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We All Live in Submarines: The Saga of our Monotonous Lives

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By Kirti Punia:

We all live in submarines.

After handling nerve straining situations at work and managing to convince our partner that we had to cancel the lunch, a good night’s sleep is bliss on a scorching day.

Sometimes, when the day has not been a cakewalk, we choose to hit the cot straight away. I meant to go in the arms of the heavenly saatva mattress which is acclaimed to be the most comfortable of the lot and not to forget, the remedy to some health problems whose existence was alien to you. Clarifications like this are essential. When the unit of time has come down to microseconds, it is silly of anyone to give obscure statements. Moreover, it can be classified as a crime in urban dictionary to harm one’s social status. After all it tops almost everyone’s list of priorities.

We hug our fragrant jelly like pillows and try to achieve tranquillity for the next couple of hours. The smile on our face is an appreciation of our right decision of purchase. In the cosiness of our blankets, we start typing a text to our parents stating how sorry we are for not being able to make a call in the last 2 days and that we love them. We sleep off before our fingers could touch the send button. The consolation is that it has been happening for quite some time now and our parents have adapted well to it. The tiring day is to be blamed. Believe me, no one likes blame games but this is just a fact. If anyone is feeling bad for the unsent text, please don’t do. It is completely safe in the company of its uncountable counterparts anyway. Bless smart phones!

We cannot find a moment to convey what we must, to tell how we feel. When we are in the pool of lies the whole day, cherishing a droplet of truth slowly making its way to the heart is not as easy as it sounds. Showering words of praise on a colleague’s handbag and on boss’s wife’s awful attire was not the theme of the ‘ethics and values’ lecture we all attended in our schools but we all remember more of the marketing elective course we chose and go with the salesman strategy- everything suits you madam till the time we are achieving out sales targets.

Don’t tell me you do not have silent characters trying to scream out to someone how much they mean to you (please exclude the social compulsions for once) or how hurt you were some days back (I am not oblivious to the fact that our emotional quotient is inversely proportional to the time of the day we are “busy” but I like to believe it still exists). I am sorry for a conflicting thought but you are neither the busiest person alive nor are you a robot. Have not you ever wanted to tell someone how much you long for the good old times to be back? Yes you have. You just never got the courage to destroy ‘I am progeny of super cool heartless stud’ image because that is the attitude which is ‘in’ today. Of course you can manage everything with a few drinks, a new boyfriend/girlfriend, a little bit of shopping and who can doubt your abilities to make new friends.

This is the case with me and with many of us. We keep wandering from the main subject. Even sleep fails to provide the much needed serenity sometimes. Anyway, the next day starts with cursing the alarms though we look up to the discovery of snooze button.

We wish to go back to bed or to sip a coffee slowly, listen to our favourite music, not to put on makeup and those fancy pants and just enjoy the pyjamas, not to go to those boring meetings and meet the perfect people. Thinking all this with toothbrush in one hand and mobile phone in other we make the full day plan. While pressing the save button and moving towards kitchen for making breakfast, we regret the decision of moving out of parents’ house for a second. The moment of enlightenment is here. We call up home finally. The conversation with family does not last long in the mornings. There are more important deeds to be done than listening to the importance of healthy diet and hard work.

First thing that needs to be fixed is the boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s mood. Compensation for the cancelled lunch can dig a hole in our pockets. Finding a feasible free time and booking a table for 2 in a restaurant with a romantic setup needs a lot of effort. The ambience has to be perfect. Who knows what the day has in store for us and whether we will be in a mood of sweet nothings by the end of the day or not. Service sector makes life a lot easier. Five precious minutes in the morning are wasted in rectifying yesterday’s mistake. My apologies again- we are too perfect to make mistakes. We have mastered the art of getting ready for the long day in few minutes. At least something does not need an effort.

On our way to work, we succeed to make a practicable plan and the bookings are done with a finger’s touch. Well the day has started well! We keep our fingers crossed for the presentation to go as easily as this went and seniors to be as supportive and understanding as well.

The day goes the same- meeting up few friendly colleagues, cracking up a joke or two, smiling only as a convention of good manners, greeting the most disrespected seniors with utter respect, discussing today’s headlines at lunch in the cafeteria. Most of us don’t really care what Israel or Japan is facing but social conventions tell us to behave extremely concerned and sorry. And if the newspaper fails to provide interesting stories, the evergreen favourites like corruption, politics and of course cricket can keep the lunch time discussions alive.

Some days like today treat us very well. The day at work did not drive us crazy and we have got enough time to get ready for the date tonight as well. We all love Fridays!

On reaching the apartment, we turn on the music, drop all the accessories and get in the shower. The thought of the lovely evening ahead elates us. We get dressed in the best we have but we are never contented. The dress we saw last week or the shirt we picked up and left at the rack in order to take that urgent call comes in front of our eyes again now. Lesson learnt.

We spray up, admire ourselves in the mirror, give the finishing touch, and feel the wallet’s warmth – all set. A few pictures of today will definitely be a matter of envy to our single friends. How we love social sites! As we are ready to leave, the door bell rings. We open it and find a delivery boy with a bouquet of red roses. We sign it in hurry, take it in and place them neatly in the middle of the table. We read the note and here comes the shocker, “I am really sorry. I have got an urgent appointment. Would not be able to miss. I will make it up to you. I love you so much.”

In the midst of reading the message, the bouquet has gone where it should have been- the bin. Here we are — the roses which were supposed to scream out love to us are whispering the story of our hypocrisy to one another. Our cancellation of lunch plan was valid but the other person cannot put work above us. Is it?

You bought a romantic date but she/he should not run behind money. Our feelings matter more. We did not even think of telling him/her how we were waiting for the picture perfect dinner but we can justify the flowers in the bin. We are the invulnerable. We call up few friends, make a plan with one or two of them and enjoy our evening. The music is loud enough to ignore listening to our own feelings. Mission accomplished.

The next thing we remember is getting up by the annoying alarm. We put the cell phone to charge and try to get rid of the hangover in the mean while. Sipping on to lemon water, we plan our day and leave a text to family about last night’s urgent meeting which kept us from calling them.

A new day in the same old fashion has begun and we don’t put any effort to change anything. Don’t we have the time to wonder about events of last night or the courage to face our own actions? We only look at the surface and what lies above it. No one cares to look deep inside and know what is underneath. We are scared to expose ourselves to ourselves, let alone others. We are too busy to make the superficial image of us look perfect that we often forget the real piece of us. The real we lie submerged in the deep waters and the shiny golden coating keeps fooling others and ourselves.

We all live in golden submarines. Keep polishing the shiny surface but don’t forget to repair the machinery. Better be safe than sorry.

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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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