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My Lesser Known Affairs: “Relations With Places Are Defined By Taste”

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Welcome to Kadha with Kunmun.

What do affairs bring up in your life? I believe affairs spice up life and each one has its unique taste and distinct place. Taste is an accompaniment of place. Without a taste, the place is nothing and without the place, I cannot imagine taste either. When I sum up each taste with its place, the resultant is nothing but a kind of relationship which is merely hard to explain in the so-called human language.

Every affair takes a part of us and that part can neither be replaced nor exchanged. The only thing that can be done is to cherish that moment forever. For me, affairs are like my favourite food; each time I recall its heart-melting taste, its aroma, I feel altogether in different unknown worlds finding myself.

Kolkata: One-Sided Love

Reliving the taste of your favourite food is another form of life and I believe taste always lives in our mind.

Kolkata was always a near place to visit anytime, but it failed miserably to be a dear one. As often we take for granted that which is more tangible and underrate its value. I used to complain that I never had time to explore the city, although the distance was never the issue. When out of the blue I was close to the city, I realised I was already in love but one-sided.

Its mutton biryani can measure my inclination for Kolkata from Arslan. The delicate, perfectly cooked mutton with long grain basmati rice complement each other and the boiled potato differentiates it from all other biryanis across the country. I have a weird habit of eating biryani by spoon. Then I wondered what could be a more satisfying utilisation of hands other than eating biryani. Have you ever tasted mutton which instantly melts in the mouth? Because I have. I fell for Kolkata’s every bit. The city seems old, but it tends to embrace the new.

Darjeeling: My Crush

The difference between one-sided love and crush is that a crush is always unaffordable and unavoidable. Once upon a time, I had time to be intimate with my crush by bunking my classes. When I reached, the cold in its air was unavoidable and its rains I could not afford. I had not admired the strange combination of winter and rain until I got a plate of Momos with green and red chutney from a street food stall. When I dipped the momo in that chutney with one hand, holding an umbrella in another, I fell in love with the taste of that place.

The smell of rain with a chilly wind and a spicy, perfect plate of momo. What more I can ask for? Do you think momo’s can be so appetising that we (five people) could not have dinner after that? People say, “To remember the taste of the food they mostly skip their next meal.” Trust me; I cannot forget the taste.

Sometimes I think how can such a perfect combination exist in this imperfect world, although I never believe in idealism. But at the same place, I had the worst combination called Thukpa, a dish of chow mein in vegetable soup. I close my eyes to all the terrible qualities of my crush because sometimes even the worst thing can make us happy. 

Dhanbad: My Ex

It is the town known for nothing but coal. I want to address it as my ex. Once upon a time, we were in a relationship, but geographically induced break up couldn’t make it. I know somewhere despite the break up it has a special rare place in my heart and my soul. My affection will always be undivided for the taste of Dhanbad.

When I was in Dhanbad, I never accepted it whole. There are things I didn’t like about my ex, like Litichokha of Dhanbad. I have never tasted it but still, dislike it. But I remember how each time I announce in my room that I will have Tiwari Mutton instead of eating that mess. When I had mutton from this place the first time, I realised mutton could be tasty in a restaurant because mutton is not only my favourite dish but also the zeal of life and I cannot afford its respect to be compromised.

Odisha: My Mayka

The place where I was born and brought up cannot be neglected anyhow. For me, Dalma cannot be replaced by any other means and, nowadays, my healthy diet cannot be imagined without this delicious dish. I cannot forget the desert from my homeland, which is Chenapoda. Every time, with each bite, I discover a different smooth texture associated with a peaceful taste for which reality ends and dreams begin.

Banaras: One-Night Stand

Some stories are left unsaid and my romance with the streets of Banaras in those lonely rainy nights can only be mesmerised. I still remember every time I had Rabdi; the pahalwan uncle used to give me a little more. Within 2 months, I turned out to be a daily customer.

Each time he served Rabdi in a kulhad I used to wonder, looking at his shop Pahalwan Lassi Bhandar, where another pahalwan uncle was busy making Rabdi, rigorously churning butter in a crock. The sweetness of the Rabdi depicts not only the extensive history of the old city somewhere; it depicts the legacy of the shop from the 1950s. The Rabdi is beyond taste and soothes the soul. After completing my task, I used to go to this place, which is on a triangular Chowk, straight from BHU.

Mumbai: My Boyfriend

I have been staying in Mumbai for the last 6 months. Being a person who has faith in love, still, sometimes I find it difficult to love this city. Mumbai is hard to love, maybe. Mumbai is an unknown land and I don’t have any option other than exploring as it is supposed to be my current boyfriend. Expectations from Mumbai for excellent food was never a magnificent idea.

The only snack Mumbaikars can have in their breakfast to dinner is Vada Pav and I don’t like it. But I love the Dum Gosht Biryani from Behrouz where succulent pieces of mutton are laid on a bed of long-grain rice. On every salary day, I never forget to treat myself with this biriyani as it is my prized possession as well as my guilty pleasure. I can’t stay away from this dish much, although I know addiction can spoil any relationship.

My status with Mumbai is complicated, but my choice for Dum Gosht Biriyani is as simple as its raita, without which I cannot imagine its taste. Mumbai, for me, is like an on and off relationship with which everyone is familiar.

Food makes me feel an adrenaline rush in my brain and it will not be wrong to say it is my happy hormone. In life, people come and go, and my relationship with each one of them is unique. Sometimes I like specific qualities of specific people, like Thekua from Bihar.

Each affair is different and difficult to explain, but somehow I put words together. When I have my favourite food, I close my eyes and that’s the way to know my love for them as it is rightly said: “Love can only be felt with closed eyes”. To feel the feeling of love, I am exploring again and again and establishing affairs with the taste of the place and searching for love at first sight. It’s your time to recall what your lesser-known affairs are?

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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.

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, 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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