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‘I Refuse To Act A Certain Way Just Because My Birthplace Asks Me To’

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By Apoorv Shandilya:

“Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.”

Ed Koch.

I grew up in a very small town in Bihar, unaware of most of the presumptions people had about my state. The town I lived in didn’t have an airport and nor was the train station something to admire. I left the town when I was 12-years-old and started living in Patna, one of the bigger cities in the state. Amidst the hefty crowd and people swearing a lot, I grew up to be just fine, contrary to what many may believe.

Six months ago, I moved to Bangalore to study English Literature at Christ University. I do not have a weird accent when I speak, neither do my other friends who come from the same town. The new friends I made here have never discriminated against me, neither have I found myself being looked down upon. However, I feel many in our generation, much like the past ones, refuse to readily accept anyone they deemed to be inferior and didn’t act like it. The fundamental right of being treated as equals is no privilege for a certain class, which is why I don’t believe someone does a favour by being nice to another person.

I certainly don’t claim that modern cosmopolitan cities ruin one’s life nor do I have any anger against those who had the benefits I didn’t. My frustration comes from people who choose to focus on all our differences and not accept them. Everyone is born the same way, so how does accepting stereotypes make any sense?

Rabindranath Tagore in his essay ‘East and West’, presents us with the idea of him carrying the stereotypical identity of an Indian everywhere he goes. This is not to be confused with Tagore disrespecting our national identity but how he believed that it was he himself who builds his character, and not even the place where he belongs to. This not only helps people to identify with the city without being unnecessarily embarrassed due to certain negative tags that a city unduly holds, but also opens up rather introverted people to socialise without being disregarded.

I have come to accept Bangalore just as  another city with its own perks and drawbacks. Here in Bangalore, I found the public transport oddly comfortable and a wider interaction with people from all over the world really enriching. Unlike Bihar, Bangalore doesn’t have an alcohol ban but that certainly doesn’t make me run towards it.

I have never found myself stuck in the past and refuse to be identified as a Bihari, not because I hate the state but because it was never just about a single state, but about my belief that our actions determine our associations. Not our hometowns or anybody else for that matter. Contrary to what I read in an article recently, I refuse to act a certain way, talk a certain way or behave a certain way just because my birthplace asks me to.

Almost all the instances that speak in a negative light of a state like Bihar are exceptions that can’t be taken as examples, nor can they justify the generalisation of people belonging to a particular community. I wonder how many of us actually know about Sharad Sagar. He is a young entrepreneur who launched a campaign to educate the underprivileged children and made a name for himself on his own and now holds a position in the Forbes top 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30. Why doesn’t he get half the attention as the Bollywood celebrity kids?

Stereotypes aren’t right. No matter what the reason is. Generalising one’s identity is just as stupid as throwing away all the apples when you find a single one which is rotting. They exist because we continue to remain in our past, reliving moments that are long gone. Even the moments  do not justify generalising an entire set of people. Thus, restricting not just one’s thoughts but the sheer will of accepting people with difference. Cosmopolitanism has always been one of humankind’s greatest strength. Why don’t we embrace it? Let’s take a step forward for the future generations to come. So, no matter where you live, don’t let it restrict you or bound you. The next time someone asks you “Where are you from?” speak about it proudly, without ever compromising on your self-respect.

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Image Source: Nicolas Mirguet/ Flickr
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  1. Manju Roy

    Very nicely written.Enjoyed reading it

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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