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If Cities Were People, What Kind Would Udaipur, Delhi And Lucknow Be?

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This year, the one that began in October 2019 and is going to end in November 2020, my fellowship year, I have been moving across North India, living out of a suitcase (and a rucksack and another bag, because let’s face it, I’m not that minimalistic, yet) because of the unique opportunity presented to me, with India Fellow. And while I had been wandering in and out of cities, some big, some small, I realized that I’d developed a certain attachment, imagining them to be living-breathing people instead of mere geographical spaces…

If Udaipur was a person, I’d say it would be someone breathtakingly beautiful. Someone you’d definitely want to see more of. On your first day out, they’d probably order some expensive coffee with a dash of vanilla essence when all you’d really want is phiki kullhar chai with Marie biscuit. Udaipur would be much tempting, seductive and enigmatic–holding out doors for you to enter into a world built in Rajputana glory, shining brighter than the sun during the day and radiating grace during any full moon night.

Udaipur would also be extremely self-aware, with eyes full of disdain for others who failed to appreciate the worth of their company. If they were already enjoying yours, they would not think twice before turning away guests who’d show up at the door unannounced. When they’d walk into a room, all heads would turn their way, mesmerized by the persona that they’d carry in with them.

This would make you feel intimated to such an extent that you’d think of them as someone like Midas; you’d fear of turning into gold if you touched them. If it were up to them, they’d ask you to stay forever, promising exotic ways of passing the time, traveling, eating and roaming around with not a care in the world. All of that you’d know for sure would be said in good faith. However, in the end, you’d also know that behind all of their beauty and charm, Udaipur could be cold and stoic from within, and perhaps not a perfect match for you after all.

While they would be accommodating and there would be some genuinely nice evenings spent by the banks of lakes, deep down you’d know that Udaipur doesn’t really have a heart. And even if it does, it’s probably locked up in a jar somewhere, sculpted out of marble, exhibited for the world to see and not touch. You would never be able to tell them any of this of course. When it would be finally your turn to leave, you’d simply let them watch you walk away.

Just shady walls at Hauz Khas Village

Delhi would be someone who is very sure of themselves. Confident, smart and quite frankly – too busy. Delhi would never tolerate you slacking or missing deadlines if they ever employed you. They’d breathe toxic air into your lungs (literally) if you made them cross. If your relationship was personal with them, they would be very demanding.

The moment you’d arrive, they would start throwing accusations of never staying long enough to work on your issues and of making bizarre assumptions about them. They’d also be upset about your friends’ constant complaints about the state that they are in. Waving their hands animatedly in the air, they’d ask why on Earth then these people even bother staying if they’re ultimately so disheartened by everything!

Delhi would then turn your attention to you, with a grim face they’d ask you point-blank, why, after all that, they are offering you, are you not committing to them completely? You’d keep running out of excuses to provide; you’d know that they’re, at the end of the day, right. After a series of arguments, they would let out a sigh and remind you that time is of the essence.

So, the two of you would decide to finally put an end to all the quarrelling and go out. Delhi would make sure that despite all the conflicts, you know that you are also treasured. During your time with them, there would be instances when moments would pass you by, frozen in time. You two would watch them together; you’d realize that Delhi is ultimately someone who might not always be good for you, but will be a very important part of your life. Lost in all these thoughts, crossing corners that seem too familiar now you’d suddenly find yourself standing with your luggage in your hands, leaving them once more for wherever the next destination is.

Light and shadow

As for Lucknow, it’d be someone who would waltz into your life when you’d least expect it. As soon as you’d lay eyes on them, you’d know that they are trouble. At first, you wouldn’t want to acknowledge their presence for long by ignoring their invitations. But then they would do something so enticing and mysterious; you would give in.

Eventually, you’d have to let them cast a spell on you. But no big deal, you’ll tell yourself. You’d promise to enjoy the stolen glances and some occasional flirting that they would throw your way, receiving them with grace, but before you’d know it, you’d be blown away by everything they are and have to offer.

Lucknow would make sure to treat you right, keeping in mind your attention to detail and a knack for appreciating the finer things in life. They’d always be aesthetically dressed, effortlessly carrying years of history stitched into clothes and brooches, some of which are told and some untold. Every time you’d meet them, you’d be left wanting to discover more. It would drive you insane actually, the kind of hold they would have over your heart.

Lucknow would not only present themselves in various colours to you to impress, but also show their vulnerable sides. In doing so, they’d actually hold up a mirror for you to take a peep into your own soul. You’d start asking yourself those questions you thought you’d never have to dig up and tucked away mental notes would once again reveal themselves to you.

Jumping across eons consisting of stories, Lucknow would show you the best of times. Whatever self-preservation techniques you had in store, maybe it would be good to revisit them again. This is why you would always want to get to know Lucknow better, but there would never be enough time on your hands. Instead, you’d eventually leave with a heavy heart, wishing them all the luck and love in the world.

About the author: Titash is a 2019 India Fellow. Through the year, she is supporting grassroots organizations with communication, documentation and outreach across Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Titash is trained in several Indian classical dance forms, Manipuri is her favourite.

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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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