards not to enter the IT territory as they feel that a non-IT background might prove to be a hindrance but such cases are fewer than perceived. And students are allured by the pay packages, the brand image, the big cities and the almost-foreign infrastructure.

As I sit here writing this, I know a lot of people are going to disagree with the point of view I am putting forward. And I appreciate that. Sure, every one of us likes watching reruns of ‘The Social Network’ or talking about the work life at Google. Or how IT is transforming rural governance and financial transactions. Or how the internet is the ultimate Oracle to all questions of humanity. At least, the working class. All this and not to mention the cutting age advances in technology, programming and Artificial Intelligence. Undoubtedly, our future rides on IT. No exceptions.

Except. Except maybe the lifestyle.

It’s not about R&D. Or building something new. It’s about what a significant part of the sector is working on in India. Providing/enhancing/sustaining software services where they stretch long hours. Often, humongous long hours! For years.

Fat pay cheques (sometimes). Flashy iPhones and laptops. And in three-four years, even getting one’s own four wheeler in addition to a stint in the US, UK or Australia. And moving up the ladder, maybe with or without an MS/MBA. Then a home. And then?

But that’s life flashing by. That is not every day. While Narayan Murthy advises people not to stay late in offices, how many adhere to it? Less than those who should. Because if your biological clock gets badly shaken, your health goes for a toss and even weekends seem drab and worth only completing your sleep, you’ve got to question if you are going right.

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly adhere to the fact that those in love with computers and technology should work hard at it and enjoy its fruits. But prioritizing is important. The work culture can be ruthless sometimes. I am not painting a sad picture because there are huge upsides too. Yet you’ve got to question how much of your time you are willing to put in. And at what cost?

Because in your quest for a life, you might be squandering it. Every day putting in 10-12 hours. Coming home exhausted both physically and mentally. I mean, Come on! Sure you might have got a pack of friends, as thick as thieves, at your workplace but coming home regularly when it is past dinner time is a sheer waste. Once in a while wouldn’t hurt but making it a routine is definitely a problem. And if the only hobbies you have are watching movies in the theatre or on your laptop and earphones ‘adorn’ your ears 24×7, you might have to question if you are living life in 1-D. Long commuting hours, strenuous work and little time for oneself, let alone family — make sure you are not one of them.

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice. For those wanting to be/already are computer professionals, growth prospects are huge. But if you want to live the life, make sure you choose how you live it – when to stay and when not to. As someone said, ‘When you are on your death bed, nobody would reminisce the codes he wrote or the presentations he made’.

Img: http://www.dismalworld.com/world_tour/outsourcing_industry_of_india.php

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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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