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‘A Crow Among Pigeons’: How I Appeared For Engineering Exams And Landed Up In Law School

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“Anand, we are here.” That deep voice was my dad. It was just a 30 km ride from my home. By the way my dad drives, it’d been just over 45 minutes since we had started out. But that had been a deep sleep for such a short period. I opened my eyes to see the towering walls of the place where I was going to spend my next 5 years. This was somewhere I had never wanted to be but this is where I was. In metallic silver letters on the brick wall read the words – The National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi.

I completed my school education with the science stream securing 95% marks, and attempted JEE, BITSAT and many more entrance exams. But the exam that I cleared was CLAT. Law had never been a career option to me. If given a hundred options, law would have been my hundredth. And yet here I was at the doorsteps of one of the premiere law colleges in the country. As we rode in, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had earned by studying pure science for the last two years.

My dad and I weren’t alone in the car. I had taken with myself 4 bags of luggage. It had things that were familiar to me. We got off the car to walk to my hostel room. The hostel pathway was long and dark, extending to infinity. There were rooms on either side. “Your room is towards the end. Room number 319,” shouted the warden.

The room was big enough for two people. The walls were painted yellow. A depressing colour to go with my depressing mood, I thought. The hostel room was quite different from my room back home. Other than being half the size, it did not have posters of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku – the trio that had developed a passion for physics in me. Soon this wall would have posters of H.R. Khanna and Fali Nariman.

“You will love this place,” – said my dad, interrupting my thoughts. He was getting late for office. “I’m good here. You can leave,” I said. He ran his fingers lovingly over my hair. “I will call you,” he said and left.

It had been my father’s decision to make me attempt CLAT. Not because he thought that I had an aptitude for law but because he didn’t want me to study in a college of ‘low repute’. The expectations from my family were huge and I did manage to deliver with an AIR 870 for a student who had heard about CLAT just 2 months before the exam. On one hand lay the preparation of two months and a cleared exam, and on the other, two years of problem solving, mock tests and reading that had not been able to help me pass JEE Advanced. Some short cut methods and a little guess work took me past the CLAT cut-offs.

I felt like a crow among a flock of pigeons. My family had bankers, teachers and civil servants but a lawyer – I am the closest anyone from my family got to it. I had always been under the impression that people who got into National Law Universities were those who belonged to a family of lawyers or judges or had at least been passionate about this field for years. And amidst such people, here I was, beginning my journey in a field different from what I had envisaged.

I decided to take a walk. The NUALS campus has a hilly terrain, it was a walk down from the hostel. I was not the only one out, and as the number of people staring at me increased, I began feeling more and more insecure. I had to escape.

But wait, I wasn’t the only troubled person here. In the shade of one of the very few trees in a campus was a gang of four, having pretty much the same expression, as I had. It is now or never. I have to break some eggs sooner than later. “Hi. I am Anand.” I said with an extended arm. I could see the relief on their faces. They introduced themselves to be Amjad* from Hyderabad, Sahil* from Chandigarh, Ramya* from Chennai and Marita* from Trivandrum.

kochi law school

It was Amjad who followed up talking, “We met each other a few minutes back. Like me, they were finding it difficult to talk to other people. None of us are actually from families with a legal background. Nor did we have any idea about an NLU when we were back in school. We do not even know if we can adjust to this place. But you seem pretty much in here. Is your father an advocate?” I couldn’t stop giving a smile. I wasn’t the only one here. “No,” I said.

I wasn’t actually the crow in a flock of pigeons. We are crows, pigeons and cuckoos forming a new flock to embark on a new journey. We are all victims of the Indian educational debacle. After spending 14 years in school I couldn’t find what I loved. It’s not my failure. It’s the failure of our education system. As I start off on a new journey spanning 5 long years, I hope to realise my passion, love and life.

*Names changed.

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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.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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