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My Parents’ Story Of Love Has Shown Me What Perhaps Is Missing From Relationships Today

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And somewhere in the midst of two villages a jeep carrying a few passengers stopped. In the scorching heat of summer, the passengers came out and asked the sugarcane vendor for some glasses of juice. He delivered them. The men from the jeep offered the glasses to the women sitting inside. Some belonged to the family of the men outside and some were unknown. One of the men offered a glass to a shy lady among them. She took the glass oblivious of who it was that had offered it to her. The journey continued and they reached their village. The man went to his home and the lady who he had offered the glass of juice to went to her maternal uncle’s place.

A couple of days later the girl’s maternal uncle was invited to meet an educated guy who works in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and had come down to his village. He was looking for a bride. So, if they were interested, the family of that young man would like to meet them. The girls’ maternal family responded to it positively and so, asked the girl’s father, who belonged to a different village, to come over. They then went to the young man’s home to ask him and his family to visit and meet the prospective bride.

The elders from the boy’s side came, saw the girl, had a long chat with elders and left. The girl’s family was not sure about the answer they would get. The boy’s family were worried since they thought that the girl was extremely thin and joked that she would get blown away even in a small wind storm. But later, the boy was asked his opinion and he agreed. The date of the wedding was fixed.

The courtship period began as he left for Calcutta for his job. Letters were exchanged and the occasional telephone calls also began between them. Six months passed this way. Now the marriage was announced and invitation cards were printed.

She shifted from her house to his home and her new life began. Soon after the marriage, he went back to the city for his job while she stayed back in the village. He increased his visits to his village and she, on the other hand, made it her duty to get to know his family better and form good relations with them. A couple of years later she shifted with him to Calcutta. It was a different city, a different culture. She started learning and adapting to everything. With the passage of time, they learnt more about each other. A decent, innocent and short tempered guy and a simple village girl with simpler dreams and aspirations. But both were pure and pious at heart and only wanted happiness in life. This was what brought them together. For them, a grand life, luxuries, and extreme riches were never priorities in life. They wanted to have a good life with their family. That is all.

They used to go out sometimes. Laugh, fight but, eventually, their day would end with both of them lying together on a single mattress with one pillow. Life was not easy for them. To survive in a big city for village people with small aspirations is always a difficult task. But their support for each other from the very beginning was what kept them going. They faced many struggles, but like on a boat in a sea storm, a hand in your hand gives you way more confidence than the fright you get from the vicious waves of water. They survived and life went on.

They are my parents. My mom and my dad. 28 years have passed. They wake up at 7:30 in the morning. When he wakes up early, he disturbs her peaceful sleep because he hates sitting alone. Later he goes to the kitchen and prepares tea for her, to have a reason to wake her up.

She wakes up and quarrels with him for disturbing her sleep yet again. Both take a newspaper in hand and start sipping their morning tea. She finishes her tea, and he always leaves two sips of tea in the cup for her. She gets angry that he never finishes his tea. He jokingly gives the same answer which he has been giving for 20 odd years, that he has left that much for her out of love. She throws a tantrum but takes the cup and finishes it.

He leaves for office and she gets engrossed in her work. By the time he returns from work, they have already spoken four times on the phone. Their conversations may take the form of arguments, discussions, teasing but often include a lot of laughter.

He comes back, asks where the children are and has dinner with them. Post dinner, they again take a couple of hours to sum up their day to each other.

Their old letters are preserved in a locker. Their old memories still make them laugh out loud. The struggles they faced still fill their eyes with tears. Yet, looking at each other gives them strength. All this makes their love grow stronger.

And here we are on the other side. It seems to me that we have all the modes of communication but nothing to talk about. We argue and fight over petty issues and instead of sorting them out, we sort the other person out of our life. Missing someone is rarely a thing now. Moving on is the latest trend. Understanding and feeling are lost and replaced by the term ‘practicality’. Struggles separate rather than bring two persons together. “Things didn’t work out between us” is a valid argument to end a relationship.

I feel we have become more isolated in this generation even with the best of means to survive. We seek love everywhere even as love has become so easy to find. Happiness seems to be depreciating as our lifestyles improve.

Maybe, this shows that love doesn’t need any of it. It is a belief. All those who believe, thrive. The remaining strive.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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
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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