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As A Delhiite, I Fell In Love With These 6 Things About Chennai

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‘Namma Chennai’, as the locals call it, grows on you. With its rich cultural heritage and numerous traditions, Chennai is one of the oldest metros of India. When I moved here, being a Delhiite (and used to Saaddi Dilli), I had mixed feelings about how I would fit in. I’m a big-city, urban girl, and Chennai barely qualified as a mega polis in the same breath as Delhi or Mumbai. After two years now, I will say it was definitely not love at first sight. But I came with an open mind. Gradually this place, and its people, have welcomed me with open arms and made me comfortable. If Chennai was a person, you could not just have a fling with it. You’d want it to be much more. My perspective on Chennai is bound to be very different from those born and raised here, but here are my two cents on this charming city.

1. All That Glitters Is Gold!

Chennai is a thriving cultural hub of the country characterized by its winter music and dance festivals, excellent schools, and its dedication to the creative arts. You can see the city’s culture in the sartorial style of its denizens. You can always find men clad in dhotis or colourful veshtis and women in silk saris bedecked with gold and flowers in their hair milling around. The sun glistening off the gold is a sight to see, and could put good old Bappi Lahiri with his heavy gold chains out of business!

2. Who Let Those Bikes Out?

You will notice more two-wheelers here than cars. Men and women alike zip dangerously along the narrow roads ever ready to overtake from the left. The beaches are a great attraction, and on weekends, across the city, you see people thronging to these sandy shores or driving merrily along the scenic East Coast Road.

3. Everybody Loves Rice

The food in the city comprises mainly of rice in its myriad forms. I was surprised to see even fancy buffets carry the humble curd rice. In fact most of the locals cannot finish their meal without a scoop of curd rice at the end, a concept I’m still not able to absorb. Until a few years back, I believe people found it hard to purchase rolling pins since chapattis were unheard of. However, their rice preparations suit the weather and taste buds. Eating with the hand probably adds another flavour to these preparations. As a bonus to the rice, you can smell the aroma of filter coffee at every nook and corner. Steaming hot filter coffee teamed with vadas and bhajji (pakoras) is a treat for any food lover.

4. Painting The Town Bright

The city is flooded with temples and a real estate pitch is often based on proximity to them. The architecture and carvings on these temples are beautiful and their varied colours are bound to mesmerize you. It is quite amusing to see the giant posters and banners with garish colours dot the city. It lends a larger than life feel to the city.

5. The People

Chennai’s biggest treasure is its people. They seem more patient and laid back than where I come from. They lead a slow-paced life. They do not believe in confrontation and are okay with status quo. This is a contrast to the aggressive, fast-paced life of Delhi or Mumbai. The sense of community and humility are writ large on the city’s landscape, and is, therefore, very comforting for outsiders. I hear a lot of locals use the term “super” to describe things they like or admire, and it always brings a smile on my face.

6. Cinema Is A religion

The fan following of celebrity stars is at a different level here, unmatched by anything in Bollywood! Hero worship was definitely a term invented in Chennai as film stars are no less than Gods for many people. The good thing is ticket prices are still quite low compared to other cities and people come out in large droves to see movies in a variety of languages. I am told that the first-day first-shows of a Rajnikant release are an experience that any film buff needs to go through. I am hoping to get this first-hand experience during my stint in Chennai!

7. Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

The thermometer in Chennai comes with only three grades: hot, hotter or hottest! The city’s heat and high humidity, can often be a dampener. But once you get used to it, one realizes the benefit of sweating it out. As a nice contrast to this weather, the sea raises a nice breeze in the evenings bringing some much-needed respite.

Comparisons are neither fair nor useful. One has to appreciate every city for what it brings to the table. Not having been exposed earlier to a different culture, Chennai has been a ‘super’ learning experience for me. For now, as I look out from my terrace to the horizon of the sea and sip on filter coffee, Namma Chennai is a reality I love living in.

I would love to hear about your personal thoughts and experiences!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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