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The Inspiring Reason This Accenture Employee Also Chose To Be A Taxi Driver In Noida

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By Shruti Singh:

Perhaps the most common struggle that we face as citizens of a difficult economy is that of survival. It is almost synonymous with trying to drive after being two Vodka bottles down. You either die or kill someone else. Maybe it’s worse. But what remains is a life full of dilemmas and tough decisions. This is not a story of rags to riches. Neither does it glorify the “take the unconventional path” ideology. This is a story that should inspire you to grow a spine and stand up for what you feel is right for you.

As someone who travels a lot from NCR to New Delhi in public transport, it is sometimes difficult to catch the last UP Roadways bus in Noida. Since we all have established that private buses are not safe for women to travel even at 9:30pm, it is indeed a challenge to reach home safely. Most of the times there is no personal vehicle. On one of such dismal days, hurriedly walking down the stairs of the Botanical Garden metro station, my eyes fell on a white A4 sheet of paper. It read, “Delux taxi to Greater Noida”. The eyes then turned to a man dressed in a white round neck tee-shirt, speaking perfect English. After negotiating, we decide that he will drop me safely to my doorstep. To all those of you who are probably thinking, “She didn’t take the private buses due to safety issues and here she is, in a cab with a man she doesn’t know!” Yes. I too like to live dangerously.

Photo Credit: dannybirchall via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: dannybirchall via Compfight cc

We sat in the car and he handed me his business card. The Taxi Man, that’s what it says and he refuses to tell his real name. The reason that he gives is very Hollywood-like, “It creates an unnecessary personal connection and my family is the only personal connection that I prefer to have.” He drives an old but well-maintained Cielo. The seats are muddy brown in colour. There is a very dim green light that keeps him company inside, and he has one of the most charming personalities that you might come across. After a minute or two of telling him what I do, he began his story.

Hailing from a middle class family that had it’s own issues, he has been earning his livelihood since he was 15. What began as a necessity soon turned into an ambitious desire of being independent, having nothing to do with an alcoholic wife-beating father. The boy worked at a local grocery store to pay his school fee. He was young when he was taught that spoken English is the key to success in India. He did not want to skip school, especially the language class. Growing up in Bhopal, he wished to open a centre for teaching English and also include personality development. He never got to pursue these dreams. Where did you think Bollywood gets all its emotional movie stories from? Through such people who live long enough to share their experiences with others. At the age of 18, he entered the dynamic Delhi University to study B.Com (Program).

He never liked the subjects and opted for the course only because he was also one of us- conditioned to believe that all of us are mass produced machines that should follow the same path, that which leads us to the light at the end of the tunnel. This poor chap carried out his naivete and never saw the train coming from the same tunnel-end. What saved him were his personality and a short stint at being an emcee. He loved the performance, the stage and most importantly, the freedom of doing what he loved. That too was discouraged by people that mattered to him. After a number of odd jobs in order to make a decent CV, he landed a job in Accenture. He finally managed to get into one of world’s most popular MNCs. Praise the lord!

Snap back to reality. In the old green-lit Cielo, we continue to chat. He tells me that this is his last trip of the night. “Can’t wait to get back to my daughter. She can say some words.” His smile travels from the rear-view mirror to my face too. After listening to him the most logical question that follows is, why does he drive a cab from Noida to Greater Noida every evening, without fail? “Accenture did not pay me very well initially. I was 28, married, and had a family of four to take care of. I understand that this is the life story of most of us in India. But I did not want to tell myself that you have to adjust. I didn’t want my child to live a life where she has to think ten times before choosing an institute to study after school. As for this business, it does come with its demerits but, the merits outrun them by a good 100 miles. And now, this old and beaten car has become a symbol of who I am. I bought this car after a year of saving money from odd jobs. Every evening I wait for passengers because in a way I am rebelling against all those who told me that I couldn’t do well in life if I didn’t follow others. At 31, now I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter who inspire me to break these shackles of what’s wrong and what’s right. I mean, who are we really? Just a bunch of dejected youth, scared of pursuing our dreams. I refuse to be one of them.

The Taxi Man has now given his three-months notice at Accenture to pursue a law degree through correspondence. In the meantime, he will remain the ‘cabbie’ that he so proudly is and will continue to inspire more people. So the next time that you’re stuck at any metro station or anywhere else in NCR, give him a call and enjoy the company of a powerful man who wants you to know that your dreams matter. We are so involved in tearing ourselves down that we forget to take a moment and rewind. It doesn’t matter if you want to follow the crowd. All you need is the humility, the grace and the strength to walk yourself through it. Be conventional or don’t be conventional, the bottom line is that it is your responsibility to choose for yourself. And when you’ve done that, stand by it.

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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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