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Kashmiri Poet Perveiz Ali’s Book Appeals To The Humanity Of Its Readers

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“When I was young, winter was an inspiration.
It fashioned my dreams, affected my inclination,
Had me yearning for a character pure as snow…”

Perveiz Ali’s book “Fractious Mind” has a tender soul which reflects in lines like the ones above. There are poems that make you feel what the poet is feeling and these are the poems in which Perveiz Ali is in his element in all honesty as a poet. When you read a poem without any fillers, you enjoy the trip a poetic piece takes you on. The pages that hold such poems in “Fractious Mind” are where you want to stay.

Here is another piece which brings out a sense of mist from a poet’s dream that he holds close to his heart:
“What sun is to the blind,
Freedom is to me
A glimpse from afar
To soothe my poor being”
There are some beautifully carved poems in this collection while it also holds some weak poems which border on self-pity, however, the weaker ones get overshadowed by the richer poems that leave lasting impressions on a reader’s mind.

For example, I started reading the poem with title ‘Shikara Ride’ with a lot of expectations, especially since the poet hails from Kashmir and the word Shikara instantly brings an image of dreams floating on the Dal. However generic lines like “The boat handeler is so suave, Calm and experienced, so strong…” pulls down a possibility of an enchanting poem that could have been something else. It’s a poem that is over-written. While reading it, I wanted the poet to stop and leave somethings unsaid so that the imagination of the reader could be teased. However, as a fellow poet, I understand. I have committed similar mistakes in my own first book of poems.

One of the titles ‘Ravings’ brings in a free flow of words that you want to revisit over and over again. The stream of lines brings a natural drizzle of thoughts.

“In the death of darkness
Let me watch
The dance on shore
Of unskilled tears
Up-beating for more
And more”
Even the pause between the last two lines is instrumental in adding a certain effect.

‘Eve Emancipation’ is a poem that brings out the suffocation of a Kashmiri resident quite effectively. Through lines like the ones below, Perveiz enables the reader to feel empathy towards the sufferings one endures in the day to day life. This is one of those poems in the book, that knock at doors of conscience of those who want to stay ignorant of others’ pain.

“How can we accept their definition of emancipation?
When it is routine to check bags of teenage girls,
As they are required to pass through security bunkers,
All while making lewd comments with lustful stares,
Walking inch by inch under shade of unseen shadows…”

One of the poems that instantly grew on me due to its strong abstract imagery from the first line starts thus…
“Each night I get thousand cuts
On my bruised pale hands
In cutting the chains of strangulation
I am awarded in days mayhem…”

I will leave the political aspects of this aside as it’s more about perception. Debates generally revolve around meaningless centre points like ‘your pain’ vs ‘my pain’. The bigger picture is completely different, where all of us (Kashmiri People as well as Indian Army men) end up being only a part of a vicious whole, being made to go through our own share of pain. Peace is elusive until we stop looking only through our own windows. However what affects me as a poetry reader are the humane aspects of these poems. As poems in this collection grow darker and more immediate in voice, the reader is able to envision the environment in which the words have sprouted. That’s when you know the long sailing emotions have reached one of the many ports on their long way ahead. And this is one of the many reasons why poetry is one of the most important mediums of expression.

From a technical perspective, poems in the later part of the book grow nuanced as well as stronger than the ones in first half. I would attribute this to the poet’s evolution over the time, though there are still a few poems amongst the later ones too which could have benefitted through a round of editing.

Like a good poetry book, Fractious Mind is a title you would like to leave by your nightstand to savour a random poem when the urge to read strikes, yet hoping that the one you will lay your mind on does justice to your long arduous day.

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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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