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

I Went To USA For A PhD, But Came Back With PTSD

Imagine this – an Indian student is in a University in the nether reaches of USA to earn a PhD in Physics. Instead, he gets harassed, assaulted, racially discriminated by the college and ends up with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He tries to seek help from the Indian consulate in Houston and from the media but is turned down. Ultimately, he has to relinquish his PhD slot and return to India, emotionally scarred for good. That dismal scenario is, in fact, a true story – my story.

My name is Subho and I used to be a Physics PhD student at City University of New York (CUNY) until July 2016. However, before being in CUNY, I was at another University called the University of Texas, Brownsville in 2011. In that institute, I was regularly hazed by a student from Sri Lanka who also carried out multiple sexually profane acts in my house and finally assaulted me. To make matters worse the college adjudicator David Mariscal, who initially reacted with alarm at my complain, later made a U-turn, shut the case in record time and asked me not to mention these incidents ever again, thus confiscating my freedom of speech. I then dropped out of UT Brownsville in January 2012. However, this experience led to my developing a physiological condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (detected first in 2013 when I was already in a college called Texas A&M, Commerce, near Dallas, earning my MS – before going to CUNY for PhD). Medical counselling (and anti-depressants) became my constant companion from mid-2011 until the end of my stay in USA.

My student card from my PhD days at CUNY

That was not the full extent of the suffering I endured. When I tried to get some recourse for my bad experiences by filing for a U Visa (a compensatory scheme by the USA, for those who were victims of physical and/or psychological abuse while working in an American institution), the police in Brownsville also acted suspiciously and quoted non-existent rules and shirked their duties to squash my U Visa claim. I also sought help from the Indian Consulate in Houston in mid-2013 where an official promised to take up the issue with the college and then reneged on his promise. Isn’t the Indian foreign service funded by our taxpayer money? Are they not supposed to stand by Indian expats in their times of need, instead of betraying them? The only person who helped me was Dr Indrajit Saluja, the editor of The Indian Panorama, a New York-based Indian community newspaper – Youth Ki Awaaz is the second.

Although the incidents happened between 2011 to December 2014, I still suffer from PTSD and my last medical assessment was less than a year ago. Before readers get the impression that Americans carried out some kind of sustained racism on an Indian student, please let me clarify. Not one of the perpetrators was American – the events just happened to have taken place in the USA. My assailant was from Sri Lanka and the college adjudicator and the Brownsville police who did the U-turns were all Mexican/Hispanic. I was, however, let down badly by the apathy of the American media and astounded by the lack of vigilance and toothless-ness of the American authorities when I tried to come out with the truth.

The Indian mainstream media wasn’t much better either and all of them turned me down or didn’t even bother to reply to my emails when I tried to contact them upon my return to India. I am grateful to Youth Ki Awaaz for letting me come out with the story and I wish them well in their endeavour to empower voiceless victims.

Since returning as a person debilitated, I stay at home, with no job or income and try to get my small startup going with my savings. And I try to forget the events of the past so that I can pick up the pieces of my life. By the way, I have even been on a TV program with Tajinder Bagga (spokesperson of the Delhi Unit of Bharatiya Janata Party) and have even met General VK Singh – but to no avail. If you can help in a small way then please share this story on social media and mail it to journalists, scientists and government officials. A few tweets from influencers could prove a game changer.

As you know, we Indian students are the second highest foreign student contingent in USA, after the Chinese and many of us go abroad to get a degree and a career. If the perpetrators of this heinous crime are allowed to get away with this, it will set a very dangerous precedent and put the well-being of future Indian “study abroad” students on the line. On the other hand, if we can make this story go viral and force the authorities to take action, it would send out all the right signals and go a long way towards ensuring that our students studying abroad are not messed with henceforth. I am sure readers realize, if the same things had happened to some foreign student in India, by now all hell would have broken loose and others would have lost no chance to point out just how “third world” we are.

Cover picture of my book, currently available on Amazon Kindle

With your support, we can send a message loud and clear to the world that we Indians do not take acts of racism lying down – nor are their developed countries free of racial crime. To out this story, just like publishing this article, I have recently also self-published the 2nd edition of an eBook on Amazon called “Spoilt Past, Future Tense” – for those who want the full details of the story. I am at least lucky to have survived in one piece to tell the tale – the last few years were rife with stories of Indians being shot, being kidnapped and killed in the USA, (every month there is such a story on all major media outlets). At the very least, my book should make it very clear to future Indian students and H1B workers in the USA about what sort of people/regions to avoid there. If you want to get in touch with me, then please email me at subho_2018@yahoo.com.  I am also reachable on Skype at “Sunny D” (avatar: Buddha statue)

 

I am speaking at another NAGPS (National Association of Graduate and Professional Students) conference, this time at SUNY Stony Brook.
  • To see me in a program with Tajinder Bagga, the BJP spokesperson for Delhi, please see – https://youtu.be/-TgUX1JEgX4?t=4m31s
  • To get my Kindle Ebook, “Spoilt Past, Future Tense” on Amazon and learn all the sordid details please click – https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07CCG4CYN. It is available for FREE download between 12.30 PM on the 18th of April to 12.30 PM on the 20th of April.
  • To Tweet about this issue, please use the hashtag – #justice4subho along with #youthkiawaaz
  • To hear me speaking in the USA about this issue at the NAGPS conference at University of Missouri, click https://youtu.be/w7Cx5PuUF6Y
You must be to comment.
  1. Subho Chakraborty

    My book is available for FREE download from noon Wednesday 25th to noon Friday 27th – please grab your free copy and ask your friends to do the same – https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07CCG4CYN

    My twitter id is : “@SP__FT” (2 underscores)

    Subho

  2. Subho Chakraborty

    For those in USA – please get the book here for free (Before Friday 27thApril night PST) – https://www.amazon.com/Spoilt-Past-Future-Tense-Discrimination-ebook/dp/B07CCG4CYN/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1524683321&sr=1-1

    For all other countries, just search my name or the book name on Amazon.

    Please tell all your friends to grab their free copy by Friday !!

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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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