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The 90’s Are Back And The Young, Rich And Beautiful Are As ‘Clueless’ As Ever!

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Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society brings a witty, incisive and dark edge to our favourite 90s fashion-fest!

Both Polite Society, and the 90s cult classic coming-of-age romantic comedy Clueless, are fresh takes on Jane Austen’s Emma – as they explore social mores through the overconfident yet inexperienced eyes of young women – learning to navigate the world of gossip, social hierarchy and courtship, and realizing that youth, wealth and beauty will take you far but cannot rearrange individuals to your liking.

Clueless follows the well-intentioned Cher Horowitz, the most popular and beautiful girl at Beverly Hills High, as she and her friend Dionne attempt to ‘makeover’ an awkward new student to fit into the ‘popular crew’.

In Polite Society, a dark comedy of manners – beautiful, bored South Delhi heiress- Ania Khurana seeks excitement in her Prithviraj Road cocoon – the way Cher Horowitz did in Beverly Hills High School. But the Polite Society of Lutyen’s Delhi is a lot harder to manipulate than the ‘popular kids’, teachers and ‘loadies’ of Beverly Hills.

Is Ania Khurana the millennial Cher Horowitz, or, as Cher would say, “UGH, AS IF!

Ania and Cher both share the massive privilege (and burden) of endless choices.

‘It was not unusual for Ania to contemplate drastic hypothetical choices in this way. The comforts of her own life meant that she was seldom called upon to discriminate or restrict: in the Khurana household, they usually ordered four of everything.’

Ania and Cher both have admirable charitable instincts.

“Excuse me, but I have donated many expensive Italian outfits to Lucy… And as soon as I get my licence, I fully intend to brake for animals, and I have contributed many hours helping two lonely teachers find romance.”

‘Along with her acts of mercy at Dr Bhatia’s hospital, Ania also paid occasional visits to a shelter for stray cats and dogs in East of Kailash. There never seemed to be enough time to contribute to the paperwork or help with the cleaning or feeding, so she pitched in by taking selfies with the most photogenic inmates, which were admired by her many thousands of followers on social media. The shelter was grateful for her efforts as each post inevitably led to substantial publicity and at least a couple of animals finding their way into caring homes.’

…and their philanthropy takes the form of finding love for the ‘hymenally challenged’ women they feel sorry for.

“Of course, there was always Miss Giest. Something told me not to discount Miss Giest. Well sure, she has runs in her stockings, and her slip is always showing, and she always has more lipstick on her teeth than her mouth. God, this woman is screaming for a make-over. I’m her only hope.”

‘While Ania loved her bua’s presence in the house, finding in her someone even more indulgent than her father, she was stricken by what she saw as the tragedy of Renu’s life. A firm believer in the elemental nature of soulmates, Ania felt that it was never too late.’

The ageing suitors they find for them, Mr Hall and Colonel Sushant Singh Rathore- both look like ‘genial frogs’! (We’re totally buggin’ out over this startling resemblance).

‘On one of her missions, Ania was delighted to meet a trim man with a face like a genial frog, who managed a buoyant air in those most funereal surroundings. Colonel Suraj Singh Rathore.’

Ania and Cher are drawn to Dimple and Tai’s piteous adorability.

“Dee, my mission is clear. Would you look at that girl? She is so adorably clueless. We’ve got to adopt her. Don’t you want to use your popularity for a good cause?”

‘In some ways, Ania’s initial interest in Dimple’s affairs could be placed on the same spectrum of charitable instincts as the one that led her to the animal shelter. When Dimple stared in confusion out of her large brown eyes, Ania’s heart gave a little flip.’

Friendship means making sure your impeccable social credentials uplift your friend’s social status too. Because social upliftment is the best kind of philanthropy.

“As far as everyone’s concerned, you’re the most popular girl in your school. The fact that you hang with Dee and I, well… speaks very highly of you. If you strike while the iron is hot, you can have any guy that you want.”

‘But over time she had become genuinely fond of Dimple and didn’t see why the girl shouldn’t reap the rewards of a superlative Delhi social life just because of her unfortunate beginnings. These handicaps could be overcome, provided one had an excellent instructor.’

Ankit, the owner of Tip-Top Fashions, a resident of Lajpat Nagar and part-time boyfriend of Dimple, is almost as tragically undateable (according to Ania) as Travis Birkenstock is (according to Cher).

“Loadies generally hang on the grassy knoll. Sometimes they come to class and say bonehead things, and we all laugh, of course, but no respectable girl actually dates them. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot, do you?”

‘He had a lovely face, but more than that, he was respectful and honest; she owed the family many kindnesses. Besides, their business was doing so well; in fact, they were opening a second branch of Tip-Top Fashions soon. But poor Dimple, it would all be such a terrible waste.’

And finally, Mr Knightley-Dev Gahlot and Josh.

They’re both earnest about their work, responsible and a little bit boring (according to Ania and Cher respectively) besides being almost part of the family and pouring waaay harsh sarcasm on Ania and Cher’s charitable efforts. But sometimes, love is more familiar than you think it is.

‘He dresses funny. He listens to ‘Complaint Rock’. He’s not even cute…in a conventional way. I mean, he’s just like this slug who hangs around the house all the time. And he’s a hideous dancer. Couldn’t take him anywhere. Wait a second. What am I stressing about? This is, like, Josh.  O.K. O.K., so he’s kind of a Baldwin.’

‘The same jacket day after day, the satchel with a broken zipper, the fraying above the shirt pocket, she was convinced it was all an affectation, a way of indicating to the world that their owner concerned himself only with matters of sublime worth and not mere flummeries. They had practically grown up in each other’s houses, and she could almost predict his every gesture.’


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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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