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Reasons Why You Will Love Visiting North Sikkim; Other Than The Unbeatable Momos Of Course #PhotoNama

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By Krishna Prasanth:

There are two types of tourist destinations in this world. There are man-made destinations, places with historical monuments or modern-day marvels. The second type are places with natural marvels, with beautiful hills or sandy beaches. While it is up to the traveller to decide what he/she prefers; why do they prefer whatever they prefer isn’t hard to understand. It’s depends on what one’s mind and heart seeks. Man-made destinations are often sights that create a sense of awe, amusement, excitement or exhilaration.

On the way to la chung
On the way to La Chung

They produce emotions, emotions that are positive, but emotions are all they create at the end of the day. You are at awe when you see the Taj, you are amused when you are in Disney Land and exhilarated when at the top of the Empire States Building. Meanwhile, places of natural beauty offer a different sense of happiness altogether. This happiness is that of peace, of trance and tranquillity and a state of no emotion. There is nothing artificial about what you are watching, and your subconscious almost connects with the surrounding and you realize deep inside that this is where you belongs. You realize that true life lies on the mountain ridges, in vast valleys, in the sunny beaches and not just in concrete jungles.

Distant view of Yumthang valley
Distant view of Yumthang valley

North Sikkim can be a great place for a close encounter with nature. The journey from Gangtok, the state capital, to Yumthang, a valley at the height of 11800 ft. via La Chung, makes for a very mesmerizing experience. Right from the beginning of the journey, one gets treated to green valleys with a river flowing ever so gracefully down in the gorge, with the road disappearing at regular intervals under little streams of water flowing down from the top of the hills. As the car makes its way over the water and the gravel along the hilly road, one can’t help feeling like a Discovery channel reporter.

And the hours pass by as the wind gets all the more chilly, the road starts winding up more than ever before, the clouds which were so high a few hours back are right beside you and suddenly you begin to spot a series of mountain tops with snow caps.

En route La Chung: mountain residents
En route La Chung: mountain residents

La Chung is generally the place where tourists put up in cottages for a night stay before making the final lap of the journey towards Yumthang. This place is no less breath-taking. With little cottages and a monastery adorning the hills, with a river flowing through the middle of this little village, one experiences the peace in life away from the bustling city.

Zero point
Zero point

And as the final lap of the journey resumes, one can spot Army camps and soldiers on the way, which are essentially regiments of the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police). It is these army men who ensure food and water supplies throughout the year for people up in the mountains. Irrespective of the harsh weather conditions, they also work diligently and steadfastly to ensure that transport and communication services are functional throughout the year, including harsh winters. One realizes that modern life up here is perhaps impossible without the assistance of these men in uniforms.

Finally, as Yumthang approaches, one can spot a variety of exotic flowers, flowers of different colours, shapes and sizes and the human eye is treated to a pleasure beyond expression. It is these flowers which make the Yumthang valley famous. And as the valley finally arrives, one is treated to an expansive green pasture with horses grazing, with a river in the middle and mountains on either side. While the scene seems worth the gruelling and yet pleasant journey, one can’t resist making the trip to ‘Zero point’, where the road eventually comes to an end. This place is a few thousand feet further up, and perhaps makes for a more breath-taking experience than Yumthang itself. It, in fact is so high that oxygen level drops below normal level, so much so that it becomes difficult to breathe, let alone walk or run. The sight is beautiful, with snow and the river water at almost freezing temperatures, all of it in mid-summer!

Zero point
Zero point

A travelogue on Sikkim without the mention of Momos and Maggi is incomplete. In places as high as these, it’s only these two items which keep you going on the gruellingly long journeys here. Momos are essentially steamed buns with or without stuffing, served with a tomato based sauce. They are made of a simple flour and water dough. The stuffing could be anything, from chicken or mutton, to veggies and paneer. Hot and steamy Momos alongside some spicy Maggi makes for a perfect snack and keeps you hot inside in these cold and chilly places.

And on the return trip, the majestic mountains, the glossy rivers, the green lush pastures and the valleys, all of them retreating will leave you dazed. It isn’t just all of these that are amazing in themselves, but the thought that humans, no matter how ever ingenious and intelligent they are will never ever be able to replicate these wonders of nature is a feeling that makes one appreciate nature and its beauty a lot more .

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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.

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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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