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How Does It Feel To Be In Love In The 21st Century?

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Have we ever questioned ourselves- “what is that source from where we learnt about love, relationships and desires?” Most of us, especially Indians, have seen this in our often dysfunctional Indian rom-com movies which technically always had the same plot. ‘Love’, ‘relationships’, ‘passion’- these words in our society are never deliberated upon, and it is not because of privacy but the social stigma attached to expressing oneself freely that curtails these kinds of discussions.

How Does Our Generation Navigate Around Love And Its Complications?

Is today’s love, everything is about that typical kind of ‘Aashiqui’ shown to us. Today, there are no labels to tag love. It comes in all forms and sizes. Each has its own way to navigate companionship and closure. In this article, we have tried to see how our generation is dealing with love as a concept amidst so much noise and pressure about one’s identity, sexuality, gender, love and marriage.

In this capitalist world, it is argued that people have become selfish and self-centred, rushing to increase one’s wealth and power. But is this what we call self-love? It is important to think of the future, as all of us cannot become altruistic and renounce everything and just #liveinthemoment. But are we really happy and doing something solely for ourselves? Well, we are not giving any life mantras or goals here, neither are we any kind of motivational speakers. We are as confused and messed up as you are. So let’s trace from where the problem originated?

Maybe, this has something to do with our social conditioning since childhood. From dancing in front of uncles and aunts in a function to aiming for the best grades and position in the society- all actions have been dictated to us by someone. In a masculinist and chauvinistic society, roles and values are predetermined. Career, love life, family, culture- all relationships are ‘necessary evils’. They are part of our heart and soul but shouldn’t be too close enough to invade our own personal identity. If we closely watch our day to day activities we can measure how much we contribute to our personal growth.

We can resolve ourselves to be curious to learn and try new things. Self-love cannot just be merely defined. It is a process of self-preservation and living each day fruitfully. Thinking about yourself is not a crime. We all are in a rush, but at least once in the entire day we should let go of things and just be us.

Each has its own way to navigate companionship and closure. Representational image only.

Are We Free To Love Whoever We Want To?

Once we are ready to accept ourselves, we need to ask this question: are we free to love whoever we want to? Men- women, black-white, right-wrong, we did quite easily and categorically separated them while seeing society through our binary lenses. With time, our lenses have expanded to accept differences around us though still, the concept of love is blurred and defined quite narrowly.

Popular media like movies, songs and ads have given unwanted attention to this conventional kind of love which has left various sections of the people vulnerable. Many today are not comfortable in their own skin, are confused about the needs of their body. This has happened because of our black and white perception of everything. But many have now started defying this tendency.

Amongst Millenials, Rules Are Consensual And Decided By The People In The Relationship!

Millennials are now enjoying and expressing love in their own ways. Some have crossed the gendered boundaries and are fulfilling their deepest desires whether in committed, romantic relations, polyamory or multiple partners or in long distance. It really does not matter! We are from childhood taught to repress our sexual desires and consummation is assumed to be possible only strictly after marriage. Another goal we are yet to achieve is that there are no rules nor any specific roles. Rules are consensual and decided by the people in a relationship. Roles such as men have to ‘make the first move’, some women are ‘marriage material’, others ‘girlfriend material’, these statements bind us into behaving in an artificial manner.

Passion, lust and desires cannot be suppressed and locked up. It is the ultimate freedom that an individual in the so-called free society is yet to achieve. Love can be with anybody and at any moment, but there must be no pressure to accept unless you are ready for it.

In Todays World, Online Dating Apps Play Cupid For Lonely Hearts

dating apps
In today’s world, online dating apps play Cupid for lonely hearts. Representational image only.

Today spaces around us like lawns, porches, gardens, playgrounds have all squeezed up, but in this congestion, our hearts are all alone. So where to find your kind of love? To spice up and to resolve the dating conundrum, the virtual world has now taken the baton and is now our new Cupid. In one sense, online dating and arranged marriage are quite the same, i.e., checking one’s profile and selecting the right match or rather ‘the correct candidate’. The difference comes in its contract where the former begins and ends with a swipe and the latter with money, family and traditions.

So to speak, online dating has opened up many new avenues, from meeting people to overcoming temporary emptiness or boredom. There is no problem in trying different platforms to explore, but attaching all expectations to it to meet ‘the partner of my life’ is too much pressure. This pressure can make the experience quite bitter, as the fantasy bubble bursts and reality hits really hard. But yes we have come a long way, from sending letters to sending DMs, however, the old school romance has still not rusted.

After all this, the question that comes up is how to navigate love and separate it solely from passion and bodily pleasure? Everything in life is entwined like a loosely tied knot folded over itself both forwards and backwards. Nothing stands alone on its own and this idea also applies to our understanding of intimacy in love- what it is and what we desire to experience in life.

The word ‘Intimacy’ is often mistakenly associated with just the physical, sexual union of partners, however, the concept runs much deeper and involves both emotional and physical closeness and openness. Intimacy is all about consensual pleasure by winning trust and removing inhibitions.

Love Is All About Caring, Sharing And Giving All We Can To The Other

It is both a psychological and biological need where respect, more than romance is the foundation of all our feelings.

In times when we have the luxury of living in splendid isolation, a satisfying romantic relationship is one where the partners try to understand each other’s emotional chase, mental keenness and physical pain.

So finally, love as a concept does not have any fixed definition. It is often regarded as a feeling but is more of an action, a verb, never driven by selfishness, the expectation of return, reward or reciprocation. Love is all about caring, sharing and giving all we can to the other.

When love appears it’s not how we might have imagined it to be, but a lot messier and a less too simple. It can at times be complicated and resemble a deck of cards which often starts with diamonds and hearts but ends in clubs and spades! And maybe today you are not ready for love or love is not ready for you. Maybe you’re protecting yourself from being hurt… and the protection keeps you from trusting love when it shows up.

But remember whenever love arrives, welcome it and make yourself comfortable because there’s nothing more beautiful than ‘being in love’.

Featued image source: Photo by Kalpak Pathak/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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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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