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Non-Fiction Can Be Just As Magical As Fiction, Here’s How!

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What if I told you that non-fiction books could be just as magical, wondrous and leave you as content as a good hearty fictional story? You probably wouldn’t believe me, right? After all, there are no characters in such books to keep you engaged with their fictional yet relatable lives and experiences. But the point of reading non-fiction books goes beyond the feel-good factor.

The purpose of these books is to expand your understanding and create a well-connected web of all the information, thoughts and ideas that you have within yourself. What makes a good story great is an understanding of how and why a writer writes. 

The Parallelity Of Fiction & Non-Fiction

As I express this, interesting parallels between fiction and non-fiction books come to my mind that I will use to try and justify the joy of reading non-fiction and hopefully encourage you to do the same.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and Metaphorsis by Franz Kafka – Both these books talk about instances where a human being is mentally trapped or changed in a way that is incomprehensible to a sound linear person.

In the former, you will find an easy recount of cases studies that a neurologist dealt with in his patients undergoing the most bizarre and inexplicable thoughts and behaviours. These were then scientifically explained as some form of neurological defect or issue.

The influence of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged on modern thinkers cannot be overlooked in our times.

In the latter, you will find an infamous story of a man who turns into an insect overnight and eventually faces the consequences of his transformation in a world that doesn’t get him and does not have a place for him.

Both these books are an insight into the human mind and give us a view on how things may not always be as they seem.

If you’re like me, create some form of connection to satiate your logical self enough for you to enjoy reading and relating to both books immensely.

The influence of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged on modern thinkers cannot be overlooked in our times.

The novels by Ayn Rand, for those of us who have dared to endeavour of her journey,  always leave you with some sense of sweet rebellion. While her books evidently express some severely condemned core concepts of capitalism and the importance of self-interest; if you gave a read to The Virtue of Selfishness by Rand, you would probably understand her ideology better.

As readers, we don’t read to judge, agree or disagree with the author. We read to understand how each individual, as a consequence of their circumstances and life experiences within society and culture, come to be.

If we give her ideology, which propagates selfishness as a virtue and states that selfishness by definition is, looking after one’s own interests rather than the negative cultural connotation attached to the word as someone inhumane, we’d probably be able to understand her stories better.

As readers, we don’t read to judge, agree or disagree with the author.

Shashi Tharoor has written several non-fiction books to express his knowledge on pluralism, politics, diplomacy, history and religion that he has gathered through experience. He interacts with the world’s foremost academicians, authors, politicians and the youth alike.

So, when you read a detailed factual account like The Era of Darkness, Pax Indica or his newest book, The New World Disorder and the Indian Imperative you would probably see his book The Great Indian Novel in a different light and what shaped his thoughts. And also, why he deserves to put his ideas out there for people to read and consume and make an educated decision about whether to read his work or not, as an author.

I had a similar experience while reading God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and then reading her essays on The Algebra of Infinite Justice, Listening to the Grasshoppers and the Broken Republic. The central theme that Roy employs in her books is the voices of those who have been silenced, by walking alongside them in forests and having direct interactions with tribal communities.

These inspiring authors have pushed me to expand my understanding of human behaviour, the world and the society, while cooped up at home quarantining myself. I urge my fellow readers to take the initiative to pick up non-fiction books to gain insight into varied perspectives that propagates respect for individual opinion, scientific and spiritual thought and rationality as human beings and keep your curiosity alive, just like I did mine.

I do hope that my takeaway from these books inspires you to take some time out to explore the wondrous world of non-fiction!

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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.

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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