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Why I Have 2,000 Friends On Facebook But Spend Most Of My Evenings Alone

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I dream of an age without the internet.

When hangouts with friends were not confined to Google, shopping was a real-time experience that required us to take a day off from work and spend quality time with our family members.

When dating was not reduced to swiping left, right and centre but involved approaching a person at a bar or at the workplace after lending them the privilege of our attention.

Relationships were not damaged because of a misleading, suspicious message on our partner’s phone. Meeting each other was not the last resort; it was a given. It was seen as the most significant manifestation of love, a larger chunk of the commitment which is now measured over how many of the calls were returned or if someone’s ‘last seen’ status coincides with their promised bed-time or if all the social media check-ins were coherent with the knowledge of each other’s whereabouts.

I have 2,000 friends on Facebook but spend most of my evenings alone at a coffee place reading a book I have no one to tell about, or taking a stroll outside the apartment I stay alone in, wondering why no one ever calls.

Road-trips and visits to home for festivals are losing frequency, so even a pastry that I have at the office canteen or a simple trial room selfie or a good hair day makes it to my Instagram profile. I glare at it for hours on my worst days and think – 15,000 followers but none by my side.

The art of meeting people has drowned while we have been trying to sail over the turbulence of a capitalised adulthood, constantly fighting against the devastating winds of unbearably long work-hours.

Our childhood friendships have been reduced to notifications on their new jobs, weddings and first trip abroad, but when did we last sit and talk about how life changed after school? I met my boyfriend online and while I console myself that a long distance relationship is worthwhile because compatibility wins any day over convenience of proximity, I wonder if I had ever cared to meet someone without already disqualifying them over an unlikeable Facebook bio or a conflicting shared post.

While I complain of loneliness everyday and watch the movies of Chantal Akerman and read books on depression, smoke cigarettes and meet men only if it’s been too long since I last had sex, I have realised the lack of friends is only a by-product of setting stringent standards of socialising.

Similarities in political opinions or taste in literature between a prospective friend and me have suddenly started mattering so much that I have embraced self-inflicted isolation rather than choosing to build a friendship devoid of filters, even for the sake of company.

I am incompetent in short talk but I take great pride in it, as if conversations always have to be visceral. But short talk is also important. Those little exchanges of words with a co-passenger in a flight or a stranger in a doctor’s waiting room does not give me enough time to open the channels of my heart but quickly pulls me back to the comfort zone with human beings which I have been trying to evade since the day I learnt appreciating the company of dogs.

Last November, I met a lady on a train who introduced herself as a bank employee and went on to talk about how she is pulling off 70 hour-workweeks owing to the sudden turmoil of demonetisation.

A few weeks ago while I was taking a Uber to the airport in Bangalore, a kind greeting by the driver made us have a long conversation about our families, cities and religious views. When I asked him just out of general curiosity how large was his family and how big was his house, he replied, “Five members. Must be a little larger than this car.” We were traveling in a Tata Indica.

Short talks bridge the lacunae in human understanding. They let us close the cracks of intentional avoidance, burst open our closeted personalities and challenge our cowardice. They let us stitch back the loosened seams of a society ridden with economic and social diversity – a society where there are people drinking sparkling champagne in five-star hotels just by the road where many families sleep at night.

Audis with the heads of Labradors popping out of their windows often splash mud over the faces of children who were born and raised in the streets. Where it is easy for corrupt politicians with criminal histories to win the trust of millions but not so for dedicated charity organisations working in war-zones or flooded villages. There is a world beyond our social circles of selective like minds. There is more to communication than a trade of emoticons.

This constant urge to escape life, this insatiable craving for vacations and this incurable feeling of alienation must have a permanent solution. It is building a home wherever you have taken shelter, rather than dwelling in the delusion that everything is makeshift and something more perfect remains after this chapter.

In this dual life we are leading online and offline, our virtual compensations are falling too short for our real-life demands. The internet may provide us with appreciation, acknowledgment and acceptance but these can never be synonyms for love, for the holding of hands while watching a sunset, for the sharing of a large pizza over mindless gossiping.

The Internet can only help us bring our lives online, but can never fix it. It can be fixed by homemade food, tight hugs and forehead kisses, picnics and drunk dancing with friends.

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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 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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