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Understanding The Seven Vows Of A Hindu Wedding: Of Love And Beyond!

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By Smriti Mahale:

Kaadambari’s dream had finally come true. In the last seven years, there were innumerable times that this scene had been envisaged in a simple girl’s heart that was so crazily in love. She looked at him, and he at her. Glances froze, lips dwindled into broken smiles, a rush of red filled her cheeks, love was in the air.

Kaadambari was clad in the most expensive bridal attire in town, the blush of the bride complimented the extravaganza of sparkling diamonds and rubies on her sleek body. Jeevan looked like Manhmatta.

Amidst the sacredness of a ritual revered for ages, Kaadambari and Jeevan were set to take the ‘saptapadi’ or the ‘seven vows’. The seven strides were to start from the direction of ‘Dhruva’ or the pole star, indicating steadiness and stability in the new journey of life. Jeeven held her hand, to make the first three vows around the holy pyre. The flames burnt as passionately as their seven year old relationship.

“Om esha ekapadi bhava iti prathaman”.
I will love, cherish and provide for you and our children. You will support me and offer me food.

It was a year back when Kaadambari had fallen dangerously sick. No medicines, no assurances had been able to cure her. Her parents were on a foreign tour, unaware of the situation. There were none to look after her, and she was drawing into the verge of depression and hopelessness. Jeevan made sure he was with her at every given chance. For all these years, he had seen her as an independent woman who was capable of taking care of herself irrespective of circumstances. What he saw now, was a woman who cried out for tenderness, for love, for a support. The vulnerability of a heart frail in life can be understood only by the heart that it has been given to!

He had cooked for the first time. She loved soups. Endless hours of browsing on the net for the most delicious and nutritious soups, he had managed. The vegetables were half cooked, there was excess of water, and spice was non existent. But the ingredient of love had made it up for all. She had peacefully eaten her lunch that afternoon, and had fallen into an effortless sleep in his arms as he was continuing to spoon feed her.

“Om oorje jara dastayaha”
Together we will defend our family and home.

It was two years ago, when both of them had realized that the final destination of their love would be the start of a new journey called ‘marriage’. There were hurdles. Religion was the prominent of them all. Kaadambari had vowed to learn all about Jeevan’s religion, to be accustomed to his customs, to devour her soul into the soul of his scriptures. She had resolved to marry only when she was ready, for him, for his family, for her family. She had lived up to her resolution. Two years, despite of her busy career, her compassionate hobby, she devoted time to be the perfect daughter-in-law , to carry forward the prestige and pride of Jeevan’s family legacy. When her mother-in law had seen her, questioned her, she was impressed! She knew more than any girl of their community. She had nothing to complain about.

“Om rayas Santu joradastayaha”
We will be faithful to each other and lead a spiritual life.

Jeevan had never believed in the Supreme. Whereas, Kaadambari was a staunch follower of any spiritual element that crossed her path. She meditated, she worshipped, she followed all fasts and festivities. She slowly had made him a part of her spiritual life. Jeevan had simply succumbed. He loved her pure heart, her spotless divinity, her innocent pleas before the Almighty.

“Om mayo bhavyas jaradastaya ha”
I declare my good fortune in marrying my wife. We pray for a happy life and good children filled with all health and wealth.

Jeevan and Kaadambari were from the same academic backgrounds. Both of them were toppers from childhood and had the most intelligent of brains. From the time their corporate careers had blossomed, they swam in wealth and fortune. The way they amassed their treasures were different.

While Jeevan led a life in the international corporate circles, Kaadambari had devoted her high ranked qualifications for one of the most renowned organizations for the betterment of the society.

Both of them had won many hearts in their respective fields. Even without each other, there was a streak of enchantment in their souls.
All of their friends, well-wishers and family had gathered. All of them had their own personal moments with each of them. It was a shower of blessings from heavenly hearts!

“Om prajabhyaha Santu jaradastayaha”
We for the happiness and wellbeing of our family. May we have righteous and obedient children.

She looked unhappy that day. It was the day her dearest friend had fallen prey to a zooming truck. She had cried Every time she had tried to make her friend happy by doing something foolishly funny. This time, she was helpless. Jeevan could not bear her astral face with the gloom of the violet nights. He knew what would make her happy. They had gone to the children’s park in the neighbour hood.
She had played with the toddlers. She had held little babies in her delicate arms and had crooned to them. She had meticulously hair styled pig tails of young girls. She had laughed, a laugh that reflects the brightness of a cradle of stars. He had decided then, his progeny would be the fruits from her soulful garden.

When she had seen him helping a young lad to peddle on his new bicycle, she had blushed. Her womanhood had pierced through his soul.

“Yajne home shashthe vacho vadet”
I will always be by your side in your endeavors.

It was Kaadambari’s 25th birthday. She was a simple girl and unlike the others of her age and maturity, she did not long for candle light dinners or diamond rings. It was this simplicity of hers that had stolen Jeevan’s heart. But then, even Mata Sita desired for the Maayamruga when she was with Lord Rama in exile. It was one this fairy tale desires of Kaadambari that Jeevan wanted to fulfill.

He had taken her to the park situated in the outskirts of the city. He had dwindled his whole month’s salary to make all the arrangements. There it was. It was one of the most splendid swings ever made. It was decorated with the world’s most fragrant roses and lilies. She had squealed in delight and and run towards the swing like a four year old girl. For half the day she merrily had sat on the swing and had sung the most melodious songs. He had sat with her for sometime and had spoken about life, it was a moment they would cherish forever. She had asked him where he had got this romantic idea from. He had sheepishly said the internet held the formula for the most of the love potions. Kaadambari was so in love with his imperfections.

“Om sakhi jaradastayahga.”
With this last Phera we forever belong to each other and will remain friends forever…

A very wise person had once said friendship is the first and last step of love. What lies in between is the path of marriage. It was on the same lines that their lives were outlined. When at eighteen, they both had met in their academic pursuits; they had become fast friends in a short span of time. They had for hours talked about their future, their dreams, their aspirations. Love had somewhere blossomed unknowingly. Cupid had conspired their mutual existence. They were intelligent, independent and a delight. Together they were inseparable. In what seemed liked years of undisputable friendship and love, they had found each other. She was the story of his life, and he was the life of her story!

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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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