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‘Hustle Culture’ Is Costing Teachers Empathy, Individuality And Mental Health

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Komal Kaur considers herself “lucky” for holding on to her teaching job at a school in Ranchi, after seeing how her husband is continuing to struggle for work. He was fired, along with 20 more employees, two months ago, from a data collection company because his company is running into loss. Komal, mother of two, believes that school paying her merely Rs 15,000 is better than any genre of job insecurity at all.

With Rs 15,000 only, except the woes like fuel price hike and inflation rate observed in the ‘free’ market, Komal is planning to do stitching work or any other decent work that comes her way. She tells me that “…finding it difficult to manage lecture-from-home as it’s taking a toll on her mental health”. She can’t raise the issue at her school because she feels she “will be professionally ostracised for speaking up” so she finds silence to be quite golden.

She has to manage fees for school-going kids and other expenses, till she heaves a sigh of relief once her husband gets any job opportunity. She shared her number with me on twitter if I come across any job opportunities for her and her husband.


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When the lockdown (March 2020) was surprisingly announced, just like the demonetization (2016), none of us anticipated any proactive steps to be taken for mental health. The reason: in this land of Kamasutra, like sex, mental health as a topic and practice continues to be stigmatic and also expensive.

We don’t think about its importance, we don’t care either. The ‘culture’ of our society is such that we are more curious to produce successful people than peaceful people, even at the cost of mental health.

Anatomy Of Mental Health In India

On par with ‘per capita income’ of Indians, not more than 10% of total population (130 crore) can afford mental health assistance. When the annual health expenditure of India’s GDP is 1.15%, despite the staggering rate of suicide rates in the world, Indians are respectively eligible for .33 paisa (less than one dollar) in the space of mental health assistance.

The amount spent on mental health assistance is comparable with what Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani makes in just 3 hours, or a day’s expense of a trip abroad by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

a woman counselling a person with her notebook in hand
Representational image.

India is home to an estimated 56 million people suffering from depression and 38 million more from anxiety disorders, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2015–16. To add woes, in this lockdown period since March 2020, there’s an increment of 20% sufferers (other than the cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and suicidal rates) but however the predicament has always been persisting before the covid-19 outbreak.

India currently has 9000 psychiatrists, 2000 psychiatric nurses, 1000 clinical psychologists, and 1000 psychiatric social workers. The country would need an additional 30,000 psychiatrists, 37,000 psychiatric nurses, 38,000 psychiatric social workers and 38,000 clinical psychologists.

According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, it will take 42 years to meet the requirement for psychiatrists, 74 years for psychiatric nurses, 76 years for the psychiatric social worker, and 76 years for clinical psychologists, for providing care for the total population. The same goes for the hospital beds as well.

Hustle Culture And Predatory Capitalism

The lecture-from-home sessions for the teachers has been mentally taxing and very much exhausting, especially for the females who survive in patriarchal families. As expected in such a toxic environment, a female is “supposed to cook, nurse the homely members and also work/earn” while the male is entitled to only earn the bread.

A female colleague teaching a biology subject in a school at Nashik tells me on a call that she and her colleagues are finding it very difficult to draw the line between work and personal life. When they were working/teaching offline, they were able to manage work life and social life. But “any time meeting” calls for designing and amending lecture plans, academic plans, general meetings, etc. leaves little time for her personal life.

She is of the view that lecture-from-home has conveniently exploited women’s agency in her individual space a lot, in this ‘already a patriarchal society’.

Hustling culture ‘okays’ that it’s important to compromise on mental health, sleep cycle, diet and rest, if one has to grow in life. Representational image.

When I asked her if she was finding it ‘alright’ to subscribe to such a ‘hustling culture’, she jokingly replied back with the F-word. Hustling culture, as largely promoted on social media (especially on LinkedIn), is one of the most exploitative cultures I know. You can relate too.

The ‘hustling culture’ goes to the extent of making us believe that a fish can actually climb a tree despite knowing that a fish has its own intrinsic characteristics and biological limits. If one day we attempt to procrastinate, we feel useless. How badly are we conditioned to believe in such a culture?

Thanks to ‘hustling culture’ which has been brutally breeding ‘predatory capitalism’ at the cost of social empathy, individuality and mental health. It appears in the form of peer pressure and social anxiety, too.

Hustling culture ‘okays’ that it’s important to compromise on mental health, sleep cycle, diet and rest, if one has to grow in life; as if resources on this planet are infinite like stupidity?

Our nation operates through a ‘scarcity mindset’ because we’re economically not so strong and thus ‘hustling culture’ gets easily normalized in this ‘rat cycle’. All those “mann ki baat” or “chai pe charcha” on economy are simply hogwash.

Mix Of Education And Empathy

Often, we believe that education means one is empathetic, wise and intelligent. But it’s not actually true. Mark Twain, a novelist, has perfectly put “education ruins common-sense”.

Education has become a visa to the job industry and it does not mean a very qualified/educated person necessarily be humane enough to understand. In fact, the world saw how ‘educated’ scientists or engineers joined Hitler in his holocaust politics.

A high-school teacher in Surat, Gujarat, on this point, tells me that the dearth of moral compass amongst the teaching fraternity is backfiring at the noble cause of education. Having taught international languages at an esteemed school, she tells me that “kindness should become the social language and amidst pandemic, we teachers are almost lacking it.”

When the system is failing our teachers today, who will design the future of the nation? Representational image.

She is unhappy at how the school’s management expropriates her weekend too and bombards the tasks, leaving little room for her to breathe even on holidays. She tried saying ‘No’ many times, but culture is non-consensual enough to not digest the meaning of ‘NO’.

On the other hand, Dr Anil Tambe, assistant professor of Sociology, working on ad hoc basis in Mumbai, fears of losing his ‘extension of contract’ this year. He gets sleepless nights by overthinking about his job. After his institute stalling the deferred payment for almost 14 months, he panics whether he will ever receive them if he were to leave the work tomorrow.

He discovered that his institute collected full fees from the students and yet deferred the salary by 60% for workers like him and others. Teaching, like health and other essential public services, is necessary too.

Education can’t wait in India’s so-called developing story. When the system is failing our teachers today, who will design the future of the nation?

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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