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‘It Seemed Vital To Tell This Story’: The Story Behind Our Play On Data Privacy

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In a conversation with actors Arun Kumar Kalra, Sarbasis Bhattacharya, Indrani Dutta, Arnab Basu, Arundhati Banerjee, Seshadri Ratna Mitra and writer Anurag Sikder during the making of the play “My Darling Clementine”, I, as their director, asked them about the relevance of data privacy and leaks in their individual lives.

Piyali: How relevant is data privacy in your life? Why? How are you impacted by it? Any incident where you feel your data was misused or compromised?

Indrani:  Data privacy is important because it can be misused by third parties for fraud, scams and identity theft. My personal data which I have shared with a particular organisation for a certain reason has been done keeping in mind that it is safe with that organisation. Medical records, financial transactions, personal data etc. can be wrongly used by other agencies for their purposes. When I get pesky calls from banks/financial institutions, it is a clear example of the sharing of my personal data without my consent.

Arun: When the internet and social media happened to me, I too felt empowered, as now I could broadcast myself in ways that one could not have dreamt of before. The monopoly of many institutions and individuals was broken. There was a democratization of sorts especially in the field of communications. An individual could now stand alone and their voice could be heard. One could air thoughts with the world just as many big powerful organizations could.

But slowly, the other part of this saga appeared, as it turned out that it was a game run by corporations who would like to make more money and have control over its customers.

Arundhati: I can never trust what I’m reading on the internet because more than half of it is fake.

Talking about my experiences, I have had many instances on social media which pushed me into depression more than once. People have compromised my privacy online and misused my data to take revenge, make fun of my vulnerability, plagiarized my hard work and stolen credit from my work.

Seshadri: A relationship becomes stronger depending on the kind of emotions I share with a person. Emotions are built when I share more information, stories and definitely what’s happening in my life with the other person. A leak of such data means, a part of me gets totally exposed out to the public. On a personal note, I have lost a few of my closest people in life because I was a victim of data privacy leak.

Anurag: I was born at a time when the wave of swift technological transformation became the norm. Through it all, what wasn’t clear till recently was what we were giving in return for adapting to these new technologies. Now, with the knowledge that big corporations are using frivolous data extraction techniques, it feels like I sometimes have a difficult time adhering to my own beliefs. I feel like my decisions are being influenced on a subconscious level by another mystical force. That scares me a bit and as a result, I have become very careful with my activities on “connected” devices.

Piyali: How has been your experience working in a science-based play?

Seshadri: Today, when you can live a day without food but not without technology, these stories become even more important. Hence, I feel lucky that a project like this came into my life, where I am getting the chance to question some of the most believed facts of today’s generation. This play helps me to act and spread awareness about things still unknown to a lot of people around me.

Being a person who is fascinated by technology and all the time surrounded by it, the most difficult thing was maybe to make myself realise that no matter how much we depend on it, technology has its adverse effects and those adverse effects are man-made to safeguard the interest of some organisations/people. Once I realised the importance of the situation, I was ready to put my energy into spreading it to the maximum number of people possible.

Sarbasis: My experience of working in the play has been a catharsis of sorts, as this play is an amalgamation of scientific research, science fiction and performing arts. In the first few narrations of the story, I was baffled by the facts and technicalities of the subject. I was concerned how we will present it in a dramatised form to the audience that will be accepted and appreciated. However, you (the director) approached it with new perspectives and dramatized it. Now it seemed vital to tell this story.

Arnab: In my personal life, I work in the financial sector. However, theatre is my real passion and here I get to play the character of a scientist. It seems like an unbelievable dream coming true for me.  As I honed myself to develop this complex and multidimensional character in such a contemporary play, I challenged myself to bring it to life like never before. I have approached it with completely fresh and new perspectives, where I challenged my own self, unlearnt and learnt, discovered new dimensions to my own approach.

Arun: In Delhi, most of the theatre being done is just about repeating much-staged classic plays. Very few original and relevant plays are being done these days and this play stood out in its intent to me. It might not be like a traditional dramatic play for some, but for me, its heart is in the right place. I consider it as a trailblazer and I hope it starts a movement for many more such contemporary and relevant topic based plays in our society.

Arundhati: I’m a person who is comfortable with any genre. Plays on such topics are not easily made so I’m really happy that a science-based play has now been added to my theatrical repertoire. Since I have a background in traditional theatre, I find this play very informative, I haven’t done anything like this before. I’m always up for doing something that I haven’t experienced before. With that, I have a lot of faith in you (the director), as to how you are bringing it alive. People need to know these ugly truths in detail.

Piyali: What was the most difficult thing for you to do in the process of making this play?

Anurag: This play is the first one I have ever written. It has been a journey of adapting to a new means of storytelling and respecting the opportunities and challenges that it presents. Also, it has been a stellar lesson in managing talent for a live performance. It’s all a part of the learning curve and I am glad I approached it all with an open mind and heart.

Arun: The most difficult part of a science-related play is to get your facts and logic absolutely right. One ought to have a scientific temperament or inclination for doing such plays. If you are not keen on science and technology then you will have very less to contribute here.  The most important thing which is tackled in making a scientific play is to make it very simple, clear and understandable for the audience. That is only possible if the actors put in the effort to develop their own knowledge and clarity about the subject as guided by the director. I like to add additional dimensions to the character, that go on to strengthen the playwright and directors belief about the subject. I have done exactly that. This play very crucial as it would lead us as close to the truth as possible.


About the Author: For the past 19 years, Piyali Dasgupta has been working across industries like education, development sector, writing, CSR, corporations, brands, arts and aviation with expertise in strategy, events curation, teaching, capacity building, experiential learning, counselling and writing. She has been writing for various digital media publications, plays, children’s novella & a documentary film. She curates children writer’s, theatre, art festivals and events. Her first directed documentary film was part of the international film festival. She has acted in plays and movies and now directs her own plays. She is the founder for an experiential festival for children from underserved communities with participation across Delhi NCR. She is part of international storytellers group from 47 countries. She has studied Expressive Arts Therapy, Palliative Care Counselling, Hypnotherapy, Narrative Therapy and English Literature.

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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.

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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