This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rajlakshmi Ghosh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Family, Education, And Financial Instability: My Experience Amidst The Pandemic

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It takes a lot of courage for some people to share their personal stories with others. I have always been a very shy and a happy-go-lucky person, but in recent times, I was hit so hard by reality that it has shaken me to the core. Nothing we ever do is enough, we have to keep on bearing the blows that come our way. The rich get richer and the poor only get poorer. Today, I am ready to share my story with you all.

People who are close to me know that I aspire to be a journalist and work freely because I will be able to share what is on my mind with others. I do not support anything that is going on right now in the name of the Indian media, and the way everything is slowly progressing makes me think twice about my career choice. I often wonder if I have to stoop this low and be disgustingly rude to someone even when we’re supposed to believe in “Innocent until proven guilty.”

tv reporters and cameramen standing in a crowd with masks on their faces
I do not support anything that is going on right now in the name of the Indian media Representational image.

This has happened time-and-again, and you know that. The world is a dangerous place, I know, but first, let’s try to change the wrongs in our own country. I am proud of my country and I love it too, but the government is not really helping us in any way. I have really not seen much proper growth or rapid development. I am not saying that only because we are in midst of a pandemic. What about life before that?

Have you been able to break free and say everything you’ve wanted or do as you wanted? No? Same here! All of this does take a toll on me sometimes because I fear for my life, my family, and my education-related goals.

Let me start with fragments of what I remember from my past years. I was born to a liberal Bengali family living in Kolkata and we were a family of six. My grandmother, grandfather, mum, dad, and my uncle. It was home sweet home for us. But then, fate decided that a family of six is too happy and positive, and decided to break our family down. My family suffered the loss of their youngest son—my uncle had lost his battle to cancer.

The year 2006 was a traumatic and exhausting year. We had tried everything in our power to help him recover— appointments with different country doctors, selling jewellery because we needed to save him, eating only rice and lentils every day, dad facing huge losses and the business shutting down, and mom barely being able to keep up with it all and keeping me safe and protected

But, we didn’t budge, we stood tall and we healed. We knew that if we needed to recover what we have lost, we will have to sacrifice a lot of things that are precious to us. My family did just that, and when that was not enough and they almost became homeless, they applied for a loan. The loan had been approved and we were back on our feet. My mum received a job offer from an amazing school that I am proud to call my alma mater, and my dad instantly received a job offer from a well-known company as well. Happiness was an understatement.

We were overwhelmed but then somehow we had taken a turn that was dangerous—unable to pay the debts, we were in deep waters now. My dad and mum both together had made settlements for the personal loan taken for my grandfather who suffered his first eye operation since he fell off the chair and hit a sharp edge.

He was recovering slowly and then he was all shiny and high spirited again. In a matter of six months, my maternal grandmother suffered a massive heart attack. For a pacemaker to be installed no one has huge amounts locked up in their house unless you are involved in illegal activities. So, my family had to borrow money to save her. I do not remember this very well, I was only an 8-year-old then. Problem and stress eased as she recovered from her surgery. We were back to our positive aura and living life happily. 

I slowly began to realise what the value of time, money and family were once I started viewing the world as a real-life place, and not a dream destination, every time something happened. I was in the 8th grade when my family broke the silence stating that they still have some debts and they are trying their best to overcome them. I understood and I prayed day and night that the storm will clear, and we will witness a bright future ahead.

A few years had passed and I was in the last two years of my school, making memories and applying to colleges for a smashing career. My grandfather, after surviving a massive heart attack and living life freely, left us in the month of February 2019, after my maternal grandmother, who we had lost to organ failure at 4 am in February 2018. No one was in their right mind, my mother was broken, and my father was the only one I could turn to in these tough times. He was and always will be my hero. I am so proud to be the daughter of Ranadev Ghosh Dastidar and Sonali Ghosh Dastidar. They really are the king and queen of my world. They have done things in ways I cannot even bring myself to do. They have taught me how to take the bull by the horns and be more confident. 

With all the stress comes the health problems. My dad is now a weak heart patient, and since the pandemic began, he has been unemployed. My father recently lost his job due to the pandemic. He is looking for work actively, but I don’t think West Bengal is a progressive state and has next-to-no employment structure at all.

Representational image.

He is a 50-year-old man and I am proud to call him my father because he didn’t tell us he was out of a job for so long. He is a heart patient and somewhere down the line, I observed him slightly breaking down as he felt the world was slipping through his fingers. He never gave me a chance to even cry or be sad. He has always believed in me and supported me in everything. Even though he is out of a job, he hasn’t lost hope because he believes I will fulfil my dreams. He has sacrificed enough for me. But right now, it is my turn to help him and I will do anything in my power to make him rise again.

Wait, you thought I was finished? I am sorry I have finally been able to share everything I am experiencing so please bear with me. So there is this new fund called the PM Cares Fund, to help those in need during such tough times no matter what right? I’m sure you have heard of it? My parents applied to it thinking that they will be able to receive a reasonable amount for daily groceries and medicines.

The government is for the people, by the people, and of the people right? Such hopeful faces turned dull when their application was rejected. I mean it has not really helped anyone extravagantly. If it did, then there would not have been any dead farmers or students, and there shouldn’t be such a rapid increase in unemployment.

Do not get me started on West Bengal, that is another story for another day. I have never ever seen such nonchalant behaviour on behalf of the government. We are all so helpless and morose. Nothing we do is enough. Oh, wait! Keep putting in your money towards the Ram Mandir and you shall receive your desired gift. I am sorry, but I do not buy all this at all. Disrespecting the foundation on which India stands on, I am ashamed to be living under such circumstances.

Close relatives, who always bless us and asks us how we are doing and what I want to do in the near future, where are you now? Do you really care about us or just make us the topic of your daily gossip? When we shared our misery with you, all you said was “Get over it”. Thank you for using the phrase because yes I am over with being kind and polite to those who do not respect my parents and badmouth my family and keep on telling us to sell important things that we hold dear.

I mean yes, selling a very important and prized possession will earn us some money but I think it will ruin every ounce of courage and dignity my parents have. I just want my parents to have a few things that they do not need to sacrifice, is it so hard for all these pretentious people to understand?

Also, thank you to all the banks that have given us hope and rejected our plea countless times. I am grateful that my father is still safe and I am in one piece. They told my family that the CIBIL score is topnotch and you will receive a loan in a matter of a few days. But yay! We did not because apparently if you do not have a CIBIL score between 650-900 you cannot get a loan. I mean then what is the use of saying that it is positive? A certain bank has always been so rude and ignorant to what my mother has tried to explain and discuss, I was not surprised.

I am trying my best to win at life and make them proud but the government to family members, I will never forgive you for what you have done to us and others in the country.

I just want others to know, if you’re facing something where you do not know what to do, do not beg for help. Be strong for your parents because that is all you can do. I am trying my best but I do not know how much longer I can keep up the bubbly and happy mask on. I am human after all. I am bound to break.

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  1. Sadhika Saha

    I applaud your courage to come out with your story. Your story reflects how the lives of every middle class family have been disrupted for the worse by the negligence of the Government and the apathy of the mainstream media. Your parents are indeed royalty. Facing the troubles of life, imposed on them by factors they had no control over, with such grit and determination is something we can all learn from. I hope for the very best for you and your family. I look forward to you becoming a journalist because I believe that unlike today’s media circus, you’ll uphold the true values of journalism.

    1. Rajlakshmi Ghosh

      Thank you. This means a lot to me.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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