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How Haruki Murakami’s Resilience Gives Hope And Inspiration To Writers

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Tashiding (West Sikkim)

I call my Winter home, well hailing from a hot buffery place like Siliguri, which manages to stay warm most of the time; using nouns like Winter soothes me. During one of my visits to my Winter home, I happened to meet a woman from Japan who was home staying there along with her partner. They were there for a hike to Yuksum, the next town after Tashiding. One such dinner was organised by my uncle, and as we started conversing, everything was covered from movies to books to culture to adventure. The lady suggested some reading, and therein I first heard a mortal uttering Haruki Murakami’s name.

haruki murakami
“I still remember fresh, the exact words a lady once used to describe the Murakami’s writings: “He writes likes a shadow.’’”

I still remember fresh, the exact words she used to describe the author’s writings: “He writes likes a shadow.’’ She jammed her both palms like a person about to pray while saying out loud those lines. Till today, I cannot decode what exactly she meant, neither could deny the gravity with which she insisted us to read Murakami once in life. She even wrote us on a paper the name of the writer which I stashed in my purse for long, unaware that in future, it would be my refuge for hope.

As a beginner in writing, I couldn’t go longer without taking seriously the lady’s reference, and thus Murakami entered my world. Those days I relied mostly on reading to improve my writing craft. I picked up Kafka on the Shore from Crosswords, without a clue that I was going to equally love and hate myself for picking up that book. The book took me by surprise, for I was expecting yet another lucid and simple writing like Kazuo Ishiguro; and here the world of Murakami was challenging and surreal.

Reading Kafka has been my biggest gain as a reader till now, for I have never experienced such sorcery of words. The cats talking to a human doesn’t feel weird when it glides solely in the story, creating an experience for the readers. Even the person in the dream goes on a real voyage and carries the hint of normalcy. The real and the unreal merges, creating the waft of possibility for such existence of characters and associated incidents.

I was piqued by the idea of how good writing can break down the complexities of life in a simple manner. A jumble of few words here and there can create complexity and later deconstruct the same — is what Kafka on the Shore embodied for me. I found myself subconsciously imitating the writer’s writing style and failing measurably at it. I hated myself immensely for not having my own original style. Back then, little did I know that firstly you imitate and secondly you write.

As my writing spree continued, I discovered many more worlds of Murakami, nothing less than an enchantment. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Men without Women, Norwegian Wood and my recent read Desire host a canopy of inspiration for me. With every work, the author has gone beyond touching lives from one to many, giving his characters hunger to faith to adversity, and thus redeeming their lives as well as ours, for no one knows the subtlety involved.

Hardly anyone would believe he is not a blessed writer, given that he does not have an inborn writing talent and had to hunt down his skills with effort and practice. During one of his interviews he mentioned how the process goes for him:

kafka on the shore book cover
“I picked up Kafka on the Shore from Crosswords, without a clue that I was going to equally love and hate myself for picking up that book.”

“Writers who are blessed with inborn talent can write easily, no matter what they do — or don’t do. Like water from a natural spring, the sentences just well up, and with little or no effort these writers can complete a work. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into that category. I have to pound away at a rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of my creativity. Every time I begin a new novel, I have to dredge out another hole. But, as I’ve sustained this kind of life over many years, I’ve become quite efficient, both technically and physically, at opening those holes in the rock and locating new water veins. As soon as I notice one source drying up, I move on to another. If people who rely on a natural spring of talent suddenly find they’ve exhausted their source, they’re in trouble.”

Humans have a weird tendency of pacifying their suffering if the same is shared by the other being. The idea that my idol writer too goes through mammoth suffering in his creative pursuits surprisingly soothes me. I readily can identify the weariness involved. He must have carved out his ideas, while they were sailing through the wailing doubts. I assume that some of his whimsical characters, before manifesting themselves, might not have seen the light for innumerable days. Nakata, Skipper, Mr. Honda perhaps have lived in the fear of suspension, till the day they came to light and all the while their home might have been the stashed pile of likewise fellows.

I find my own havoc of creative practice resonating with what the author has described in terms of writing. The beast of persistent doubts and the resistance that follows many a times has killed a lot of my projects midway. Writing always has been, and still is, a tough act for me. I find myself cringing when my fellow writer colleagues submit their allotted projects in a day or two, while I bang my head for an entire week just to write the appropriate opening line.

Over the years, my biggest achievement, when it comes to writing, has been in being too stubborn to keep the pen down even in moments when it doesn’t want to keep going. The complete projects now boast their involved sacrifices through which I learnt perseverance. The time when my senses were rejoicing in the prose of Murakami, never for a second did it occur to me that “this could have come from someone for whom writing is tough.” Now that I am aware the author had to chew some unwanted bones to create his art, I am assured my resilience is not going astray, for in every creative process, hope and persistence seal the deal.

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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 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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