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Reading During Pandemic: My Journey From A Non-Reader To An Avid Reader

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No matter how old we are, it is expected out of us to read. Read something that keeps us engaged, something that not only expands our knowledge or vocabulary but also puts our life in motion with a strong sense of self and morale. When I entered school, reading didn’t come that easily to me.

I struggled hard to keep my eyes focused on the pages and would often doze off in 10 minutes. To be very honest, I used to come up with creative ways to move away or excuse myself when a bunch of intellectuals used to surround me to discuss a character or the storyline.

As I grew up, Harry Potter was and still is very much in trend. In every nook and corner, used to find a person going all gaga about how great the book is and that the fantasy promises a bright future. But suddenly, just like we have right-wing and left-wing in politics, a bunch of other self-boasted individuals or rather liberals started debating that reading is not everything and that there are visual and auditory learners who are equally exciting and have dense perspectives.

I, associating myself with the liberals, started feeling affiliated with this wave. There was this strong self-confidence that emerged out of nowhere, and I kept embracing myself for who I was. I would debate with those who enforced reading as an activity and never let me choose what was best for me.

Let’s take a pause here.

My dear readers, aren’t you thinking that my story here is going off track? My title preaches something else, and I am writing something else. Well, this was just to set a context. In my opinion, those who belong with me in the same group would be more interested to know how I converted myself from non-reader to an avid reader. The guy who was a staunch supporter of the non-reading club is now writing the importance of reading. That’s so stupid of him. Was he hit by a bus, or did a coconut drop on his head and changed his mind wires forever?

Welcome to my world! I assure you, you will love reading this. Some days back, a friend of mine was completely after me. He wanted me to read this book for a long time despite him knowing the fact that I do not read unless and until I have to pass an exam! So, this became the ultimate mission of his life. “Mission Murali” as designed by him was to make sure that Murali reads the book named, The Little Prince, thought that the man had gone nuts and was foolish enough to force me to read a book that had connections with childhood.

He kept bugging me and as decently as I would say, he was after my life. After days of persistence from his side and clear denial from my side, my lovely friend brought the book to my house and showed me that it had interesting pictures. ‘Pictures,’ that is what a visual learner likes, right?

So finally, after enough resistance, I picked up the book and started reading it. Daily after reading a page or two, my eyes started getting hooked to the book. The character in the story goes on to explore the world, and meanwhile, undertaking this journey, he realizes a lot about the world and himself. I started relating myself to the character; after all, I was also an explorer who was exploring the realms of this reading world.

This incident gave me a fresh perspective. I enjoyed reading so much that I started developing these thoughts and images in my mind that had never crossed it before. Even my dreams were colourful and full of adventure.

Anyway, let me share what this book taught me because I am sure this is going to be of some help during this lockdown.

Don’t Be Too Fond Of Numbers

Numbers are nothing but deceiving. Adults are very fond of numbers, and they tend to measure their success against the number of things they have achieved. They ask questions like, How much money do you earn? Or How much did you donate to the charity? Instead, measure your success on how happy you are. Do you like catching butterflies? or Gazing stars at night with your loved ones? (Not to forget, stars look amazing these! Thanks to corona, less pollution these days!)

Relationships Make Life Worth Living

We are social animals. Until and unless we don’t build relationships and talk to people, we cannot come out of our comfort zone and learn something new. It also gives us a chance to explore who we are and what we can do. Measure your happiness by making those meaningful connections. 

Take Care Of The Planet

As adults, we become selfish and start consuming things at a higher rate. It does not give the planet enough time to regenerate itself. Remember, Karma is a boomerang, One day it will come and stand in front of us, and we will have to answer. Maybe, Corona days are asking us to slow down!

Judge Yourself Before You Judge Others

Adults are biased. It affects how we interact with others. We judge others way too quickly and forget to judge ourselves. This creates an image that we are the best and creates a wall that stops us from being more humane. It is better to first reflect upon our actions and then others.

Don’t Forget To Enjoy Your Life

Take a moment and breathe. Don’t rush! This rat race will not take us too far. Instead, ask yourself this question – are you really happy? Are you making any positive difference in your life or those around you?

I was somebody who was a part of this rat race, but this book changed the course of my life forever. Now, I have not only finished this book but also bought three more to be completed during this forced vacation. I guess it was all there in me. I was meant to be a reader but never saw the obvious benefits of it. Books are great friends to be with and will surely add a lot of positivity around in the current times and the life ahead.

Thanks to my dear friend, had it not been him, I would have never realized what I was missing out on. Books, I shall always be indebted to you. You have taught me to focus on those small details of life that I could never understand in the visuals. 

(This article is written by Murali Krishna, who is providing online counselling with our Mental Health Internship Program.)

Like Murali, many people question the art of reading. Are you one of them? Do you lack motivation or question how effective this would be? Then reach out to us. Yo Zindagi surely has a list that will blow your mind.

Yo Zindagi is a campaign to Promote Mental Health & Emotional Maturity by engaging individuals in conversations and workshop. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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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.

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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.”

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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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