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Anupama’s Focus On Women’s Physical And Mental Health Issues Make It A Compelling Watch

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Anupama is a year-old Indian TV drama series on Star Plus and Disney+ Hotstar, focusing on a middle-aged woman married to a man who works in an MNC in a good position. Her husband is the prime breadwinner of the family.

They have three children in their prime — two boys and one girl at different stages of life — an MBA student, a dance student and a 12th standard student, respectively. The family in which they reside is a present-day joint family structure with their grandparents and grandmother’s brother.

The husband has a sister who too is married and has a daughter from her marriage. She doesn’t reside with the family but actively partakes in religious activities, festivals and other celebrations with the family. The sister resides with her in-laws and has a happy marriage. However, her daughter does spend time in the family, with Anupama being a babysitter after school.

Further, the story’s twist holds that Anupama’s husband has a love interest in his office. He has introduced her as a colleague with whom he maintains a healthy friendship outside the office to his family. This step is taken to keep his love interest as eye candy for the family, eventually keeping her close to him and the family.

Her involvement in major festivities is restricted, though, as he believes that such events are meant to be spent with family members.

Anupamaa
Anupama.

Coming to Anupama’s character, played by Rupali Gangaguli, a housewife whose education had been stopped immediately after marriage despite her will. This makes her appear illiterate, especially when she fails to understand the prestigious English language. This is seen as a hurdle to respect her, connect with her or maintain a healthy relationship with her.

Despite the fact, she has been a dotting daughter-in-law to her in-laws and mother to her kids. The situation is shown such that credit for performing these responsibilities are given to teachings by her mother-in-law and her motherhood journey of imparting nurture.

Flourishing their nature was incomplete without the monetary support provided by her husband. The glorious sunshine put on her husband’s hard work throughout to incredibly manage the family without a flaw is much ensured.

But on the contrary, Anupama is portrayed to be a naïve housewife. She has undertaken the role for so long (25 years to be specific) and selflessly that she holds no grudges for the mistreatment and constant blaming she undergoes from other family members. Respect for her work is an understatement and misery is such that no one except her father-in-law and middle son does it.

Anupama with her middle son Samar.

The relationship she holds with anyone in the family is unconditional and comes under her moral standards. But in return, only her middle son loves her unconditionally. He is largely in support of her and against the visible or under the table behaviours of disrespect and mismanagement towards her.

Through the story development, we understand that the father-in-law’s care and changed patterns of behaviours and thoughts for Anupama are more because of guilt than genuine human concern. Though, through presentation, it becomes difficult to judge.

This is supported by an instance shown in the story where Anupama, in an intoxicated state, presents a complaint against him for not supporting the willingness of her educational desires and forcing her to be skilled in kitchen and housework. This is a cause of a big barrier of communication between her and her husband. Further, this leads to the falling off in their marriage, compelling her husband to find love outside marriage.

Regrettably, she feels that besides the unsaid love and complacent sexual activity to produce varis (children) for the family, she did not contribute much to their relationship development. She realises that entirely blaming the man for his actions is not good. Yes, that was not a good decision and the fault of not contributing enough to make the marriage work is very much relevant on the man’s part too.

But gaining insight and knowledge of everything related to her failed marriage, keeping some positive approach for her husband, and contributing to the family members, she decides to part ways and moves on.

Through the story development, a light on women supporting women in times of need is also thrown where characters like her friend, neighbour and principal of the school she applies to work for support her passions and its conversion into a career to earn and make her family sustainable on her own money.

This, according to her, was a necessary step to communicate to her separated husband that if treatment is right, a skill can become a pathway for being capable.

A questionable decision on plot displaying their divorce wasn’t very well digested. Here, the husband, whose ego and world is shattered into pieces, calls her wife mentally unstable based on a few incidents. These incidents were more of a reaction to certain situations than persistent behaviour.

In reality, such accusations to prove a ground for divorce and procurement of alimony do take place as per records of lawyers and researchers. But the screenplay was quite disturbing as a mental health professional viewing the misuse of mental health in such situations.

There are other plots and specific dialogues too which are worth viewing and showcase an ambitious urge to develop oneself above the image of a housewife and how the steps she takes are supported or opposed on mediocre grounds. Moreover, it offers realisation and introspection to the Indian population. This show works in great detail to positively influence people, unlike some redundant media and other shows on current TV culture.

The most breath-taking experience of the show because of which I decided to write the article is the current subject of interest taken by the show-makers.

Anupama
Anupama.

The major plot involves how the husband, following the separation and nearing to final divorce claim date, is in a deep retrospect of the “good” Anupama had done and how she was familiar with every sense, need and action of all the alliances she had maintained over the years. Even though she was thought to be limited, her impact was far-reaching, forming the firm bark and roots of his family.

The sub-plot of this is usual cringe but with an educational perspective. According to this, Anupama has contracted ovarian cancer. Given the society we live in, where the use of the word “sex” is in itself moral wrongdoing, something like ovarian cancer is too modern to use, bound with stigmas and taboos already.

It is crucial information to be disseminated among the women community as it targets women’s health in particular. This can develop anytime and is in parallel with breast cancer, which is something that we are aware of through the efforts of many.

Something like this should be there in the awareness book of many gynaecologists and public health care medical issues of women. But it’s a rare chance to come across something of such prominent nature.

Why would I, a mental health professional, advocate about such a thing? Stooping to TV serials, forget education about women’s health? Is that what our country’s young people come to? Don’t we prefer online video and verified information for this? Or maybe some reliable source?

Why focus on an Indian TV drama which caters to subordinate issues and is far from modern society? The level they hold is much below the simple factuality guide on Doordarshan.

Well, I too was in a pond of similar thoughts when my parents switched to watching this over dinner. They otherwise watch educational drama series, rarely Indian, mostly Pakistani and Turkish features.

Anupama
Anupama.

But the different approach it is taking to social security of a housewife, presumed and actual stature of a housewife, women empowerment through baby steps, need for women literacy, respect for individuals on humanitarian grounds, no career is below normal, need for mental health, etc. makes it interesting.

Even though you are educated or mentally modern and consider yourself a pseudo- high content preference holder, the truth remains that 80% of electronic device resource holders watch television. Thus, TRP is a huge matter of concern. The recent case of Arnab Goswami and Republic TV is a well-suited example.

While they consume television content, a reciprocal behaviour is further observed in many families. Today, many families hold dysfunctionality as a major cause of increased mental health crisis and domestic violence.

Another strong concern about this possibly positive approach marched through the serial I support is the recent case of my sister’s health. At the age of 21, she was found to be suffering from ovarian dermoid.

Ovarian dermoid is a tumour (cancerous or non-cancerous) in your ovary, usually genetically inherited and developed at birth. It is not a part of PCOD, which is also a common concern among young women.

It is harmful and affects women’s physical and mental functionality to the extent that if the ovary(ies) gets ruptured, the woman can lose the possibility to conceive. Once this happens, you know how the issue becomes a haystack in Indian society.

She was operated for the same on an immediate basis. We got to know that this dermoid was as big as a 7-month-old foetus is during pregnancy. Along with it, 2 litres of liquid was also taken out. The result was good and in favour of a healthy body. With this operation, the doctor, who seemed like a god on that day, saved her life.

Initially, given the spread of coronavirus, we too were worried, lost hope and had various thoughts running around. No one knew about its development or mere existence. It became almost a sight lost too far. Everyone was affected in their own capacity.

But did you get to think so far, who was responsible for the situation of my sister? Ponder over it. And the justification of writing this long article for you will be done.

By Jigyasa Tandon

About the author: Jigyasa is a teacher, youth-mentor, counselling psychologist and mental health educationist, NIMHANS, Bangalore. She has founded PSY-FI: For a Healthy Mind to actively disseminate about the importance of mental health and the role of psychology in one’s well-being.

She strongly believes that media and folklore have a certain possibility of bringing change in presumption and myths held by people in the healthcare sector. For this, she too is actively working on writing research papers to prove the effectiveness of online/digital literacy.

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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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