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“So the guys are coming over for a couple of beers after the game tonight. I, um, just thought I’d let you know…”, He finished awkwardly. She gave a tired smile, invisible over the phone line. His subtly hostile behaviour on having to share his space wasn’t lost on her. “Cool. I’ll be heading over to my place for the night then. Have fun!” She hung up before either of them made the conversation any more awkward. So much for eating in, she thought, looking around at the food in the kitchen. She sighed and began to clean up.

He heard the click on the other end and felt a wave of relief sweep over him, surprising him. He hadn’t realized He was holding his breath. He couldn’t put a finger to the constant inaudible nagging in his head, but shrugged it off nonetheless and ran back to the field.

—————————-

The usual boisterousness filled his home as he entered with his teammates. Beers, whiskey and food disappeared at an alarming speed as they began their weekly ritual of revisiting bachelorhood. He thought about the awkward phone call earlier, as the cacophony around him seemed more distant by the second. Never before had He needed to inform or ask anybody to do anything in his life. He prided himself for his independence. Hence, the contentment in being just as he was. I must have sounded like I wanted to kick her out, he thought, sipping his beer and quietly cursing the drink for being the root of the whole fiasco. But She’s an intruder in my house AND on my privacy, She SHOULD feel unwelcome. Shouldn’t She? He thought back to the past week that He had been forced to live with Her. She’s never really intruded as such.., realizing She pretty much minded her own business, had one meal in the day at the same time He did, spoke little (although he was aware that she was a chatterbox; He had heard her on the phone), but most of all, tactfully used the space he had given her, never making any changes around the house. It was probably what impressed him the most. He had seen and heard of how women tended to mark their “territory” when the time to move in with a man came upon her, and he appreciated her for not feeling the need to do so. As far as he had observed, she was a confident, self sufficient and respectful woman. No pretensions, no unnecessary ego issues. Sorted. He also knew that it wasn’t like she was hiding herself from him. In an act of trust, she had taken him to her house a couple of days before. It was minimally furnished, but classy still, just like he liked it. She had payed more attention to the placement of things, rather than clutter up. He liked that. He liked her. Whoa! What? He snapped back into reality, realizing he had missed out on a perfectly enjoyable Dare round. Trying to suppress the pounding in his head, he tried to enjoy the scene around him. Men acting like buffoons. Smiling, he shut his eyes for a moment, taking it all in.

When he opened his eyes, he was a different man. No one would ever know what he saw in that moment which he would later describe as nothing short of “life altering”.

He quietly slipped out, instructed his doorman to lock up when everybody left and got in his car. He hated driving when he was more than two drinks down. He felt irresponsible and hypocritical. But, at that point of time, nothing registered. He drove through the scantily populated roads to cover the seven kilometers to her house in a record five minutes.

He stood outside her door, unsure. He knew she slept late, if at all, but… Stop it! Just Knock! Knocking softly on her door, he waited. No response. He tried again, a little louder and he heard her footsteps. The panic button hit, but his faculties were too dazed to respond, as she opened the door. You’re an angel!, he thought, as her bewildered eyes met his. Uncertain, she opened the door further, looking a little confused. He walked, more like stumbled, into her living room. She was probably reading, noticing her book, spectacles, and a glass of wine. He sat on the couch and stared into nothingness. She put away the book, poured another glass of wine for him and settled in the armchair, sipping from her own glass. She glanced at him, at her favourite painting on the wall, at her glass and around the room for a while and finally gave up. She had never really been good at such situations. She only needed a second to start day dreaming, to compensate for dreamless sleep, she mused, and dream she did.

Snapping back an odd ten minutes later, with a strange feeling of being observed, she noticed he has drained his glass but was sitting just as still as before. I’m imagining things.., looking ruefully into her almost empty glass. She refilled both the glasses. Setting his in front of him, she felt a gentle tug on her night shirt. Sensing his need for proximity, her heart fluttered as she sat on the couch, next to him. Before she had taken her second sip, he drained his glass again and pulled hers from her grip. She felt possessed and subjugated and liberated. All at once. He sipped from her glass too and looked longingly at her lips, purple from all the wine.He edged forward and hesitated, as if waiting for permission. She gave him a half smile as acquiescence. Granting just what he wanted, just to him. He felt his heart ache as he touched her wine flavoured lips. She blinked in surprise. She had always known that she would keep her eyes open for her first kiss. She wouldn’t miss the moment for anything. The world seemed to fade away as they both opened up, bringing their bodies closer. The tenderness gave way to something more personal, more passionate. She had to break away to catch her breath. She looked into those chocolate brown eyes that she loved, glazed, but fired with desire. She paused, long enough for him to know something was wrong. He held back, still holding her in the intimate embrace. Neither ready to believe what had just happened, but neither ready to accept that the moment had passed. She hastily got off of him, straightened up, and cleared up the glasses. She handed him a pillow and blanket and walked away. He’s seen the house. He can pick between the guestroom and the couch. She sat up in bed thinking, Overthinking, more like. She frowned and tried to sleep. But slumber had proved to be an elusive seductress this week. She sighed and turned over.

“Its cold”, his voice grumbled in the dark, as he climbed into her bed and lay facing the ceiling. She turned to face him. Looking at him for a moment that seemed to last an eternity, she said “You will regret it in the morning”. He turned to look into her pained eyes. “I won’t”, he said, in a tone of such finality, that her eyes welled up with tears. She wiped them before they streaked her face. She hated crying. He came closer to hug her. She lay there, in his arms. Her lips touching the nook of his neck as his breath caressed her hair, and she felt a shiver that ran all the way to her curling toes. He breathed in her soft fragrance, feeling his muscles relax and his eyelids get heavier. Their hands found each others waist, as their legs intertwined.

—————————————–

Her bedroom was bathed in sunlight. He battled with his eyelids to wake up. Blinking once, twice, he looked out. Looking beside him, he saw her still nestled in his arms. He ran his hand through her hair and across her face. He quickly pecked her and, surprisingly, felt a tug. He looked at her to see her eyes still closed and her lips curved in a beautiful smile. Opening her eyes, she said coyly “I’ve been awake a while.” He kissed her again, deeply. He felt her eagerness and climbed on her, on all fours, as her eyes betrayed her every emotion. He loved that about her, the honesty in her eyes. She couldn’t hide it even if she tried, not that she did. He looked into those eyes, looking into the depth of her very being, and saw nothing but adoration, acceptance, and unconditional love. “God”, he whispered, almost to himself.

She took advantage of the moment and slipped out of his reach. Laughing at his pouting face, she skipped to the kitchen, her joy reflected in her gait and the twinkle in her eyes. She got breakfast ready, while brushing her teeth. Smiling at her corny I’ve-brought-you-breakfast-in-bed-just-like-in-the-movies silliness, she walked into her room. Soaking in the sight of him in her bed, half covered in sheets and looking out the window, smiling to himself, she smiled herself.

She didn’t realize how long she had been standing for until he took the tray from her hands and put it on the bed. He picked her up and settled them both in the sheets, comfortably. Sensing her hesistant thoughtfulness, he gently held her chin and arched those gorgeous eyebrows, asking silently, What’s wrong? Her eyes became watery, as she choked to speak. She opened and closed her mouth several times before she heard herself say, “Is this real?” At that moment, he knew he had the power to manipulate her utter vulnerability. She was unfalteringly his and he revelled in the feeling. He looked deep into her eyes and barely whispered hoarsely, “You bet it is”, kissing her wet smile. Holding onto her, he felt his soul tear away from him a little, to settle in the love that would live beyond even his own last breath.

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  1. Amrita Kohli

    Beautiful piece. Waiting for more from you.

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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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