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Love In The Time Of Tinder

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I love silently watching my parents when they are together.

My mother does her chores in the kitchen and my father stands there, cracking jokes about her weight or pulling her cheeks. He often succeeds in getting her pissed, so that he can appease her, later, with more jokes about her weight and kisses on her cheek. It is a beautiful sight.

But had I not witnessed these, they would not have been believable sights. Can a man who is so disciplined that he has never missed a sunrise in his life, and despises desserts, romantic movies and travelling, ever fall for a woman who hates jogging and cannot control her urge for buying jewellery, all of which look exactly the same? Can a woman who is extremely sentimental and loves gardening, fall for a man who does not believe in buying roses, even on Valentine’s Day? Had I not witnessed these, I wouldn’t have believed them, at all.

It surprises me because I know the type of men I like and I fail to tolerate even a mild sign of digression. My perfect man should be a connoisseur of art-house films, have libertarian views regarding public policy and should not be a teetotaller, for sure. He should be okay with first-date kisses, talkative women and my vehement hatred for religions. But most importantly, our reading lists should match, when it comes to books about world history, at least.

When I started looking for the perfect man, what surprised me more was the fact that there were too many of them. All so kind, with hearts so big that they could gather the soul of a woman easily. We talked about everything – from college education to Donald Trump, how to trek the Everest or how we interpreted “Forrest Gump”. However, during every date, we reached a moment where we ran out of topics we’d prepared to talk about (just like the empty whiskey glasses). Thereafter, the ‘looking-into-each-other’s-eyes’ bit was so awkward that we had to kiss, so that we didn’t have to talk to one another.

Whenever I was dropped off at my place, I used to watch his car drifting away in the fog to places I would never bother to visit, and wonder if the problem was with the perfect men, or with me. Or, was it just the sad state of affairs?

I used to stare at the empty roads – wide and smooth, but empty just like my life. During such moments, my mind wandered to the times when I was in school – when everything was much easier, because political opinions were yet to be formed and the taste of music did not matter much. Getting a glimpse of each other in the morning assembly was enough to get you through the day; sharing a tiffin box was sure evidence that you could share your lives with each other and the only affordable dating place was the evening tuition place, where you talked through messages written on bits of paper that you later planned on saving for the rest of your future. What happened in between those times when eyes meeting in a crowd was enough to make the day memorable for years – and today, where you forget people the very next day even after having made love to them?

Man putting engagement ring on woman
Whatever happened to activities like these?

We live in interesting times where we can still afford to love people living in different cities and marry after the testing rituals of dating and living-in. But what happened to the butterflies in the stomach, and where are the first kisses in abandoned staircases, which had no expertise but were the most promising? Where are the withered rose buds pressed between old books treasured in the most secretive corners? Flirting skills, cosmetics and sharp intellect are all there – but where is the chemistry, the holding of hands in crowded buses that almost felt like some kind of vow? Where is the vulnerability that made you feel warm, instead of sticky and sweaty, on nights you spent with a random lover? So many Tinder dates – and yet, all we are looking for is someone who can look at us in an old-school way – just like married couples look at each other while washing dishes in the kitchen.

The more we come closer, the lesser we realise that being connected through networks is not the ‘connection’ we are looking for. The long-distance problem has been solved, but what about the unyielding lack of time? The acceptance of promiscuity has made us bolder – but what to make of a boldness that is not making us emotionally open to people?

Person using Tinder, a dating app
Is Tinder the way to go?

This abundance of ‘perfect’ men means nothing if we are too lazy to make efforts – the effort of taking the conversation forward after the whiskey glasses empty, to know about how your partner was raised as a child, what they seek happiness in or how much space they can give you in life. Or the effort of taking time off to walk you back home. Or the effort of looking beyond someone’s sexuality, or at looking at the kind of happiness which even money can’t buy.

I guess the best way to deal with modern-day relationships is the way they dealt with arranged marriages. To not waste time to think if there was a more compatible man out there, to feel that every fight is the right time to wash your hands off someone, or to think of apologies as being too precious to be spent too frequently. I guess we all need to learn how to hold on, and not think of the options to leave…

So that for once, we can make the holding of hands mean something, and kiss someone only when our heart is brimming with love and not just to fill the silence. So that the next time we see how much our parents are in love, we have a co-witness who can help to make the sight a little more believable!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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