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How I Discovered Travelling To Be My Way Of Meditation

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By Ishani Palandurkar:

Ever since I came to Delhi, or I should say, ever since I started exploring Delhi, I met many people who wanted to travel for some reason or the other. Everyone has this zeal to pack their bags and leave. It was some time later when I realised that I too want to travel, apart from writing, which is my first love.

I remember it was a January morning, I went for a walk at 6 AM and while returning I decided to rest at the Vice Chancellor’s office which is also a spot for joggers. The grass in the front lawn was wet because of dew. I removed my shoes and walked for a while, observing. Yes, observing. Observing how beautiful sun looked in winters; the fog coming from my breath; violet flowers blooming to the full; birds chirping in the most beautiful symphony. I had recently recovered from a personal life crisis and these things did fascinate me and took that gloominess out.

Regular walks have now become my addiction, not for fitness but to observe nature and this addiction has helped me explore my campus like I never did in the past 2.5 years. It was during this period a realisation had hit me that because of my love for walking and appreciating nature and winters, I should travel, preferably to the mountains.

Now, as thrilling and adventurous as it sounds, a question popped up in my subconscious,“Don’t you think travelling is a cliché? And you want to do it because everyone wants to do it?” Even my closest people were convinced that I was ‘fascinated’ by this idea which of course will be short-lived.

I battled with this thought for a very long time. Travelling and writing, it surely is not as glamorous as it sounds, mostly because of lesser opportunities in the media industry. Those who are there in magazines or channels come from elite backgrounds or are in their 40s by when they get paid to travel. There are thousands of travel bloggers on the internet and a lot has been written about many places already. You have got to be different to find your way and sadly no course or campus placement can provide you with that. It’s just you struggling to find a spot. India is a bit slow in absorbing contemporary fields like these, especially for women. Moreover, as a matter of fact, most people do want to travel! But then I look back and see that every other person wants to do MBA, chartered accountancy, engineering, etc. and such mainstreams are not questioned in India. May be, social acceptance of travelling will take time.

After convincing my parents for 10 months, I finally got permission to go on a trek and that experience, in particular taught me that travelling can never be a cliché. It’s entirely different if you want to travel for fancy Facebook pictures. But for those who yearn to find where a free mind wanders and see foreign land and culture, it is meditation. I can say that because when I was at the top of a mountain during my first trek, I didn’t want to talk to anyone or take pictures. I just sat there for hours looking at the snow peaks around, taking some snow in my hand, staring at it. I could hear the wind blowing. I saw the sun setting down in the most elegant way. All I could do was, take out my small notepad and start writing poetry. I am a sensitive woman and the slightest things can inspire me to write poems and for me, poems are the best form of expression.

In the valley of sand and snow
I stand,
Still.
I close my eyes and listen,
To the chirps of birds
And gush of water.
I close my eyes
And I feel
The cold breeze upon my face
Bright sunlight giving a ray of faith
And when I look at the sky blue
We exchange smiles
For accomplishing things which the world said I couldn’t.

Travelling can never be defined, it is experiential. One thing that stays as a constant is the fact that it is a learning experience. You will never know everything until you do it yourself. Sometimes, even after you are back, your heart will be entangled in so many mysteries that those places will keep calling you. Also, it is not always about the land, sometimes, it is the warmth of the people, their interesting cultures, the local events, their personal stories, clear skies and gigantic mountains.

To add another point, the experience is different for every single soul. Unlike rote based academics, travelling is unique. What I’ll extract from my experience is exclusive to me. Just go to a bookstore and buy travelogues of different writers on the same place, you’ll know the difference. For the sake of calling things cliché, there are many, yet you don’t want to become rich or attain best of the facilities because everyone is aiming for it. What I am trying to emphasise is not the imitation but the hunger to learn. It is not wise to stop yourself or anyone from travelling because many are into it or to raise the question of whether or not they have explored the place they live in.

One sees the different lives led by people, the terrain and socio-economic conditions of various regions. A few go around these places to observe while some discover their purpose of life in those journeys. Read “The Motorcycle Diaries” by Che Guevara and see how an adventurous trip turned into a social revolution. Travelling can also be an escape from tragedies of life, as it was to Colin Thubron, who decided to climb sacred Mount Kailash in his late 60s after losing his family.

As I said, it’s an exclusive experience to each one of us. The aura of these places will hit you in such a manner that will make you go deeper into introspection, every emotion will get magnified, some important things will become irrelevant and all of a sudden ‘nothing’ will turn into ‘everything’. Let the world out there blame travelling and travellers, but if your soul gives that call, listen to it as this experience is the purest form of learning.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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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