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Love In The Time Of Internet

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I had come home for Diwali and was helping my grandma sort her things out. She had spread on the bed, all her stuff from the old tin box, she had brought with her after her wedding as dowry. And boy! What a treasure it contained. While shuffling through things, I came across old jewellery, her photographs, small antique glass showpieces and various other things which would be worth a fortune today. Her twinkling eyes while she recounted every story attached to the things, explained the value it contained for her, which she had kept so close to her heart for all these years. I was trying not to be astonished by the treasure she kept safely for all the tumultuous years of her life when I caught hold of few pieces of tattered paper that made her blush. My grandma blushed! Like a newlywed bride. And why would she not, after all, they were the love letters she had written to my grandpa in her courtship period. They were written in ink and so were smudged but still smelt of immense love it must have been shared with.

On little cajoling, she started narrating her love story that seemed much better than mine in this technology-driven world. She told me that she used to write a letter to my grandpa every month after they were engaged. Those were the times when they could only exchange letters through posts and so often she had to wait for months for my grandpa’s letter. And those days of waiting went in a euphoria of excitement, anxiety and longing for their love.

By the nostalgia she carried in her eyes, I could see the purity of her love and the sanctity of the relationship they shared. I could sense the excitement of waiting for the letters and the weight each word those letters contained. I could see the pain of the separation and the joy of the news of the arrival of those letters had. I could feel the blossoming of their love in those letters. A love which was beyond statuses and relationship posts. That was a love which was not tainted by technology and not killed by the urgency of the comments and blue ticks. A love which was a slow addiction. It grew slowly and never left them.

While listening to her story, the flashes of mine surfaced before my eyes. A love story which might have been successful if we had not relied so much on technology. If we would have also passed it through the test of time, patience and love letters.

It is because my love story, like every other in this technology-driven society, was subject to how well we connected digitally, how fast we repled to each other’s messages, how many likes and comments we got on our posts and how often we posted updates about our relationship. It feels stupid today that those were the disgusting metrics we had put to judge our relationship and how wrong we were.

Breaking my chain of thoughts, my grandma asked me, what she thought of the letters. Little envious and dejected, I replied what I felt I could have saved my relationship, that her love is the purest kind I have come across, that her love is not maligned by social media and messages. That her love is not determined by the times they called each other or the time they talked to each other through phone calls or messages. That her love had passed the test of time, and the glow on her face revealed the immense love she still had for grandpa, as a teenager.

I told her about my love story (which she was aghast to hear, being unaware it) which was ruined because of technology. How we met through a dating app, and how we started dating just because we found our social media profiles interesting. She was obviously astonished to know that we would chat for hours and still had more fights than she ever had with grandpa. We broke up because we did not have any patience to personally meet and resolve our issues. Instead a few nasty and rude WhatsApp conversations ruined everything.  That we had no eagerness left to meet as a video call substituted meeting in person. And finally, because we were connected on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and all other social media apps you can think off. But somehow, somewhere, our own connection reduced and finally faded away.

I had always considered technology to be a boon for mankind, but after I met my grandpa through grandma’s letters, I realised we miss out the beauty of the pre-technology era. We miss the excitement of listening to each other’s voice after days of waiting. The purity of love letters somehow is not present in the messages of social media apps, and in the spree of knowing everything about each other as soon as possible, we miss the mystery cocooning our love. Love in the age of internet can be called a developing benefit as we can communicate more often. However still, a little excitement and mystery can be maintained when we are eager to unfold each other’s personalities, over time with patience and perseverance.

After all, someone has rightly said, “Don’t lose what is real, chasing what only appears to be.” 

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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.

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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, 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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