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India’s ‘Hillywood’: Rural Uttarakhand Is A Breathtaking Experience

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India is known for its geographical and cultural diversity. The 27th state of the country Uttarakhand known as the Devbhoomi or the ‘Land of Gods’ brims with diversity. After every few miles, one comes across a different language, attire, culture, and geographical feature. The Kumaon region consists of  6 districts of the state and boasts of very rich heritage, although the culture is almost similar to the 7 other districts but there are slight differences. Taking a glance at the life of ‘Hillywood,’ the rural area of the state is nothing less than a breathtaking experience.

If someone wishes to explore the real Uttarakhand, the tourist destinations are not the right places to visit. One should go and explore the villages which are the soul of the state. Joint families living in a house made of wood, soil, stone or  patthar are the pakka makan. Usually, the ground floor is kept for the cattle or used as a store for farming. First floor and second floor consist of the hall, kitchen and rooms. The chulha or fire to cook food is present in the kitchen which is used to prepare tasty food. Also, it keeps the house warm as most part of the state experiences harsh winters. The slanted rooftop helps to get rid of the snow in winter.

Pahadi food is unique and tasty. It is not usually found in any other part of the world. The cannabis (bhang) that other people take as a drug is one of the major food items. Pahadis make it as a chutney and use it in different vegetable to add flavours which is absolutely delicious. And yes, it doesn’t harm health, only keeps you warm in the winter. Bal Mithai is a famous sweet here. Rice flour is used to make different dishes. Milk products are part of the diet but prepared in a unique way. Madua which looks like chocolate is used to make roti. A Pahadi thali (platter) not only looks scrumptious but, it tastes heavenly and is unique.

Well, Pahadis are not only blessed with natural beauty but also with beautiful people. The unique traditional jewellery and dress make the Pahadi women look even more attractive. The traditional chunari pichoda which is a yellow coloured cloth with red dots is a compulsory part of the attire for married women. The large nose ring is the identity of Pahadi women, a special necklace globand and different kinds of bangles called ponji can be seen in special occasions like marriage, parties.

The important thing about Pahadi women is, they are beauty combined with brain and strength. Adventurous activities like trekking is a part of the daily routine for Pahadi ladies.

They may look sensitive but they can actually carry water, grass, stones, heavy luggage on their strong shoulders. That is why the Pahadi people are known to be physically fit and active.

In the hills, celebration means togetherness in every festival and is celebrated collectively. The whole village is like a large family. Holi is more about singing and dancing than playing with colours. The excitement of the celebration among the old as well as the kids is the same. Apart from Holi and Diwali, almost every month a local festival is celebrated by all with joy and happiness. It is always about people coming together and sharing happiness.

Traditional dance forms, instruments and music are still alive in the villages. People forget the pubs and DJs when they listen to the beats of the Choliya dance. Pahadi weddings are incomplete without men dressed in female and performing their art and stunts that entertain people. The Pahadi music is as soothing as foot tapping.

Far from the fast and busy life of cities, these villages remind us of who we are, they help us to find peace within ourselves. Sitting here and thinking about life is the best thing one can do. It is a place full of happiness, positivity and affinity, a place where people still care about each other, share happiness, live together and celebrate together. Well, the data connection may not be strong here but the connection amongst people is worth cherishing.

(The information in this photo feature is based on the author’s personal experience and knowledge. Pictures used in this feature are from their personal gallery and few of them are picked from social media.)

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Yann/Wikimedia Commons.
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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.

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.

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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.

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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
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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