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My Sanity Meant More Than The ‘Christ Tag’: Why I Left Christ Univ. After 7 Months

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By Abhilasha Singh:

For the longest time I believed that my disliking Christ University, Bengaluru, proved that there was something wrong with me, but the rise of this movement has proved that the only difference between me and my former college mates is that they masked their disgust with the management so much better than I ever could. Everyone around me seemed to be enamoured by the ‘Christ brand’ back then, while I chose to spend my 7 months at School of Law, Christ University, sitting in a corner cribbing to the audience of my blog about how uninspiring I found both, students as well as teachers due to their demeanour as well as lack of knowledge.

On my first day at Christ, I vividly remember that sad excuse of an orientation in which a speaker droned on pointlessly about the magnificence of South Korea as opposed to North Korea, and the pride with which we were to wear our ‘Christite’ identity now that we’ve been christened. We were to be thankful for our privilege, apparently.
I took this ceremony as representative of the light bragging most universities allow themselves to indulge in, but was proven so wrong when later into my term, I realised that these statements weren’t just reflective of their general attitude of entitlement, but also their delusional belief that they possessed a monopoly over ‘quality’ education in Bengaluru, which is hilariously far from the truth.

Fact is, Christ doesn’t teach you anything. They train you. They train you as you would an animal before it realises it’s potential and grasps fully it’s knowledge about its abilities. They claim to train you to be ‘professionals’ with better chances at landing and keeping a job, but in reality they only train you to suspend your mental faculties and fit into this clear cut mould of what, in their opinion, the ideal Christite ought to be. They don’t teach you anything except for perhaps, how to skip around puddles in the ground when your salwar keeps finding it’s way under your feet on a rainy day on which you aren’t allowed to wear clothes that fit better, i.e., leggings. And studying here will invariably teach you the many ways in which you could jump off a table top you’re sitting on in class when the faculty coordinator comes by, because that sort of thing can land you a suspension. It almost landed me one.

Being the wide eyed, just out of school, aspiring lawyer that I was in 2013, I made the grave mistake of asking a teacher what ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ meant. The answer I received in response, was the most enlightening one a student could ever receive: “If you’re so interested, Google it.” Unsure of how to react, I chose to sink into my seat for the rest of the day and not ask questions because none of my teachers seemed to enjoy that kind of thing (except one, who also left soon after I did.)

In Christ, I realised, many things amounted to grounds for severe action, and the power to initiate this action lay with the security guards who could not only confiscate mobile phones, but also scrutinise whether the fabric of your pants violated the dress code (yes this happened, and I know this because I overheard the guard ask a teacher in the vicinity) making staring at a girl’s legs the commonplace thing to do no matter how uncomfortable it got for the person being stared at.

Among other things, you aren’t allowed to sit on the road in campus, the very wide stairway, or the floor. Either you sit on a chair, or don’t sit at all. “What is this Western hegemony?” I’d ask myself often while I was still there, but never got any answer except for that it ‘wasn’t professional behaviour’. There was very little to no room for self-expression, and when expression took the form of demonstration of affection through a hug (gender of the people involved was irrelevant), suspension was just around the corner. Suspension seemed to be the ultimate weapon of the management, since in one fell scoop they’d do away with your ‘reputation’ as well as attendance, and ensure that you also got into trouble at home since more often than not parents would be notified as well.

Hugs aside, everything in Christ was sexualised. Women were objects that tantalised boys, and since they were objects anyway, they most definitely weren’t allowed to have a say in a class debate about feminism. “Since it’s about women anyways, why not ask the boys how they feel?” a friend quoted an instance with a professor. Hurting the ego of someone on top of the food chain was also a bad idea, even if you’re in the right and standing up for yourself. I witnessed a classmate almost get expelled for refusing to turn in a phone she’d used to let her parents know that she was unwell.

My journey to college every morning was one filled with dread; “Abandon hope, all ye who enter,” became the tagline I associated with this college, called ‘the hell hole’ in hushed whispers by many of its students.

The final blow came when I found out that my end semester exam hall ticket was blocked because I’d committed the grave crime of not attending the closing ceremony of a Moot hosted by the department, because I was dying of a fever on the day. A lot of undignified pleading that I’ve sworn to never repeat in my life led to the unblocking of my hall ticket, but did not prevent the Father from banning me from Mooting over the rest of my stay at SLCU (which he unfortunately didn’t know was going to last just another two months).

Since my sanity and freedom of expression meant more to me than the pseudo-benefits that came along with the ‘Christ tag’, I decided to stand up for myself and leave college. Till today I don’t entirely know if I was put off by law as a subject or the way Christ chose to deal with it, but decided not to find out since I was done taking risks after a lost year.

Now that there’s significant distance between my present and this episode, I’d like everyone to believe me when I say that I’m truly in a far better place now. And that I believe that no management should be allowed to dictate how you feel about yourself. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and leave when your dignity is what will quench someone’s sadistic tendencies, especially when it’s a management.

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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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