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Let’s Talk About Life, The One Exam That Truly Matters

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Having entered the first year of my college after a lot of struggles with the online mode of admission process and having gone through a roller coaster ride of emotions in the lockdown period just after appearing for board examinations, I believe I’m at a good place to give a perspective on what a 19-year-old must have known before standing at the threshold of an unusual and unfamiliar exam hall to appear for one of the most real and practical exams in the world ever, i.e., Life!

Life In Its Essence Is Absolute Unpredictability

This is an exam for which schools do not teach us any formulae, rules, assumptions, theories, etc., and neither are we given any assignments because it is believed and preached that we learn a lot more when life happens to us. I do understand and acknowledge the fact that the basic nature of life, in its very essence, is absolute unpredictability, owing to the uncertainties that it carries with every breath that we take. This aspect of life indeed makes our lives more adventurous and worthwhile.

Of course, life will throw the most daring challenges in the course of our journey till we reach our state of eternal rest. But what’s the harm in trying to prepare ourselves well in advance in the hope of leading our lives well? I am saying so because sometimes when life hits us hard for the first time.

Representational Image. The sad reality is that from the beginning of our learning years, we are compared with our peers, and it is preached to us that one has to be better than everybody else.

Instead of going with the flow and trying to take challenges in our stride, we end up getting stranded in the islands of confusion, peer pressure, self-doubts, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc. where the mind and its entangled stories start overwhelming us to such an extent that we end up deciding that we don’t want to appear for an examination for which we haven’t prepared at all.

Till the age of 18, we spend the major chunk of our time studying and learning adequately for exams, cracking them with good marks and securing positions and ranks according to our marks in our respective classes. We constantly try to improve our weak areas in various particular subjects by solving and practising mock or model question papers and keep revising the notes on the selective topics on which we think we have fairly good command to do well on the final day of our examination.

Let’s Include The Subject Of Life In Our Curriculum

On the contrary, life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown, for you never know what life has on its platter to test you on! Its question papers do not have a pre-decided set of questions, neither is the difficulty level pre-decided nor are there any model papers.

Then why can’t we have a class on the subject of LIFE for a period of 30-45 minutes, every day, at our esteemed temples of knowledge? Of course, the knowledge gained and the facts and figures which are drilled into our minds on the subject matters that we study at school are going to help us in applying these learnings in the particular field or profession that we wish to enter into, but what about the practical knowledge on ‘n’ number of aspects related to life such as how to be a happy person?

What actually matters in life? What mistakes should one avoid in college life or while pursuing higher education? How do we take failures in our stride and understand that witnessing failures and committing mistakes is just a positive indication of us trying to improve ourselves? Let’s think about how and why getting trapped in the rat race prove to be detrimental to our mental health and a threat to our originality?

Why is there competition among the homo sapiens species to attain the temporary materialistic things in life? Why is it important for us to jot down our own unique definitions of success, productivity, satisfaction, love, joy, etc.? Why we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others?

How Do We Stop Beating Ourselves Up After Every Defeat

How can one become an emotionally independent person? Reading self-development books, spiritual books, etc., other than our course books, can never be a waste of time? How about enlightening us on why it’s important to chase the right things in life like happiness, a balance in all different dimensions of life, meaningfulness, etc.?

How can we stop beating ourselves up after every defeat we encounter? How can we add value to others’ lives while working towards our own end goals? Why letting go of toxic people from our lives is not a bad deed to secure our own mental health and that sometimes it is absolutely okay not to be okay.

Many would argue that parents are there at home to enlighten their children on the aforementioned practicalities but what we often forget is that not every student’s parent can give the time their kids need owing to their very own busy professional and social lives.

I rather believe it is a wholesome idea if teachers can share their own life lessons, wisdom, perceptions, knowledge, and these kids can help their parents slow down a bit in chasing materialistic endeavours because we humans actually do not need the things we think we need to lead a blissful life. Even the accumulation of wealth beyond a limit is not required to lead to more than a decent and reasonable lifestyle.

There is also a need for a few Indian parents to understand that they should stop treating their kids as symbols of materialistic and worldly gains. The school and college education, the number of trophies, medals, certificates, and the degrees earned have no meaning and value if the child lacks moral values, basic mannerisms, and etiquettes, feelings of compassion and humility despite the provision of quality education.

Let’s Broaden Our Horizon Of Learning

The sad reality is that from the very beginning of our learning years, we are compared with our peers, and it is preached to us that one has to be better than everybody else, not realizing the fact that every child is unique. The fact of the matter is that everybody is so different from every other person, including the background one comes from and the life experiences. The exercise of comparison is just a failed attempt at motivation. Rather it makes him/her feel that he/she is not good enough.

No! I’m not saying that parents and teachers should be there at our disposal to spoon-feed us for cracking the exam of life. Neither do I mean that healthy competition should not be there among the students within the four walls of the classroom. Students must rather try to take inspiration and help others in their endeavours.

All I mean is that even by just providing with some broad ideas, ways, tips, and tricks beforehand and making us aware of the nature of the practical and real-world that we would become part of, will help all of us instill some courage and confidence to face the adversities of life with our heads held high at a time when there’s a dangerous level of cut-throat competition prevailing in every field where no one wants to lag.

It is said that a child’s first school is his/her home as it is here that one starts walking; speaking, learning and uttering A, B, C, D… or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… then my question is, why can’t schools become the first place where teenagers, especially students of standards XI and XII are enlightened and guided on facing the practicalities of life?

Let Us Stop Programming Students For Success

Through this write-up, I wish to appeal to the masses. Let us stop programming school-going students for success rather let’s start training them for handling and accepting failures as their very own badges of strength and symbols of courage. Let us teach them how money works instead of educating them to work for money.

Let us aid them in discovering their true interests and passions so that in the future, whenever any economic crisis or pandemic hovers over the Indian economy, the future of our country, i.e., the grown-up school kids and college students, are not the victims of such extraordinary circumstances. Rather with the help of their idiosyncratic vision, they can lead such revolutions in their various specialization fields, which can assist millions of underprivileged people in India who are the worst affected during these unforeseen crises.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jyoti Seth

    Well written! Happy to see that still there are youngsters like you having non-materialistic perspective.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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 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.”

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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.

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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
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