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The Great Indian Generation Gap: Here Is How I Re-Built My Relationship With My Parents

My plant dried but the relationship didn’t.

“She does not listen to me!”

“He does not understand me!”

It feels too close to home, doesn’t it? We experience such conversations as parents or children at some point. The generation gap has repeatedly been highlighted as a major roadblock in such relationships. We all are affected by this gap and want to overcome it. Yet, we feel stuck, stuck with previous painful experiences and lack of faith in ourselves and others. Healing a broken relationship can be the most challenging and an important thing at the same time to do.

I have struggled in my relationship with my parents. I often resort to humour to express the issues I am dealing with. Once I found myself joking about how our relationship was similar to the one I had with my plant. I watered it and kept it under the sunlight every day, yet it died, due to overwatering. I did everything I knew about caring for my plant, and yet it withered away. I used to speak to the plant while it was alive — if only I could have listened to it also. It did speak, but I made no efforts to learn my plant’s language.

With my parents, it often feels the same. We do a lot of talking to or at each other, but I wonder how much we listen to each other. We have conflicts and unresolved feelings. There was a point where I could see our relationship dying, so I did everything I knew about caring for them, and so did they. We continued to fail and hurt each other. We could not understand each other; it was as if we spoke two completely different languages. I wonder if it was due to the much-hyped ‘generation gap’ or a ‘generated gap’ in our communication.

Plants thrive in togetherness and so do we (Have you noticed how they flourish when they have their plant friends around them?).

It was around this time when I joined Pravah. I expected to learn and grow with the organisation, though I could not foresee how this space would impact my professional and personal life so deeply. As part of my leadership journey, I attended a workshop where I had to practice interpersonal conflict resolution — choosing a deeply personal conflict I was avoiding. When I saw my colleagues opening up and being vulnerable, I too found the courage to be authentic. I found it safe to talked about my conflict with my parents, and was surprised to realise that I was not the only one struggling.

Miracles don’t happen overnight. Earlier in the workshop, I was asked if I am doing my 100% to resolve the conflict. It hit me then, that I was not even looking at it from the lens of resolution. I was watching my relationship with my parents wither away, just like I did with my plant — unable to understand its needs, feeling frustrated about not knowing what to do, and waking up each day hoping it does not die.

But this time, I knew where to begin. Realising that change requires efforts, I began my journey of removing the generated gap by listening to them without judgement, being assertive and not aggressive, and not closing myself. The first step was scary, I was afraid to worsen the dynamics, be rejected and judged. However, I chose to take a leap of faith and try. The tools that I received from this workshop helped me gain clarity on the way forward and the personal stories being shared by my colleagues gave me hope — if they could, why can’t I?

I shifted my mindset from intrusion to inclusion, from not wanting to involve my parents in my decisions to seeking their opinion and engaging in a dialogue; from not expressing how I felt to let myself be vulnerable; from not believing in their capacity to understand me to sharing my aspirations and why I feel strongly about them; and finally, from complaining that I do not feel comfortable in their company to creating a safe space for all of us.

It was difficult to engage in a dialogue since they would come from a position of fear and concern, and I would react from fear and assumption. On some days, it was easier to not engage and let things go on. Just like my plant, I felt like I was doing my best to convey my needs and understand theirs, but I realised that I cannot be the only one doing it. I had learnt the skills through the workshop, but my tools were not their tools, right? I realised that the only way forward was to walk the talk and inspire them to walk with me.

I got immense peer support at Pravah, but what surprised me was the realisation that relationships do not heal overnight. They need time, space and nourishment, and it is an ongoing process. That is when I started taking care of another baby plant.

Are you ready to learn their language?

Sometimes, I wonder if my efforts are really making a difference. Shouldn’t they as parents know better? I tend to lose hope when it seems like nothing has changed!

It was my new plant that gave me hope — love, attention and listening to it was the only language that seemed to be working. I can get a new plant to care for, but I only have one set of parents. I just needed to continue trying to nourish the most important relationship in my life. I now communicate my story to them with greater openness, participation and empathy. We are still a work in progress, but as long as we are willing to work towards our relationship, I am sure there will be progress.

It is scary beyond imagination to work on ourselves, and even scarier when it comes to working on the relationships closest to us. The miracle was when I changed, everything changed. For those of you wanting to take the first step and immersing yourself in the journey of bridging the great Indian generated gap, you are not alone. We would love to hear your story and share some of ours with you.

It’s time to channel your inner Kung Fu Panda. You are the secret recipe, you are the magic that you are waiting for. Start the dialogue!

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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.

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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.”

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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 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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