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When I Found The Best Kind Of Love (Story) During COVID-19!

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“Is there something wrong with me?” I hesitantly asked my friend after I had almost said yes to an arranged marriage scenario. My dating experience is limited to one lasting the duration of three months. My dating experience is in fact so limited that I have debated with myself if I am an a-sexual but in denial. But by the end of this article, I hope I am able to convince you that COVID-19 might have been the catalyst of some people developing a better relationship with themselves.

Don’t worry, I am not going to dive into a Freudian analysis of your conscious and subconscious. I will refer to the 4th of May 2020 cartoon of the New Yorker to make the point in the most fun and poignant way that I can think of though.

I had moved cities in the middle of the pandemic and was getting my first taste of freedom. One of the things I wanted to explore was dating. What I was going to discover was that I had wanted to try it for all the wrong reasons.

This brings us to the all-important question of why do people date? Is it for companionship, sex or to find a long-term partner? The good or the bad thing is that the sexual element was kind of out of the question (for me) because of the pandemic but I did explore the other options only to reach a very fruitful conclusion. I want to figure out who I was when I was separated from the people around me. I cannot believe I am using a chemistry analogy but what are my properties as an independent element and not when I am combined with other chemicals.

The mobile applications that I explored were Bumble and Tinder. Now I need to put it out there that I am not a conventionally pretty person so I was very surprised when I got matches on Tinder. It does give you quite a high when someone seems attracted to you just on the bases of some well-angled pictures and witty one-liner. Another reason why people might be addicted to dating but that seems like a topic for a whole different article.

I never actually met any of them because one of them stood me up, twice and the other one just wanted to be friends which was cool and the third one was looking to enrol people in a pyramid scheme. Yeah and after that, I was like I am not sure if I want to do this anymore. The charm of it faded which made me realise that I actually did not want to date right now. I had the freedom, somewhat the time and the opportunity to date but I was enjoying my own company and space.

I was co-habiting with my demons and enjoying their company.

Then in November, my mom got COVID-19 so to keep her entertained (or so I tell myself), I said yes to her proposition of putting up my profile on a matrimonial site. No, I am not a masochist. Yes, I did truly underestimate a mother’s want to marry off her daughter in her mid-twenties. And yes, in the end, I did gain something from it than just trauma. One thing that I learnt was that there are way too many people out there who are trying to attain this ideal of married life.

love jihad
Representational image.

Here’s What I Realised

This is bizarre to me because if you have ever had a conversation with any couple that is in a long-term relationship, you know they are not the same. They are not following this ideal. Like most of the men that I talked to (3 in total, I could not take the awkwardness more than that) wanted to get married because that is what needs to be done in life. Now I know that I am not the most special person in the world but it felt like marriage to them was like a qualification that needs to be achieved in life.

Like oh, we have finished school so let’s take admission in whichever college we can.To put it simply, it felt as if they wanted a wedding but not a marriage. The second thing that I figured out was that I was scared of losing my newfound identity. My smallest actions of autonomy were precious to me. The fact that I could get up in the morning and read for half an hour and drink tea before starting my day, before looking at my phone, just enjoying the solitude. That, to me, was something huge.

I felt like I was the main character in my own life.

But I also realised that I had felt my entire life that I needed to curb my wants, actions and dreams in accordance with those around me; almost defer my existence to the more important forces of the macrocosm. But now I had created my own microcosm and I was scared that it was not strong enough to hold its own identity under the pressure of the external forces. I did not want to yield even an inch because I knew I would fall into my old pattern of prioritising everyone else before me. One could argue I am being weak but I believe I am being self-aware, figuring out my limits and boundaries. Learning to love myself and seeing what happens when I put myself first. And voila, the world did not end.

In the words of the stand-up comedian Daniel Sloss, “You need to love yourself a 100% before you can allow somebody else to love you so that you have high standards.” I think I am in the process of accepting that being the best version of myself for myself is the way to long term happiness. You need to be happy so that people around you can do the same for themselves. Thus during the pandemic, I was dating myself and ridding myself of the heteronormative notion that I have to be in a relationship with someone to feel fulfilled.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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