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This Incident At A Kolkata Restaurant Exposes ‘New Heights Of Snootiness’

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By Ananya Saha:

Social media is legitimately in upheaval as a lady and her employee/chauffeur, who she wanted to treat for his dedicated service; have faced atrocious behaviour from the management of an upscale restaurant in Kolkata. The establishment is an old and a prestigious one, it’s popularity preceding itself. But alas, while serving up a royal vintage menu, they have probably forgotten that we do not live in the colonial times any longer. Therefore, taking their eminence for granted and displaying arrogance is not sitting comfortably with many.

Snootiness has achieved new heights in the Indian fine dining industry as we see in this case. The lady was obviously ready to pay for her guest, hence it is not an issue of money which could have defended the restaurant’s concern. Rather, it is an issue of unconscionable ‘snobbery’ that robbed the establishment of a patronage, and many more, given how unfavourably the crowd is reacting through the digital media platforms. The management has produced lame excuses of the male guest being drunk when they apparently had no proof. Also, if a wealthy customer was allegedly drunk but was wearing the right sort of clothes, would they be treated in the same fashion? The eatery does not have a specific dress code. Hence, the entire excuse of him flouting an abstract ideal of clothing is completely irrelevant. Once, the Calcutta Club refused entry to the eminent artist Ananda Shanker as he was not dressed according to the code. But at least they had a code. Yet, they were not spared from criticism for their rigidity.

Furthermore, whether this gentleman was eating street food before crossing the threshold of the eatery or not, is none of their business either. The management presumed that the other patrons might have a problem with the lady’s ‘unseemly’ guest being there. But how could have they been sure? Perhaps the patrons inside at that very moment were also sensible, like the people raising their voices against this outrageous conduct. Unless this person had created some unnecessary ruckus inside the dining space, probably the other diners would have just minded their own business. After all, they were also out to have a good time; not to police the absurd standard imposed by the restaurant on their guests one fine evening. And if they did, who needs customers like them, except for a conceited upscale dine-in without a shred of ethics?

During my frequent air travels, I meet a lot of people. I have noticed similar thread of behaviour in flights for some time now, especially the ones whose tickets come at a reduced price. Owing to cheap fares, certain financially weaker passengers also choose to avail them in cases of emergency or otherwise. Inevitably, they end up receiving offensive stares from certain passengers who behave as if they have no right to be there. What I do not understand is, if they are so disturbed by the affordability of another who is not up to their ‘high and mighty standards’, why avail a cheap flight themselves? No one is stopping them from paying for a full fare business class ticket after all.

Many others like myself have been brought up in open minded families. In our social realities, the maid or the household help invariably come from a lower economic echelon. Yet unlike many, we have never seen our parents maintaining a different set of utensils for them to eat from. What is the point of it when that very person is in charge of cleanliness of the entire household? I myself have been often guilty of guzzling down the delectable fish prepared and boxed with care by an elderly lady, the wife of our long term family chauffeur, now retired.

As often witnessed, old helping hands become a part of the family. They look after us when parents have to step out. We are instructed to help their children with school work. A school mate of mine unfailingly celebrates the birthday of the lady who has been working in their family for almost two decades. One might mistake it for condescension or an opportunity to ‘feel-good-patting-oneself-on-the back’. But two decades is quite a long time. It might be a tad difficult to carry on the charade of self-celebration devoid of attachment for so many years; especially when it remains a strictly private affair without a hundred pictures splashing the social media platform.

For people like us who possess at least a minuscule amount of sensitivity, it is enraging to witness such misconduct go scot-free. Especially when the alleged establishment is refusing to even admit that they have erred. Instead, they continue to be exceptionally rude to the reviewers who are speaking out against them on various sites. One only has to see the Facebook pages linked to the restaurant. Eateries such as these who need to attend a course on ‘Ethics and Humanity 101’ should be picked apart on principle. Not that personal interests are the ‘be all and end all’ of an argument; it could have been any of our friends or acquaintances of limited means who could have been harassed that evening, or any other for that matter, if the business concerned does not mend it’s ways. The establishment forgets that it does not have a monopoly. There are numerous other fine dine options in the city. If patrons find them offensive, they might be obliterated. And by being rude to the protesters, they keep digging their grave deeper and deeper. As we all know, no one finds an entrée of disdain appetising!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, 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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