This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by India Fellow Social Leadership Program. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How A Scooter Became One Of My Most Valuable Teachers

More from India Fellow Social Leadership Program

India fellow logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of a campaign by The India Fellow program on Youth Ki Awaaz. India Fellows spend 13 months working at the grassroots level to bring about real on-ground change. They are also mentored to be socially conscious leaders and contribute to the development of the country. Apply here to be a part of the change.

By Shraddha Shanbag:

Since I hail from Mumbai, people assume that I must be modern and come from a family that is cool. Well, that’s a misconception. My father is doting to the extent of an over-protection that instils fear, and both my parents second each other in every decision. So my mother is overprotective as well. Being their only daughter, the over protection is naturally doubled. So asking for anything involving a risk means all their protective genes marching out.

When I was younger, I misunderstood their love and threw tantrums until I got my way. A rebel, as my father still calls me. As I grew older I started understanding their point of view and began making compromises to avoid arguments. I knew some topics were out of bounds for discussion. Any tantrum only meant spoiling everyone’s mood. One such topic was learning to ride a two wheeler. I had seen my father convincing my cousins, firmly, about the safety concerns of the two-wheeler whenever they brought it up. So when it was time for me to get my license, I only got my four wheeler license. I guess I lacked the courage to confront them. I knew my father hated two wheelers.

Fast forward to the India Fellow Social Leadership program. It selects young Indians who are keen to work at the grassroots with communities and nonprofits for a year. I was a part of the 2014-15 cohort. A month after my work at Seva Mandir (an organization working in rural South Rajasthan) began, I was told by the staff there that they might consider giving me and the other girls Scootys for the field work. Since the other field workers did not know how to ride a bike, they asked me whether I could. I shook my head. I began mulling over the opportunity – learning how to ride a Scooty.

I mustered up the courage to call up and convince dad just before travelling home. Upon asking him he said a swift, “Okay.” I wasn’t sure whether he was really okay. I was going to go home soon for my birthday. I applied for my learner’s license then. My dad had made all the arrangements for it but did not come with me. My vacation ended before my license arrived. I received a call from my father a week later asking me whether he should courier it. I said I would pass him the address but kept postponing it. My fear of two-wheelers had grown. I didn’t have the confidence of riding it by myself. I don’t know what was inhibiting me so much.

The topic of the two-wheeler came up again at work. People started talking about how easy it is to drive a two wheeler. They, however, didn’t have my complete attention. I was going to head home the following week. I wondered whether riding in front of my father and gaining his approval would ease my fears.

When I headed home for Diwali I was on a mission – to learn to ride the two-wheeler. But first, we needed to find one. After a day-long search, a person agreed to lend us his for a day or two. Next morning, my dad accompanied me and I began my first lesson. I slammed the accelerator and… the Scooty jumped. Thankfully, both my legs could reach the ground and I balanced. After multiple attempts, I managed to balance as well as maintain my acceleration. Soon, my feet came off the ground, and I was riding. I looked at my father and smiled. No smile yet. I practised – left-hand turn, right-hand turn, braking, stopping, restarting. I started to enjoy myself, but it wasn’t second nature yet. I needed more practice. All the while my father was standing in the centre, as I took rounds around him. After I was done with practicing, I looked at my father and indicated that we should leave. As I got off, he came towards me and got on the Scooty. He said, “I have never driven a two wheeler; I will give it a try.”

It was time for my overprotective genes to express themselves. And they did. I was shivering from within with anxiety. But he was a natural. He rode three rounds with ease (and little wobbles) and brought it to a halt in front of me, with a huge smile on his face. His riding the two-wheeler made me happier. For me, that was a gesture of acceptance. I learned another thing that day. There is a possibility that my father had given me his acceptance way before, when he made arrangements for my learner’s license. Just because my mind believed otherwise, I had postponed my learning by three months. There is also a possibility that he would have allowed me if I had asked his permission when I got my four-wheeler license – which means I had postponed it by years.

Our apprehensions and preconceived notions imprison our mind, ultimately influencing what we end up doing (or not doing). It is up to us to condition it and break the walls of inhibition.

Shraddha Shanbag is a 2014 cohort India Fellow from Mumbai. She worked with the non-profit, Seva Mandir, based out of Udaipur, in health and nutrition research in 2014-15. She now continues to live with her family in Mumbai.

You must be to comment.

More from India Fellow Social Leadership Program

Similar Posts

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below