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A Journey After Typhoid To Kota: The Hub Of Coaching Institutes And Suicides

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Throughout the way to the railway station, they were talking to each other.

My fatigue was clear on my face. But when my parents realised we were nearing the railway station, they stopped talking. After a brief silence ensued.

Mom caressed my head on her arm. Papa looked at me. And somewhere in that look, I found pity. Didi didn’t attempt any eye contact but stuffed an extra chips packet in my bag that she had bought for herself.

Mom said, “The next few weeks are not easy. Typhoid can be dangerous. Take every caution with what you eat. Do not—”

She was cut off by another sentence: “Maintain a proper routi—”

“Sleep on time. Do not eat poha from unhygienic stalls.”

“I already said that.”

“Okay. Can’t I repeat?”

“Worst of all, don’t lose your medicines in your laundry.”

“And be regular with them.”

“More regular than your studies.”

“Got it?” (in unison)

“Got it,” I answered.

I was listening and listening and listening. I didn’t get a word of what they said. I was merely looking out of the window. I could only feel the wisps of air caressing me. I could hear its mild sound. And understand it, in a way a leaf understands its detachment from a tree.

But I could not focus for a single moment on what the other people in my car were speaking.

I stepped out of the car slowly with my backpack and Allen bag strapped on my back. After a few steps, I realised something was amiss. I turned back and waved a short goodbye. They were staring dumbstruck at me as wild gibbons would on seeing an aeroplane in the sky.

Mom’s moist eyes. Papa’s folded hands. They had to drop my elder sister at her college within time, so they were in a hurry. Also, it was not the first time that I was leaving for Kota.

Typhoid had made me come back one nauseous night in a cramped general compartment where people sat jam-packed like caged hens. Typhoid and jaundice ruin hundreds of college selection dreams in Kota. And walking in the narrow lane towards the railway station, I realised amid slow steps, “This is it. Here you are. 18. Adult. Responsible. Alone. All that you had and had not desired in the past few years. There it was. All out in front of you in the form of unending horizons. Of equally desolate railway tracks.”

I could not accept the realisation I was meant to. About one of the basic essences of our being: solitude. The day we leave our home for our bellies and needs other than bellies. We are all by ourselves, out on the road.

And then I thought, even after one’s marriage, even in a ‘committed-forever’ relationship, even with your controlling or ‘mushy-mushy’ girlfriend, deep within, we know that this is it.

And it was far more dreadful for those heading to cities, where they could no longer be their self. No longer be a human being. Instead, they became machines with stopwatches around their neck.

There and then, I remembered one of our dreamy nights – how Rahul, a hostel mate had told me with that faraway look, “I felt what I was embracing was a kind of silence, gradually and stealthily increasing in intensity all around me. It masked most of what there was to see, observe, learn or enjoy around me.”

I had reserved the upper berth seat. Shuffling my bag to one side, I settled or tried to settle on my seat. I lay. Sat. Extended my legs. Crossed them. Rested my back against the seat. I could not settle.

I saw someone around the same age as me with the same coaching bag strapped to his back. He settled in the berth opposite to me. I was facing him now.

“First time?” I asked.

“First time.” He affirmed enthusiastically with the fake smile as I had.

The first time.

“And yours?” He asked.

I pretended not to hear him. I did not know whether I had lost that year’s time or not. I was going back to Kota after a gap of two months.

The train had started moving. I was pulled from my thoughts. One moment, I was searching for something in him. The very next moment, I was climbing down the top berth.

I looked out of the windows, trying to spot any crevices and spaces to see the other people outside. My other people. Reaching for the door outside of which my hometown seemed to pace back. Or I was moving forward.

Somewhere in the struggle, I caught a glimpse of the narrow lane connecting the road to the railway station. Our white Alto had not left. Waiting for the train to leave the tracks, it was still there.

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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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