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“Ten Years Have Passed, But It Only Seems Like Yesterday”: Remembering My Father

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By Mayank Mohanti:

It was a pensive evening in the year 2006. I was lost in my own world, contemplating over a hundred theories that had formulated in my head, none of which were pleasant. A week had passed yet there was no news from my parents. I was very disturbed; never before had my parents failed to check up on their youngest son, not a single day passed without me having said, “I’m okay.”

Swimming in a pool of anxiousness, I walked up the stairs towards the warden’s room and asked for his mobile phone. Tentatively, I dialed the number and held my breath after placing it upon my ears. “Hello” answered my mother in a calm voice. Straightaway, I headed for the question that had unsettled my nerves: “Why didn’t you call me?”

“I’m sorry son, but we are in Mumbai,” she replied and then went quiet for a moment. “Your father is diagnosed with cancer.” The answer rattled me to the core; it brought an overwhelming sense of pain that was too hard to bear. I had read about it in science class and knew enough that there was no escaping the rapidly growing cells. I stood still in shock — my brain not willing to process what my ears had just heard. Mother cajoled me into taking care of myself, but the lump in my throat hindered any further communication. I wished I could be alone and cry out till the dawn, but it seemed as if the tear glands had gone dysfunctional. Despite my effort, tears didn’t flow out. I looked into the mirror: they were red and dry.

Ten years have passed, but it only seems like yesterday. “He was so young, so full of life; can’t imagine how this could have happened to such a kind person,” the villagers would whisper and debate: why of all the people the Almighty chose you. They say death is the only certain thing in this world and that it is nature’s way of restoring balance; seems like the world was abundant with the generous lot.

Sometimes, when I’m tired playing out my role in this circus, I think of you, papa. And in those moments, I feel the immense urge to travel beyond the horizon into the Holy land from where you are watching keenly and helping us in our each and every endeavour. And I bet, maa and bhaiyya would agree with me on it.

I miss you, papa, and I feel very lonely with you gone. I vividly remember the day you took me for a ride on the 350 cc Rajdoot. Despite mother’s concern, you lifted me off the ground and placed me on the backseat. Immediately, the fearsome kid clung to your waist and his tiny face hid behind your back. You kicked start the motorcycle and off we went. I opened my eyes to the wind blowing hard upon my face, trees running in a rapid motion, even the houses on wheels. I was dumbfounded, very eager to share this discovery with bhaiyya. As I was relishing this moment, my grip on the chappal went loose and it slipped from my foot. I started crying. The next moment, I saw you running back to me with a tiny chappal in your hand. I was overjoyed as I saw my first live hero.

They say time takes away the sharp edge of pain and that memories fade with time. Then why is it papa that I can still feel my eyes go warm and moist whenever I think of you? Why is it that I shiver every time I hear the word ‘cancer’?

There is one thing that I regret the most: I wasn’t by your side when you breathed your last. I could never tell how much I loved you. It wasn’t something extraordinary that I could spell ‘carbon dioxide’ in UKG, but papa, your exuberant applause made it obvious that I was your smartest child. The way you escorted the guests into our living room and showed off our trophies and medals with pride, I could not have been surer. We were your little precious birds, whom you had given the wings to fly – only high and above.

I want to tell you, papa, that we are all fine. Maa, she is a superhuman. I don’t know how she managed to raise us single-handedly — the whole village is in awe, some relatives jealous and we, the three proud sons, grateful to God for having blessed us with such great parents.

Together we three brothers stand, with hands holding out toward each other and head bowed down in reverence to our two idols: maa and papa, please make us your scion in the next life and beyond.

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  1. shahamat hussain

    Mayank I am sorry for your loss. I can relate to your story. May his soul rest in peace. Courage to you!

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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 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.

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