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How My Little Girl And I Made It Through The Lockdown

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

“It was just the other day that it was all just fine, no?” my little girl asks me. Since the morning, we’ve been watching a video on loop, in which a girl of about her same age breaks down completely to realise that all KFC, McD, Nando’s, and for heaven’s sake even Chinese food, is now gone and she’s but left at the mercy of her only choice: her mommy’s food.

We shriek and laugh every time it runs on my phone, and by that, I mean it is the seventeenth time in the last 2 hours. We’ll run it a few more times. Or many more times. It is good fun. It is unreal how much fun it is to watch the video. It is the only fun thing, actually. What else do you even do now; now that it is now?

Just the other day, we learned the quick few real facts. We’ll all get it with time, sooner or later is the only thing we can — try to — control. All we can do at all is to buy time. My country is locked down now. At a whole point, three billion people. Home. Indoors. Locked and down. And that is the happiest thing that we’ve done most recently, since last week. Happiest, most sensible, proud, laudable, even exciting. Yes, the times are such.

The times are such indeed. We are waiting in a way we never thought we would, and for what — if you ask — we won’t be able to answer that either. Destiny, perhaps. Yes, even as many of us do not believe in God. Still. Of course. Me neither. And anyway, the temples are closed, just like the churches, mosques and gurdwaras. It’s only inwards you got to go if you still want to look for that chap.

We aren’t. We’re watching the news instead. Yes, the papers have stopped, but the television is still on — thank God for small mercies. Not God, okay. Electricians. Whoever. We’re watching the news, but we aren’t exactly watching either; well, truth be told, we are toggling between movies and catastrophe at the press of black back-buttons, pretending our minds don’t have a mind of their own. As if.

It is afternoon suddenly and the Finance Minister comes afloat on the screen. She’s been at the end of the ire of many a people, but today suddenly we are kinder. Keen, even, as we hear her spell the abundant terms of disaster management. Next 3 months, she says over and over. A clear suggestion, this. You heard it right. No, not 3 weeks. 3 months.

And that too sounds optimistic now.

We switch the television off and step out into the balcony. Someone has died in the EWS buildings in the adjacent society and they’ve laid out a large red carpet for visitors to sit on. They are more than 20, I count, and yet, they are so few. 20 is the maximum number of people who can gather over a funeral, the current lockdown rules say. Does that include the dead?

mother and daughter playing
“I’d love to go six months ahead,” I say. “Why?” she’s not convinced. “Well, I could then see who lived and who didn’t, no?” I offer. *Representational image

Above, the sky is clear. Bluer than on any other day of any other year. The sky, it seems to know what’s going on, and yet, it doesn’t seem any sad. Birds chirp and wake you up, these mornings, and the winter Sun is plain sweet. You can chase it through the day, first at this angle, then that, and then fading at right angles. We don’t just water plants anymore; we watch the earth open up, bubble, draw the droplets in. Air swaps place with water. Shall we be safe if we could go live in water? Say, in submarines?

No question sounds stupid anymore; now that it is now. The times are such.

We’re living it backwards now; I tell my girl. Cotton clothes, plain meals, oiled hair, now that no one’s watching. Who cares who drives what car anymore? We’re watching what we ask for, telling needs from wants, see!

The times are strange, indeed. You cannot step out of your home, and yet, the world comes calling to you at your fingertips. I read reports on utter truths, on sheer lacks that are our lives. And now, even deaths.

“This pandemic kills twice,” says Andrea Cerato, who works in a funeral home in Milan. “First, it isolates you from your loved ones right before you die. Then, it doesn’t allow anyone to get closure. Families are devastated and find it hard to accept.”

And all so sudden, the white-wrapped body that came out of the EWS house with red carpets start to seem lucky.

“With time, there will be vaccines. Medicines too, maybe,” my husband offers. “Yes,” I agree with him. “18 months, they’re saying. By then we’ll all have it. We’ll either die — which we won’t — and so we’ll grow immune. And virility of the virus will diminish over time, with mutations. So later, the weaker.”

But I’m the impossible kind, so before I know, I set out to ascertain. Or otherwise. For the latest opinions have changed: you can have it again, and the virility isn’t going anywhere at all.

One test is to draw air in and hold it for 10 seconds, I tell us. WhatsApp forwards have filled our days now, and so we fill up our lungs. We don’t need the AQI on our phone, one breathe and you can tell the difference that is this air now. The difference. The difference that is life. And death.

It is big; I speak as I let the air out. It is so big that even political adversaries have reached unanimous goodwill. So big, that even they’ve started to do good and be good even when no election is underway and no media is undercover. That difference.

Last evening in the middle of her eighteenth run of the same animation movie, my girl paused and turned: “I wish we had a time machine.” She pulls her dangling feet and springs up on the couch. “You bet,” I tell her. It makes me nostalgic, that word.

As children of the 80s, 2020 was our common favourite for a future, a “hot choice” for the poor man’s sci-fi that never quite saw the light of the day beyond spiderly scribbles in the last few pages of Maths notebooks. From that point, somehow, 2020 always seemed like an enigma. We all had different plots, different climaxes, different characters on different missions to save the world, and in all of it, we always had flying cars and time-machines when it ever came to 2020.

Her spark passes the current to me.

“I’d love to go six months ahead,” I say. “Why?” she’s not convinced. “Well, I could then see who lived and who didn’t, no?” I offer. “No,” she shakes her head and slips down to my side. Her eyes betray her, and I can see she’s shocked at my stupidity. “Silly, we’d go back 6 months and make sure it didn’t happen at all, okay?” she puts an arm around me as if to console a child.

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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 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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