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Home Vs Home: The Never-Ending Quest To Find A ‘Sense Of Belonging’

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A few days ago, a close friend of mine shared a curated Spotify playlist with me on my birthday as a quarantine birthday gift. Each song was carefully chosen, reminding us of the memories spent together or songs she would want me to hear otherwise. One of the songs in that list is ‘Home is where Heart Is’ by Lady A, and goes like this:

I felt I was spinning my wheels

Before too long the road was calling

I packed everything I owned

So sure that I was leaving this small-town life behind for good

And not a single tear was falling

It took leaving for me to understand

Sometimes your dreams just aren’t what life has planned

Mama said home is where the heart is….

As I stumbled upon this song and turned up the volume of my headphones, something led me to think — is home really where the heart is? Do we really belong to a place or is it just a constructed notion in our head?

Sense of belonging or fixity is the most essential aspect of everyone’s life and it comes from a deep-rooted relationship that is shared with a place or person. The realisation of the fact that this is going to end and be replaced by some unknown territory seems to create havoc in our otherwise smooth course of life. Such is the fate of thousands of people, including me, who left the comfort of their house and hometown and decided to move to a new city, into the world of unfamiliarity.

Does this really lead us to discover a new ‘home’ or is it just a permanent familiar place without any feeling of belongingness?

travel bags kept on the bed
Home won’t be where my heart is, but it’d be the other way round: my heart will be where my home is. Everywhere.

Where Or Whom Do We Belong To?

As a part of the outstation/migrant population, people do not feel a strong sense of belongingness to a place because they are in dilemma. They are divided between different homes, human circles and emotions of love, hate, excitement, resentment and loneliness. Not just this, people’s loyalties are divided between too many factors and, therefore, never have anything solid to belong to.

More than ever, I realised this dilemma during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, I also came back to my parents’ house after 10 years. One fine morning, while I was arranging my new bookshelf in my room, it struck me hard that once life is back on track and things go back to ‘normal’, I will have to leave this place, again. This made me circle back to my primary question — am I really at home? Every day, I struggle to find an answer to this.

I was born in Meerut, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, famous for its sports goods, scissors and the popular winter sweet gajak; though I didn’t live here for long. My father had a transferable job, which made us travel across various cities, leading me to change schools every few years. This in itself never led me to develop a deep-rooted relationship with any particular place. After completing my school, just like thousands of other students, I shifted to Delhi for higher studies, and that is where I have been living from the past 10 years.

Delhi is where I spent the most crucial years of my ‘growing up’ and, without a doubt, I share an unexplainable bond with this city. It gave me experiences that have made me who I am today. All those feelings, moods, ups and downs of life have shaped up my personality and my existence. But can I call this city my home? I don’t know.

The Impermanence Of Life

In a world of complete unfamiliarity, in the beginning, the search for a home and friends seems to be the primary battle of an outstation person. These battles stem not only from an individual perspective, but also cultural. The diversity of our country leads to the fear of acceptance and seamless mingling with others. People are often also victim of pre-conceived notions about the place they come from.

Moreover, human bonds and relationships are fragile. They keep changing, and beyond the obvious struggles, it becomes more about human beings finding themselves and asserting their own identity.

Is Home Really Where The Heart Is?

What makes home home anyway? The obvious answer is that home is where we are born, raised and spend most of our lives. I called Meerut my home when I was staying there for 12 years. I stayed with my cousin for two months and that was also home. I also called it home when I stayed in Delhi University, North Campus, for three years, and also when I shifted to Saket in South Delhi to pursue my post praduation. I called it home when I stayed at my friend’s place for 10 days. To see it objectively, home is where I have stayed even temporarily with people I loved and cared about.

While listening to Lady A sing And then I realise there’s something Mama always knew, Love is what I really left to find, She said home is where the heart is…,” one thing is clear, that our hearts are big. Therefore, we create relationships and develop bonds with places we stay at, even temporarily.

Humans strive for ways to build around a relationship, which eventually, but inevitably, creates a new sense of familiarity and attachment and allows for new memories to be made. That way, home won’t be where my heart is, but it’d be the other way round: my heart will be where my home is. Everywhere.

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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.

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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, 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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