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The Pictures Formed The Pages Of The Book I Call My Childhood

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Once upon a time, there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two,
Remember how we spent away the hours,
Thinking of the great things we would do,
Those were the days my friend.
We thought they’d never end,
We’d sing and dance forever and a day,
We’d lead the life we choose,
We’d fight and never lose;
For we were young and sure to have our way!! 

Mary Hopkin’s song “Those Were the Days” clearly reminds us of so many memories, doesn’t it?

As we all become a part of a never ending rat race, we tend to forget our loved ones. We are swept by the invisible tide of time, motivated to achieve our aims and aspirations. We start leading a monotonous existence, often missing out on what we call the simple pleasures of life. We forget those precious moments that often brought an effervescent smile on our faces. Memories—of listening to our favourite lullaby while lying in our mother’s lap or playing carom or chess with our close friends—just zoom past our minds.

In these intimidating times, when there are few friends and many acquaintances, our lives are surrounded by cobwebs. We are leading a dual existence. Just as every coin has two sides, our lives too have two diametrically opposite sides. In Chinese astrology, it is called yin and yan. Psychologists like Sigmund Freud called it the Id- Ego- Superego conflict. The id is selfish and does not care about society and values it works on the pleasure principle, whereas the ego, that grows out of id, pleads with the id to work in accordance with reality. The superego, or the moral branch of mental functioning, focuses our attention to our ethics. Each and every decision that an individual makes in their life is affected by this internal mental conflict!

Our lives are becoming opaque and we are losing that innate transparency that existed before. The eastern societies having a collectivistic orientation are drifting apart due to changing ideas, beliefs, concepts, and fundamentally opposing interests. Development and progress in this era is only about following the West! The West has followed an ‘individualistic orientation’ since time immemorial and we are now doing the same thing!

A casual discussion with my sister prompted me to pen down my thoughts with clarity. In my entire life, this was the first time, that I happened to talk to her through a social networking site. The warmth of our face-to-face discussions was clearly missing. Moreover, we did not share the same comfort level that we used to share once upon a time. There was definitely a gap, a lacuna that was present. I wondered what the reason was. Was I rude or disrespectful or did I misbehave with her at any point? Negative thoughts constantly pervaded my already overburdened mind.

One day, during a chance encounter, we talked about the pleasant memories of our childhood. Life seemed perfect all over again. My face brightened as we revisited the world of our memories as we spoke about photographs. Pictures that we used to click without any hesitation as children. Pictures that formed the pages of the book called ‘childhood’, when posing for a picture never seemed to be a problem and we were popularly known as ‘ever ready batteries’. We never felt that we were scrutinized or watched, and our faces projected what we now sheepishly call ‘childlike innocence’. Those were the days we had the box or Polaroid cameras and pictures were clicked in a single take and were reflections of perfection! And now, in the world of digicams and the inevitable smartphone, we are unable to click that ‘perfect picture’ even after several attempts! Ironical, isn’t it?

I  guess this is the cost that man has had to pay for development in the contemporary world. Years ago, a popular saying was, ‘men earn to live’. But, now it is quite the opposite. From the smallest kid to the middle-aged man, success is what drives our lives. Instead of excellence, man is running after success and has forgotten all principles and ethics! This has led to the creation of a moribund, nucleated lifestyle where selfishness has vanquished selflessness.

From a very young age, we are told that we have to stand on our feet, for we live in an immensely competitive world. As a result, an 18-year-old has to sacrifice all pleasures to clear entrance examinations. The ‘examination result’ has now become a benchmark in our life.

Spare a thought and search within yourself for those momentary pleasures which are a significant part of our lives. We have misplaced these pleasures but haven’t lost them.

Recently, while cleaning my closet, I experienced this ‘simple pleasure’ by looking at old pictures—pictures that told me the story of my life. I was sitting on the floor and playing with my doll—a candid shot. I hadn’t faked that smile. Looking back at your old pictures and renewing your memories, you will understand the value of life.

For that day the pictures will talk and remind you that the cold drink was actually divided equally between you and your brother, but one of you thought that the other got a little more and that fight for the cold drink escalated into greater conflicts and both of you drifted apart.

You will remember that effortless laughter you once shared with your brother and there will be a desire to restart again. Don’t hesitate now; turn over a new leaf, for life is short and opportunities to make up are few.

Call up that old friend!

Featured Image source: GoodFreePhotos.
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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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