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The ‘New Normal’ Made Me Yearn For Delhi: A Painful Remembrance

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ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

Death is inevitable, they say. As I coped with the loss of an aged, respectable loved one, her daughter miles apart, howled in despair, unable to bid her mother adieu. Love is hard, they say. As I painfully endure the distance, unable to meet my love, never did I ever think, Delhi-Gurgaon to take the face of a long-distance relationship.

Career is a life-long dilemma, they say. As I battle with my family to let me study abroad, the one-way flights scare the wits out of me.

The new normal is distance. The new normal is painful for the social animal. 

Human communities and societies have thrived over communications and social relationships. But with masks and protective gears adorning our bodies, how do we express love? Would we give in to isolation and stay locked up in our vicinity? I wish I had an answer, but all I have are questions and more questions. The uncertainty about the future is high—we navigate on chalked out divisions, unable to feel, express and show emotions, hidden under the mask. All that remains is a bygone era where the man was free and safe.

Experiences and stories haunting the city of Delhi keep me up at night. The unsaid words echo the monuments in Mehrauli. While not a single person walks down that aisle, what happened to those lovebirds behind that tree in the ‘Garden of Five Senses’? That hawker selling ten rupees chips’ packets at Deer Park in contrast to the exorbitant beer at Hauz Khas Village? That trans womxn who blessed the couple next to me with a beautiful future? Countless humans, countless stories, yet a million ways of suffering amidst this pandemic.

Image for representational purposes only.

I see images of Connaught Place at night, and they remind me of the beautiful memories and dates exploring Central Delhi afoot. I see images of my college, amidst the greenery of Green Park, and reminisce of the momos at Dilli Haat. What I’d give to be carefree and roam around Delhi feasting on the roadside Chole Bhature! Where would the romantics go now? Where would the midnight ice-creams at India Gate and shopping at Sarojini Nagar go?

The new normal is challenging to abide by, to think, every second, every day, could have been a potential novel experience to the mystery that is life. I await the month of September-October to dive into the Mughlai and Biryani at every Durga Puja. Today, my Bengali heart fears the same. I would really miss the auto rides around CR Park, pandal hopping, from Kashmere Gate to Matri Mandir this time.

With just three years to enjoy the beauty that is college life, I fear that I am half-way through, unable to dance at concerts, indulge in over-expensive fests, and explore the nitty-gritty and hidden wonders of Delhi. I fear that before I even know, a large part of my adulthood would be down the drain locked up in my room with a laptop hoping to break the world record of binge-watching. What about those unrequited dreams and desires? That trip to Kasol? That Delhi to-do list? As an average Indian student, if only I could survive with the chai from the tapri and the Maggi from the canteen.

I know the world has bigger problems than my love for Delhi. The humanitarian crisis, economy, government, pandemic, global health crisis, food crisis, pain, sorrow, grief, death, poverty, and I can go on. Yet, I miss the jhumka seller sitting outside my college. The walk down Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Daryaganj Sunday market, the hustle-bustle of “Ramjas. Ramjas. Hindu. Hindu. KMC. KMC,” right outside Vishwavidyalaya metro station. I miss the exuberance of Delhi. The vibrancy of every microcosm that is this city.

While the cases in Delhi witness a quantum leap, it sure is scary. The lives lost, the souls surfacing, and the distorted destinies; it sure is scary. The day situation reverses, and freedom is ascertained back, we might witness a city which we never saw before—a country which was not so well equipped in dealing with a pandemic, and a few lives changed due to a historical gamble no one could foresee.

Ma still says, “Koi pardes nahi jaega,” (No one will go abroad) though my dreams hang by a thread, I secretly blame the off-timing in my oh, so perfect life. I blame the consequences of hoping for higher education which the 13-year-old in me once envisaged. While the significant other and I hope to meet in the secret lanes of Delhi, the concerns of ‘how to kiss with a mask on?’ remains atop my search history. If only we knew what the future held in store for us, we would have prayed a little differently.

This post is a part of COVID Diaries, a special series under the #ReimagineTogether campaign. Tell us how this lockdown and pandemic has affected you! Join the conversation by adding a post here. here.
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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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