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Cyrus Broacha’s New Book Calls Out The Male Stalker, With Razor-Sharp Wit

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By Rohini Banerjee:

Before I had even picked up Cyrus Broacha’s book, “23 1/2 Ways to Make A Girl Fall For You,” the title had made me cringe. Whenever somebody (especially a man) claims to have “figured out women”, or claims to know “how to make a girl fall for you”, I am made increasingly wary because very often, the results turn out to be highly sexist. I had similar expectations from this book and was fully prepared to shudder in horror throughout while reading it, but surprisingly enough, I was proven wrong.

“The Indian male approaches women with mostly great trepidation, and even horror. He traditionally has no game”, Broacha announces in the very preface of this book, setting its tone. The book, structured in the form of letters from such ‘hopeless’ Indian men seeking dating or wooing advice with Broacha answering them agony aunt style, ends up being a hilarious and incisive exploration of the entitled Indian male psyche. Broacha deconstructs the ‘friendzone’ (and the subsequent concept of the ‘nice guy’), provides razor-sharp commentary on male stalking (or stalkerish and creepy behaviour), addresses consent, and ultimately, (albeit in a convoluted fashion) punctures holes into the patriarchal belief that a man has the unquestionable right to a woman’s affections.

The so-called letters from men range from amusing to horrifying to plain and simple ridiculous. There are men who want to know whether a girl merely waving at them can be construed as reciprocation, and there are men who want to know whether it is allowed to hit women ‘playfully’ if they are their friends — and all of this is dealt by Broacha with the snarkiest and sassiest of replies. Though most of these letters (and the people depicted in them) are fictional, they expose the disturbingly warped ideas Indian men form about women. Among the various ‘problems’ that these fictional men write to Broacha about, include women not ‘staring back’ at them when the men stare, of women not responding when the men tag them on social media, of women not liking the same kind of food as the men — all of which may seem exaggeratedly hilarious, but almost seem dangerously close to how creepy men can get in real lives. All of Broacha’s responses to these ‘problems’ directly or indirectly destroy the men’s illusions about women, and expose how pathetic they ultimately are. For example, this is one of the hilarious responses Cyrus gives to a guy called Emanuel D’Costa (who continues to pursue his next door neighbour despite being rebuffed by her multiple times and even had a restraining order issued against him) when he asks him for tips to woo her:

“Having read your letter carefully my father and I are both in agreement that you’re extremely lucky it’s just a restraining order you have got from the court. Going by your version of events, without even considering her side of it, may I say that you deserve a far stiffer punishment (like banishment from the kingdom or being locked in a dungeon or even worse, being forced to wear Spandex all your life). You, my friend, are the encyclopaedia definition of the word ‘stalker’. In the encyclopaedia in front of me, the word ‘stalker’ is defined as ‘someone who stalks’, which is clearly the work of an ill-read idiot. It should be changed to ‘Emanuel D’Costa’ with great speed and finality. You can’t force love. If we could, we’d all be married to Cindy Crawford.”

Though the book is sneakily feminist, there are still certain problems with it. There’s an element of mansplaining here — of a man telling other men how to not talk to, or think about, women — and we almost never hear the woman’s side of the story (barring a couple of letters, which are written by women). Nevertheless, it’s still an important book, and indeed a refreshing one because very rarely has Indian male privilege so thoroughly roasted and called out like it has in this book. Though I went in fully prepared to hate it, it ended up being extremely enjoyable, and not just because Broacha’s brand of humour is gloriously derisive, but also because his observations about the dating habits of Indian men are extremely on point.

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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, 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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