“Three Astrologers Concluded That Our Match Would End In A Fatality”

Recently, my friend asked me about my dating life, and whether I wanted to ultimately end up with an Indian man. I confessed that I wasn’t so sure. Why, you ask? My concern can perhaps be compared, to the dilemma one faces when on Amazon, you see that you can purchase a product you really want, but only as an ‘add-on item’ if you purchase other ‘qualifying items’.

You end up scouring Amazon to purchase unnecessary products, just so that you can purchase the only product you actually want. In my last relationship, my partner was the product I wanted, his parents were unnecessary qualifying items I never asked for.

He reassured me that his family would love me and that it wouldn’t be an issue that he was a Brahmin and I was [insert any caste that’s not Brahmin].
It was a whirlwind romance; I had just ended my previous relationship before moving to Canada, and I was looking for something casual. Instead, I was swept off my feet by a kind, intelligent, and incredibly loving, young man.

We had a strong connection, which was partially rooted in common ground, such as hailing from the same state in India, speaking the same Indian regional language, and sharing a love for Tamil music and movies. He felt like home.

Right from the start, I was more anxious than he was, about breaking the news to my family – I was ready to face familial conflict if it was thrown my way, but I was nevertheless jittery.

He reassured me that his family would love me and that it wouldn’t be an issue that he was a Brahmin and I was [insert any caste that’s not Brahmin]. Turned out, my parents were overjoyed at the news and were eager to meet him, and all my imaginations of fighting them for the love of my life turned out to remain fictional. Most pitifully, the same couldn’t be said for my partner’s parents.

They took up the most well-executed job, of persuading my partner, that the match they had found for him back in India, was more suitable. I’d have been okay if they had an issue with my personality, I suppose, but nope.

Their sole rationale was based on a family astrologer’s teachings of marriage being a ‘divine combination spanning several eras’. Evidently, it meant Brahmins only marry Brahmins.

What followed would make Ekta Kapoor proud. Family tactics to persuade my partner to leave me, started out as daily phone calls, eventually evolving into emotional pleas, outright harassment, and emotional blackmail.

My partner fought back, initially. But his dear mum was so affected by her son’s ‘disobedience’, that her BP shot up and she was admitted to a hospital. When the prodigal son returned to speak with her face to face, it turned out his father had been admitted to a hospital for a serious procedure involving his heart.

Our daily Skype update ended with either him in tears, for the pressure that he was facing, or me in tears, afraid that he would give in to their tantrums. Don’t get me wrong, I was sorry they were unwell, but their reasoning was so off, it made me bitter and angry.

The nail in the coffin, though, was when our (horror) scopes were matched – my partner had thought it a hail Mary, but guess what, folks? Along with belonging to an unacceptable caste and community, I was ‘Manglik’ too. Three astrologers concluded that our match would end in a fatality; either he would die or I would. (yay, science!, yay Rahu and Ketu!).

My partner returned to Canada, feeling helpless, and looking like he had lost the will to live. He’d been taunted by his relatives for putting his parents under extreme stress and he was made to promise, in front of his father’s sickbed, that he would end things with me.

Family tactics to persuade my partner to leave me, started out as daily phone calls, eventually evolving into emotional pleas. Representational image. Still from a movie.

I tried throwing caution to the wind by getting on a call with his mother – a conversation I thought, would be between two civilised adults. Instead, I was greeted with an unnecessarily sharp voice, a declaration that she wouldn’t let our relationship go further, and some ‘comforting’ garbage about how we would soon recover from this ‘minor’ hiccup in our lives.

Oh, by the way, his parents themselves had eloped and married, against family approval. While I was prepared to follow their example, my partner wasn’t. He ended the relationship that night.

The incident has left me in a state of bewilderment, and I continue to wonder why I let myself be dragged along, to humour individuals who exhibited deeply problematic and hurtful behaviour towards me, and my partner.

I had been reduced to a mere horoscope and tossed aside – a move so Bollywood, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been directed by Sooraj Barjatya. Why are young Indians afraid to love? This is why.

*Feature image is representational.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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