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Around Cultures: Understanding Mannerisms In India

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By R. Anupam Pillai:

I still remember I was in my middle school when I was curious to know why and how people belonging to different places behave differently? So, finally after waiting for a long time, my curiosity was satiated in the language class where I came to know about, what “mannerism” and “affectations” were all about. Terminologically, “mannerism” refers to a habitual or characteristic manner, mode, or way of doing something. It was very amusing to know how people tend to behave in different places, cultures, customs and traditions. But one can have a deep insight about “mannerism” when one keenly observes people in his surroundings and draws conclusive picture about the culture and place, they belong to. This was the beginning of my journey to explore different mannerisms of people across the nation. This article tries to portray various facets of Indian culture, how deeply it is engraved in a person and gives him/her distinct attributes, that is, pretty unique in itself.

I used to reside in a township near Varanasi, or formerly known as Benaras, which is an ancient temple city in the north India. People from all across the nation come here to visit the holy city situated at the banks of river Ganges. It is believed that people attain salvation once they visit this place. Amidst the hustle bustle of honking vehicles and overcrowded people, you still find serene and peaceful moments to cherish. And the people here are calm, relaxed and sometimes perplexed. It is also said that time stands still in Varanasi, and the people are free from all the worries and reside in a harmonious manner with people from other communities and cultures as well. This is a place where one can find true blend of different Indian cultures. Many a times, people can be seen at tea shops or paan (betel nut) shops; busy in their endless gossips. There’s a sense of love and compassion among people that keeps them together!

It would be ridiculous if I don’t mention anything about Delhi and the people there, fondly called as “Delhiites”. If you want to see the true picture of India, then do visit Delhi. Being the capital of India, it has great historical as well as political importance. But the thing that attracts the people from far and wide is the PEOPLE out here. During day time, people have a busy routine and monotonous life, mostly struggling for success but in the evening, there’s a perfect transformation, as people love to eat, dance and hang out with friends and near ones. The never-ending craving for food and “live-the-life-king-style attitude” is what defines the true Delhiites”.

The experience of visiting Kashmir in my summer vacations was heart- enthralling and beyond words. People visit it to enjoy the scenic beauty and moreover to get captured in the blissful serenity that they cherish throughout their life. But, the best part that attracts the visitors back to this ‘Paradise on Earth’, is again the people. Their love, care and hospitality makes the place more amiable. People are very friendly out here and won’t hesitate to invite you to their homes. In spite of the turmoil in the valley, people keep their spirits high. Behind every smiling face there may be unheard cries but they always stay happy, whatsoever the situation may be!

No other place can describe the ‘live-out-loud’ attitude as perfectly as Kerala. People are ardent lovers of art and culture. People are connoisseurs for witty jokes and mimicry acts, as these make them bid away all their worries and enjoy life. They may portray pompous and lavish lifestyles, but they are innocent, true and loving in nature. They love fish and food cooked in coconut oil. They love Saudi Arabia or gulf returned goodies so that they can boast aloud about them. But what makes them distinct is gold-laden attire that distinguishes a “Malayali” from the crowd.

When I came to Cuttack for the first time, there was a mixed feeling of excitement as well as anxiety about the people, whether they will accommodate me or not and how I will get used to their customs and culture. And, to my astonishment, I found this place to be better as people here were ever helping and cheerful. People here are very friendly but, it takes a while to get well accustomed to the place. My college is about two kilometers away from my hostel, and unfortunately, sometimes I miss my bus. So, on my way to college, me and my friends, ask for lift from passing vehicles and we have never been refused for the same. People here are cheerful and fun loving. They live, love and die for food. The city has shanty shops selling tasty Dahi vadas or rosogullas. What makes a “cuttacki” to be different is the way they enjoy their life to the fullest! It’s been a year or so and I’m at a place which is like a ‘home-away-from-home’ for me. There are many friends of mine coming from different cultures, ethnicity and places and I am still struggling to understand their mannerisms. They are Bengalis and Punjabis and they might be distinct in manner they behave, but still I find them similar in a way, which is being an Indian!

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  1. rema

    understanding the people with whom we are living is the greatest achievement for humanity

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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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