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How A Story Of 4 DU Students Searching For A Mythical Form Of Hash, Explores Rebellion In Unique Ways

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By Shambhavi Saxena:

Imagine driving through the mountains in a dusty jeep so far from your home in South Delhi, that the mist in the trees makes you forget the sound of traffic. The feeling of being alive, and knowing a cliff isn’t the only thing that separates you from death, that things beyond your control — people, corporations, schools, governments — are calling the shots. Imagine escaping only to find yourself at the heart of a whirlwind, “in the throes of chaos and anarchy”, awakening to purpose and power. There are no wars here, but even as Lennon prays for “nothing to kill or die for”, his vision, as the vision of the makers of India’s constitution, remains unrealized. Imagine being young, and inheriting the carcass of the earth, blindfolded by somebody else’s instructions.

mcream

Indie filmmaker and NYU graduate Agneya Singh’s imagination has made a valiant attempt at capturing the predicament of the Indian youth in his latest cinematic endeavour, M Cream — a tale of four Delhi University students in search of charas (cannabis), who are at every turn provided an opportunity be involved in something bigger than themselves. The narrative of the film may come across as frivolous, as the lifestyle of the youth is usually labelled, but raises some very poignant questions about the role of young people in Indian society, greatly hampered by hierarchical social arrangements and ultimately presenting the hope of reconstruction. Singh says his film “serves to explore the contemporary idea of rebellion and just what it means to young people in our country today.” (The Film Street Journal)

The word “rebellion” may conjure up images of shaggy haired stoners or kids committing arson, but in the context of India, it appears as a call to action against an unjust status quo, maintained insidiously by warped treatises on nationalism, propriety and honour. The revolution that Singh prophesies about will not come in the form of burning buses and thrown stones, but in an organized and rational way, when the youth of this country finally accept their social responsibility, instead of pandering to social expectations.

Young people’s participation in decision-making within the household and without is, at best, nominal. Most young men, women, trans* or genderqueer persons are at the mercy of their immediate family’s wishes regarding concerns of education, marriage, political affiliations, identity expression and even interpersonal relationships. The family structure, under the excuse of cultural correctness, strips young individual members of their autonomy until they have reached economic independence and in some cases not even then. While caution can do no harm, subordination produces tension. When no value is attached to the experiences and opinions of the youth, then compliance towards elders follows. This system of dependence implies the absence of critical thinking in a young person who is unequipped to recognize modes of oppression around him/her/hirself. Singh’s movie propels this aspect of youth engagement as well, saying there is a need to “learn to identify and analyze the root causes of social inequalities.” (The Film Street Journal)

Being young in India is truly a paradox, particularly as a student, because university campuses are simultaneously sites of liberation and of submission. The hierarchies between teacher and student are maintained, in which the teacher enjoys more power over the student, but at the same time imparts knowledge of freedom and resistance. In the long run, the school or university is still an institution which governs students, and has the power to quash or ignore students’ demands, such as in the case of Jadavpur, Himachal Pradesh University and Delhi University’s English Department. By 2020, India is projected to have the largest youth population, with every other Indian being under the age of 30. This unique factor has been projected as the reason for India’s growth. Disappointingly, this does not accord respect to young people as anything other than components in a large machine, supported by and supporting the same modes of oppression — class, gender, religion, sexuality, you name it. During this year’s General Elections, 150 million first-time voters constituted a significant chunk of the 814.5 million strong electorate. In the weeks leading up to the elections, news reports came in claiming that political parties ought to make extra effort over this single demographic. As encouraging as this sounds, youth participation in national politics is routinely dismissed by the very office bearers who are supposed to represent them. In the recent past, the unfortunate incidents that took place in Calcutta’s Jadavpur University, which sparked massive protests in several Indian cities, is only testament to how little political authorities think of young people. The traditional family unit — where the father is breadwinner, mother homemaker and child the subordinate or student — is responsible for the promulgation of patriarchy and heterosexism at the smallest level of social organization, and, unsurprisingly affects the standing of youth in society. It is here that the silencing of youth voices begins and may be sustained over long periods of time, unless the family unit is open to uninhibited political debate.

m cream poster

Even so, there is a growing sensitivity towards institutionalized discrimination and the violence with which it is meted out to underprivileged sections, rural and tribal populations, women, religious and caste minorities, non-heterosexuals, persons of the third genders, etc. Young people have started to recognize that any and every form of oppression has to be rooted out before India can call itself progressive, and that development does not exclusively imply the GDP of India, but also involves national literacy, sexual health, HDI, among other criterion.

In the last two years, youth in India have galvanized into a tremendous force demanding of governments and other institutions accountability, transparency, efficacy and responsiveness. Dissatisfaction and disillusionment is only the prelude to rebellion. In Singh’s words, “the youth of today [are] finally beginning to form a vanguard of rebellion against a hypocritical and oppressive social order.”

Younger and younger individuals in professional fields ranging from journalism to medicine to civil services seem to have made personal pledges towards reconstituting social orders. Agneya Singh, counted among this group, has “always considered cinema to be a truly revolutionary weapon.” (The Film Street Journal)

After all, all art is political, otherwise it would just be decoration.

You must be to comment.
  1. Akshay Bansal

    Beautiful story .. seriously love it. Thanks a lot and keep bringing such story.

  2. aayush verma

    Weed is illegal in India!! Is it good??

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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