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On Our Last Meeting, I Said Those Three Magical Words, Expecting The Same From You

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Dear Pari,

I hope you are in the pink of health. It has been a very long time since our last queer, eccentric meet on a high road and the last word you uttered, ‘Wait’, still reverberates in my mind.

Today is 8th of January, probably the day that hadn’t held any importance to me till a few years ago. But now, it is a red letter day. Yes. It is your birthday. Happy birthday, Pari.

Do you remember our first encounter? Yes, you don’t as there hasn’t been any importance of mine in your life, but I remember. It is engraved on the ruined walls of my heart.

It was the autumn of 2011. Nature had unfolded the golden blanket on the ‘Land of Beauty’. It was twilight and I was enjoying the sunset on the edge of my verandah. It was quite dark outside and I went inside after a few minutes to warm myself. But in the meantime, electricity said ‘Goodbye’, which is a common occurrence. 

So, I thought I was in hell. Only I could hear the horrible amalgam of words being yelled by the people around. Everyone had started inquiry about the whereabouts of the lantern. There was this alone soul waiting for someone to light up his dark, horrid world. A few moments later, I felt some movement. Someone was approaching me. I could hear the music of the person’s walk. A candle was lit up and all I could see was a comely visage like a moon without any blot — an angel, I can say, and it was you, ‘Pari’.

Curly, short hair, inky eyebrows, earrings dangling from the ears and a pulchritudinous smile — only I could notice. I thought I was in heaven as I had found ‘Hoor’ right in front of me. The first thought that popped up in my mind was that if you were the only gardener, who would grow flowers of love on the deserted land of my heart. Alas! I couldn’t say a word as you bade farewell and went to your home. Pertinent to mention, the entry to my heart was sealed and none was allowed to enter. But you made a grand entry as the first visitor and of course, a resident as you made your nest there.

We met again, but unfortunately, it was at a funeral. At that time, I couldn’t resist myself, so the words I uttered in front of you were ‘Your Dad is calling you’. At this, it seemed the whole planet had come to a halt The filthy noises had stopped and all I could hear was the musical sound of my heart, ‘lub-dub, lub-dub’.

After that day, whenever I would come across you, I would hear your sweetest sound and feel your aroma. Unluckily, we couldn’t stay together. You said ‘Goodbye’ again. Probably just a word of four alphabets for others, but for me, it was like twisting a knife into my heart that you have never felt and I guess you never will.

Our last meeting was during a hot, cruel summer, but with your presence, there was serenity and coolness everywhere. We had some happy moments together and there, I said those three magical words to you, expecting the same from you. But there was that ‘No’ you uttered. A word of distress, separation, pangs and agony. It came as a bolt out of the blue. You did not give a single thought about all those joyful moments we had spent together under the starlight.

A decade has passed since we met unexpectedly in a dark room that was lightened up by your beautiful smile, not by the candle. I am here to say to you that I have always respected you and your decision. There wasn’t any force — neither from your side nor from mine — but remember that ‘nest’ you had once made on the broken branch of my heart. And those flowers — they are still waiting for their gardener to water them so that they can bloom.

Last but not the least, I am not a rude guy. Haha!

Have a happy belated birthday.

Best wishes,

No one in your life.

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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.

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)’.

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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.”

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.

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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
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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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