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“This Lockdown Has Been A Period Full Of Revelations For Me”

Scribbling self during lockdown
Image provided by the author.

I have vivid memories of the day I decided to let go of my four differently sized, hard-bound diaries that were fully scribbled through. After all, my high-school self was too sure that it didn’t do a thing for me and only made my thoughts and feelings accessible to others. It is 2020 and I have rediscovered diary writing. What you will read next are some of the reflections that emerged from the endless scribbling through the odd hours in the lockdown.

I wonder what the world will look like after the pandemic. What does ‘after the pandemic’ even mean? What is the exit plan? How long is it going to take? Is physical distancing here to stay? Will I be able to pick up my bag and take a bus to the hills again? Will I be able to run to my loved ones and hug them without worrying about catching the virus, or worse, giving it to them?

Lockdown as a response to the pandemic has been a period full of revelations for me. On the one hand, it has let nature revive for a brief period, and on the other, thousands of people have lost their livelihood. The system was never perfect, to begin with, but people were able to get by. The hurried implementation of lockdown further aggravated the faults in the system and forced many lives to fall through the cracks.

So many who are on the margins like the daily wage workers, domestic workers, women in families with unequal responsibilities and abusive members and children in vulnerable situations, have been neglected in the response strategies to a large extent. The needs of the front line health and sanitation workers have also not been entirely met.

Migrant workers in different parts of the country forced to return to their homes on foot.
Migrant workers in different parts of the country forced to return to their homes on foot.

This has lifted the garb of progress from the ailing system and amplified it for all of us to see in the broad daylight. It has compelled me to stop distracting myself from the root cause, let the reality sink in and let it bother me. Because how else would we be able to imagine a new normal if we do not let the realities of the present sink in?

I think a lot about what I as an individual can do to navigate this situation better. A part of me longs to go back to the world before the pandemic but the other also recognises the problems with that. When realities seem too large and beyond my control, I turn within to look for answers. I try to notice how I am feeling and identify the reasons behind it. Whether the system changes for the better or not, I have already started changing my ways.

At the beginning of the lockdown, I pushed myself to perform and keep up with my pre-pandemic definition of productivity and the newer emerging definitions of having to come out of this phase with new skills and talents. It didn’t last long for me. As a youth worker with experience of supporting other young people, I realised what I was doing. I was throwing myself at tasks to avoid attending to my emotions.

All the endless conversations I had with others, came rushing back to question me as to whether I really practised what I preached. I have gradually allowed myself to feel fully—my fears, grief, anxiety and guilt, without judgment and share it with people I trust.

Representational image.

The beauty in the process of reaching out is that one ends up creating a sharing space for others too. The connection has allowed me a safe space to fall back upon and get out of my head. It was only when I began emptying myself that I created space for more.

I have realised that I could deny this phase of collective grief, but I could not detach myself from it. What I do about it has now become an everyday decision for me.

The inner quest of finding answers pushed by the uncertainties of the outer world resulted in many other realisations for me. One of the greatest shifts I have experienced during this phase has been to move from the mindset of scarcity to the mindset of abundance.

In the past, I have often felt strained with my financial realities to support others in that capacity. The pandemic, however, has helped me recognise all the resources that I have and be grateful for them. This new found gratitude enabled me to extend my privilege and support for the relief work. Since this perspective shift, I have been able to initiate action to raise funds for the relief work in more collaborative ways.

I have supported the relief work with all the skills and resources I have rather than focusing on how I am not in the position to do so because of what I lack. I look more at my life now from what I have than what I lack and that has made all the difference.

Another experience of lockdown has been living minimally. I have been experimenting with it for a while now. Going out only once a week to buy essentials, not browsing through online shopping platforms because anything besides essentials would not be delivered, having the time to really pay attention to what I already have and what more I want, has enabled me to see how little I actually need to live comfortably.

We are all made to chase things to feel joy but the list is unending. So we keep moving from one thing to another without pausing and addressing our fears and feelings on a deeper level. That is how the system fuels and feeds on our insecurities and practically thrives on it. I knew this before too and practised it to some extent but being able to do so fully without being questioned for my choices only reinforced my belief in living minimally. This allowed me to create space for other things.

Other things… like being able to truly empathise; first, with myself, and then with others. My conversations with colleagues moved from performance to wellbeing, conversations with family and friends moved from sharing just the good parts to also sharing my struggles. The more I was able to empathise with myself, reflect on my worldview, redo my definitions and share openly, the more deeply I felt connected with others.

The underlying sense of solidarity, both in feeling and creating it, is what allowed me to choose action on many days. Somedays I take a break. On others, I put my energies towards individual and collective action for what needs to be done.

Amidst all the confusion and uncertainty about our future, I feel more and more certain that we all need to realign our own perspectives and values and participate actively in reimagining and redesigning the world.

That is our strongest bet for a better future. So the guiding question for me remains – whether the system changes for better or swings right back into its pre-pandemic shape, what role would I like to play in where we individually and collectively head from here.

Featured image for representation only.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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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