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My Mind Felt Like A Pressure Cooker About To Explode

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By: Ria Golecha

It wasn’t too long ago when I thought that I had lost my ability to thrive. My life felt like it was stuck in a rut. I felt like my head was just being pushed inward because of all the pressure that life offered me and that I won’t be able to come out of it.

For the past one and a half year, a routine day has been – me waking up at 6 am, rushing to the gym, grabbing some coffee, attending classes at college, keeping up with frightening internal assessments, forgetting to eat lunch most times, answering client calls, doing a few Skype calls and going for four meetings per week on an average for a venture that I’m associated with.

I stopped meeting any friends, apart from the few engaged with me in my venture. College life usually is considered to be a happy-go-lucky phase interspersed with sudden trekking plans, Saturday night outings, fun-filled picnics and carefree binge movie watching. None of this happened to me.

A year ago, my friends in my hostel used to ask me to accompany them for a fun night of listening to refreshing qawalis at the Nizamuddin Dargah, or go shopping and eat at Chandni Chowk, or just randomly chill in south Delhi. They have almost stopped asking me for anything now. They know I’ve been keeping busy and each time that I turn down their offer, I am the one who feels really sad because deep inside, I also want to go but the work doesn’t allow me to.

Some people in college even bully me because according to them, I don’t take a break in life. They mock me and I just stare at their faces. My old school buddies now remind me of their own birthdays and express each time how I forgot to wish them year after year. I used to never forget to wish them when we were in school. I’m in close touch with them, but the workload here is probably playing with my memory.

Life hadn’t been a bed of roses before entering college and starting a venture. I had to study day in and day out for my board examinations in high school. There was too much pressure. By the time I was 16, I already had a bachelor’s degree in Kathak (an Indian classical dance), headed my school’s students’ council, had topped class consecutively for the past four years, ran a little school for children living with HIV and had managed to complete hundreds of extra-curricular activities.

My Geography professor expected me to be the first student in our school’s history to score a 100/100 in the subject in the board exams. My class teacher made the naughtiest kid in class sit next to me, in hopes that he would gain from some positive externalities, by being in my company. Each time I stepped out of my school classroom, my juniors used to look up to me with bright eyes, expecting me to completely nail the board exams and secure a perfect score.

But when I returned home, subdued under the weight of my heavy school bag and strenuous aspirations, I entered the kitchen and saw a pressure cooker. It looked exactly like my head. Pressure cookers are known to be hot, dangerous and capable of blowing their lid. My head resembled the poor cooker so much because it was burning and steaming with fire.

Each of us has a multitude of things to do. All of us eat, sleep, work and dream. Each night we lie down on our bed and just out of the blue, beautiful thoughts of our favourite vacation spot that we have always craved to go to, magically appears. This happens to me so much. In the toughest of days, I get the best of dreams. I dream of a clear sky, scintillating blue cold water, high-rise mountains, no phones and internet, no work and office. I dream of my own self, striding my path wading through the water and finally reaching the summit.

You and I, all of us are going through a crazy maze of trials in our life and each experience is just testing our capability to hold on.

Now, what makes me survive the bullying remarks of my acquaintances? What makes me steer through the pressure and still manage to put a smiling face at the end of the day? What makes me bear the wrath of my friends who feel that I am not paying attention to them?

It’s the satisfaction that I get from the work I do!

My motto has always been to do what I like to do. My parents and my sister taught me to listen to my heart but work with my mind. I have stopped caring about what others think of me. Of course, I do care about people and about their opinions of me, but I take it as a learning.

Even right now, as I am sitting and writing this in my hostel, my best friend hands over a pamphlet of the next street play she and her team is going to perform. It’s been three years in Delhi and I haven’t been able to see her perform even once. I know that I won’t be able to attend the play even tomorrow because I have to go to work, but still I accept her invitation and say I’ll try my best. I do that because I don’t want her to feel bad and I also don’t want to feel bad.

A lot of times when I feel stuck in a rut, I forget that I actually have the ability to change things. I now have started to think of ways to strike the right balance and stop complaining about life.

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe that the world is determining your path for you like you have no say in the matter, and the only thing you can do is wait for the world to change it. However, it wasn’t too long ago when I finally took the plunge.

I became fed up with my life and decided to take it back. I buckled up my boots and started to tackle my issues one by one. I stopped hiding behind my fears and started asking for what I wanted and what I believed I deserved. And when I did, I felt alive – as if I’d just awoken from a year-long coma.

To be honest, it was scary, but in the midst of doubt, I imagined what my life would be like if I didn’t make those changes, and, frankly, it scared me to my core. So while I’m still developing the strength to lead the life I want and strike the right work-life balance, I wish that I am able to help empower people to free themselves from feeling stuck in their own lives and enjoy the process, instead.

This article was originally published here

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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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