This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ananya Lal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

An Open Letter To Akhila’s Father And Hadiya

To Akhila’s father (because he has the right to call his daughter by any name he wants)

Dear Sir,

I write to you as another father’s daughter, who, if he was alive today, would have advised you as a well-wisher and a loving father, on what to do to get your daughter’s smile back again. And I write to you as a daughter whose father had to face a situation similar to yours, and what he did to keep his daughter so close to his heart, that she could never think of ‘going away’.

He let her go.

No well-wisher in India, or in any part of the world for that matter, would wish the intervention of the law and its courts, in matters related to their loved ones. Even if they feel it is their right to seek lawful redress. Yet it happens every day in our courts – siblings fighting siblings, spouses accusing spouses, relatives charging relatives. It is the bread and butter of the legal system. Yet all will agree, that the most painful to watch is the case of parent vs child. And to add to this pain, if groups and lobbies with their own vested interests get involved, on either side, life outside the court becomes a living hell, since there is no recourse to a private healing. Everybody wants to utilise this pain for their purpose, extracting the most mileage out of the situation, while the public gaze destroys all private peace and reconciliation.

As a young girl ten years ago, probably at the same age as Akhila, I took a similar step as her, based on what my conscience told me was the right thing to do, and what I attribute to my parents, for nurturing a person who was interested in the questions beyond this material world. I consciously accepted a religion, seemingly different from my parents. And the first people whom I wanted to share this were my parents. Simply because it was the most important self-affirming step that I had ever taken in my life, and I wanted them to know how their daughter sees the world and beyond, what she believes to be the truth, and maybe invite them to see the world from her eyes too and share with her this momentous event.

As a parent now, and even then as a daughter, I could understand the uncertainty, fear and perplexity which this brought up for my parents. I wish I could tell them that all I wanted to do was to embrace them tightly while I broke the news, and rock them into an assurance that everything was going to be all right. I couldn’t do so because I was in another country. But when I did meet them face-to-face, and the months that I spent at home with them, this is all that I wanted them to know, again and again – that I was still their daughter, and nothing in this world could ever change that, that my love for them was unconditional, and, that I was not leaving them.

I will not try to paint a rosy picture. It was heart-breaking for them, the pressure of the society was unbearable, and the frightening picture that the media and the world around them had crafted about this new religion was giving them sleepless nights, as they were worried about the physical safety of their daughter. But all I wanted to tell them was that I wanted to become a better person with this step and be able to love and serve my parents in a more deeper and meaningful way, and this was the way which I found to be most suitable for this purpose. There were arguments, silences, tears, embraces, and tears again. Yet it all took place in the comfort and privacy of the home. Never in public, never in front of a TV camera.

At some point they realised that I was serious about my decision, at which they decided, with a very heavy heart, to let me go – to do what I wanted to do, find myself, marry whom I wanted, live a life as I had envisaged. I told them that I am still their daughter and that I am not leaving them. And I did not. My father could not bear to meet me for four years, and I gave him that time to heal himself. But he came back again, on his own, to witness the circle of life complete itself again. As he held his newly born grand-daughter in his hands, the tears washed away the years of separation and the hearts which were aching, but never separated from the distance, were healed.

He passed away five months later, yet left a legacy of love, which my husband and I can never tire of retelling to everyone we meet.

I assure you, with an assurance of a daughter, that Akhila is and will always be your daughter. If you want to see her smile again at you, let her go. Give her and yourself time to heal. Believe in your daughter and the man she has chosen to live her life with, who has stood by her, waiting for her, through this terrible storm. Any other man would have easily closed the chapter and moved on. Firmly close the door to the world outside which is loudly knocking at your door asking you to respond with fear, anxiety, hate, revenge and mistrust. And then see the miracle of love, as she will come back to you, with that beautiful smile that lightens up her face, which I have seen in all the pictures splashed across the media. It is not easy I know, but when has being a parent been easy?

Yours sincerely,

A daughter.

To Hadiya (because that is the name by which she wants the rest of the world to address her),

Dear Friend,

I wish you all the strength in this world, for expanding your heart beyond its limits, to love your parents unconditionally, in this situation that you find yourself in, and in your life to come. I do not want to advise you anything more since you must be tired of listening to advice from all quarters.

I sincerely hope that you are allowed to read this. I also sincerely hope that the freedom you deserve is given back to you.

Yours sincerely,

A Friend.


Image source: Vipun Kumar/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Ananya Lal

Similar Posts

By Accountability Initiative

By Suneel

By Bashiruddin Faruki

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