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‘Aajkal Ki Generation Ko Kya Ho Gaya Hai!’: Why There’s No ‘Room’ For Love In India

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By Roli Mahajan

Aaradhya*, a 30-year-old Delhi professor, reminisces about how she had to lie to her parents to spend some ‘exclusive’ time with her partner. However, it wasn’t a choice she made willingly.

Not Enough ‘Us’ Time

I was in college when I fell in love. It was our last semester and my boyfriend, Sujal, and I really wanted to spend some alone time together. We wanted a future together but weren’t sure about life outside the college gates. We would meet but not often enough. We would talk but not as much as we wanted.

There were always friends around, and I was awkward. Not to forget that my hostel gate closed at 10 pm, so I had to be back before the deadline. As the semester drew to a close, Sujal became desperate with his desire for us to spend some time alone.

My Restrictions, His Desires

I think it was this desire and the fact that he had never been to Ladakh before that got him to propose a trip for just the two of us. I was excited and so wanted to say a yes, but what would I tell my parents?

My parents, who wouldn’t allow me to stay at a friend’s place for a night, had only allowed me to come to Delhi because my course was prestigious. They could never imagine their daughter having a boyfriend, let alone her wanting to go out with him.

The Aunty Trigger

We were always looking for ways and means to spend some time together, and the city had very few options. One evening, while sitting at one of our favourite place, Dilli Haat, Sujal was trying his best to convince me to agree to his Ladakh plan. He was talking about arranging everything if I agreed. However, I was not very sure about how to make it happen.

Sujal and I were mulling this over a plate of hot momos. In his attempt to woo me, he was even actually feeding me lovingly. I too held his hand as I explained to him how strict my father was and it would be difficult to build a strong case for Ladakh. And suddenly then, I heard the women behind us speak out loud, ‘Aajkal ki generation ko kya ho gaya hai! Jahaan jao wahin haath pakad ke chummachattiyan kar rahe hote hain!’ (What is wrong with the new generation? Anywhere you go, you will find couples holding hands and kissing/pecking each other.)

The Strong Case

I will never know if she was speaking about us or not, but we suddenly jumped apart. Neither of us had thick skins and we did not want people to think ill of us just because we were attracted to each other. I liked touching Sujal, especially while talking intently and felt quite uncomfortable about the remarks.

But, suddenly, I was ready to go to Ladakh. The women had kindled something inside me. I now wanted to spend time with Sujal and at a place where our love would not be a bother to random strangers.

The ‘Foolproof’ Plan

One of Sujal’s friends, who was a radio jockey,  took the responsibility of convincing my dad. In exactly four days time, my father called me and asked, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I had no idea what was he talking about!

He went on to say that my professor had called him to tell him about my project in Ladakh and how I should have told him about it! Of course, he trusted me to go with my classmates, even if there were boys in the group that he hadn’t met! He ended the call by telling me that he had even transferred some money in my bank for travel expenses!

I was stumped. I didn’t know whether to celebrate or feel guilty. Of course, Sujal’s friend had convinced my father that she was my professor and somehow it had worked. There were no loopholes, and my father would never find out that the real purpose of my Ladakh trip!

Making ‘Room’ For Couples

I just wanted to go now that my dad had said a yes. So I went. Our trip was awesome. We had fun. Till date, I often think about the ifs and buts of the situation. I wonder if the ‘aunties’ had not done what they had, would I have had the courage? Did I do the correct thing?

But let’s face the truth. Going out with Sujal and spending some time with him made me more confident about him. If I had not gone then would I have been as sold to the idea of marrying him as I am? Honestly, I don’t know. All I wish is that there were some spaces in our country for young love to just enjoy their feelings. In the absence of these spaces, young people like myself will always have to lie just to be with someone they love.

*Names changed. 

This article was first published on Love Matters India website 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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
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