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‘This 60-Year-Old Taught Me The Meaning Of Life And I’m Unlikely To Forget It’

By Pallavi Singh:

solo-female-travel-in-IndiaGoa beaches are always happening. It fills one’s life with fresh energy to walk on the slipping sand. I don’t know about others but this is what I felt.

I was looking at all those who were strolling on the beach at about 5 in the morning from my sea-facing resort. I too followed them and sat around on a stone. The view was beautiful but I was not able to enjoy it as an argument with my boss haunted me.

A day before, I had a horrible argument with my boss, where he unnecessarily accused me of something I was not involved in, not even aware of. It’s the easiest thing to blame others and walk away – a lesson I have learnt in my professional life. Everyone has a weak point where they break; I had found mine too.

That night when I walked home, only one question rang in my head. What next? All those sacrifices I had made for the organisation seemed worthless now.

I postponed my vacations, didn’t visit home for the longest time and now it seemed as though I was the dumbest person in the world. I was not in a mood to drag my family or friends in this issue. They would all pour in to give me solace and courage and I would feel as though my dreams were over for good.

Instead, I checked my account and discovered that I had more than enough money to survive one week in complete luxury anywhere in the world. Goa had been on my mind for some time now, and I would often check out lucrative deals on travel websites. This time, I thought of giving myself a luxurious trip worth remembering.

Next day I shopped a lot and booked the evening flight to Goa. Around 9 pm, I had checked into the wonderful resort with its courteous staff and sea-facing rooms. Everything was as I had desired, yet my heart was locked and none of the excitement seeped into me.

The sun was about to rise when I saw people from my adjacent cottage heading towards the beach just across our resort.

Trust me; the ocean is the most fabulous thing I have ever seen in my life. I can still hear those tides in my ear.

Young couples, children, old people – all having fun. They all were celebrating life in their own way. Amidst the crowd, my eyes stopped on a lady, about 60 years old or maybe a little less, in a blue shirt and black shorts walking on the beach holding the hand of an old man.

She waved her hand and asked me to click a couple of pictures for her. I took her cell-phone and clicked away. I was taken aback to know that the old man who accompanied her and was now sitting on the sand, was her father. She introduced herself as Sheila. She was from Mumbai but had now settled in Goa with her father. Her house was quite close to my resort.

She held my hand and encouraged me to plunge into the water. I refused but she was so stubborn that finally, I was in. She didn’t ask me anything but read my face maybe and told me something that made my trip awesome.

Life is too short to worry and too long to wait. Don’t stay idle, get going because nobody owns your life. Don’t let anybody snatch your happiness away from you. Cheer and smile.”

I was surprised the way she was enjoying like a kid in the water taking selfies and talking nonstop.

Later that evening I saw her walk around in my resort talking to people, solving problems and generally being her confident self with a lot of comfort. On enquiring from a waiter, I learnt that she is the owner of this resort. I was genuinely surprised and was curious to know more about her.

The waiter replied that this resort is everything to her. She works here like a mere employee because she enjoys filling up her time with the challenges this job brings with itself. She had lost her husband and her only son some time back and her father was the only family she was left with.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Sheila the one with so much life in her had such close encounters with death! She could have chosen to end her life sobbing and grieving in some old age home, but here she was living her life, not forgetting to smile whenever she got the opportunity. That moment I realised, how blessed I was. Suddenly, my own problems seemed so vague and meagre. Sheila had taught me to be thankful for everything that I had in my life instead of feeling sorry for that one problem I couldn’t solve.

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  1. Nisha Thapa

    Lovely article ,really very encouraging ,thankyou…

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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
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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