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Kalki Koechlin’s Poem ‘Noise’ Is An Accurate Reflection Of The Clamour Of Our Everyday Lives

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Within two days of its release on the Youtube channel BLUSH, Kalki Koechlin’s “Noise”, a slam poem, has lived up to its name. Google’s already showing more than a lakh results on “Kalki Koechlin Noise” and here’s another voice with views on the poem, that won’t hopefully drown in the opinionated cacophony surrounding Kalki’s second piece of slam poetry.

After the poem came out, Hindustan Times chose to highlight it as a tribute to silence, as the poetess herself has been quoted saying in some articles, while HuffPost saw it as one that explains “why noise is good”. As mentioned above, multiple channels and media houses have attempted to somehow categorize it into a camp of pro noise or pro silence. And there lies their fault and undervaluation of the said poem, for this piece of art transcends these categorizations.

I see the poem as one that transcends issues, debates, politics, society and so much more. It addresses all and yet none and thereby achieves the status of art for it alludes common understanding and categorization, not to be contained in man-made boundaries but as the saying goes, supposed to make you feel something, if not everything.

Ironically, Kalki’s own poem is a cacophony of multiple thoughts, ideas, complex issues. But this cacophony is intentional to show the coming together of multiple discordant voices into a cacophony called life.

The idea of life as a cacophony couldn’t appeal more to anyone but the youth of the country, drowned in so many voices of ‘isms’, belief systems and societal structures that somewhere they lose their own voice. Where did the ‘youth ki awaaz’ go? Drowned as one of the many shouts in this milieu of reverberating loudly-voiced thoughts or silenced by the futility of effort they saw in their predecessors who tried?

The poignant note on which the poem ends conveys everything it was building up to:

“someplace faraway,
from all the noise
we are deafened by the silence
of our own voice.”

To confuse silence with being quiet would be naive. In today’s fast, bustling, rushing world where everyday clamours, physical and mental in nature, of social media posts, tweets, updates, the calls of the mosque, temple, church, the abuses flung casually in the heated traffic you faced this summer afternoon, are we ever silent?

The lonely silence in bed hence refers to not lack of noise. It’s lonely not because there is no one there but because there is too much going on, and it keeps going on, reducing the cacophonous clamour of frantic activity to deafening monotony, which we are too used to, to hear or respond to. This inactivity is the silenced mind we all mistake for quiet, when all we are doing is employing an escape mechanism and reducing ourselves to instruments playing mindlessly in this orchestra. Ignoring the rich hues the other instruments offer while also ignoring the notes we ourselves are playing because we are so bent on following the rules and playing our own tune. How many times have we tweeted something as a reaction and not a thoughtful action, honked unnecessarily even though we are aware everyone is stuck in the traffic? The mind plays its own tune on “auto mode”, and we get stuck in the pattern with no time to contemplate and step out of the pattern, like the poem hints at.

From its very beginning —“I used to live in a noisy neighbourhood”— to the last word, the poem has a gradual increase in tempo created by the recitation and the accompanying music until the final stanza silences all the music and the accompanying noise just as it reaches its peak point, to fall into relative silence and examine the deafening silence within.

What I take away from the poem ultimately?

The world is a market of discordant voices of multiple themes, ideologies, thoughts and so much more. This poem, written for world music day, while on one hand points to the melody these voices sometimes settle into, each finding its own place and instrument; on the other end, is not unaware of the “noise” it creates drowning not only everything around it but also itself.

What can we do to save ourselves from being drowned?

Find our own melody just like Kalki does in the poem as she chooses to address only the noise she wants to, and when she wants to.

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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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