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“Watching Big Boss During The Pandemic Was The Worst Mistake I Have Made”

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Several friends and family members of mine asked me not to watch the controversial reality show ‘Bigg Boss, saying that the format is not something I will enjoy. Still, out of curiosity and the presence of memes online, I watched Malayalam ‘Bigg Boss’ season 1 and binge-watched few episodes of Hindi ‘Big Boss.’ Notably seasons 7, 11, 12, and 13.
It was fun at times to watch the show. When contestants engage in fun banter, partake in tasks and other instances. Sometimes, the silly in-house fights make one laugh.

I watched ‘BB 14’ for two reasons:
1. I work in a news media portal and wanted to cover tidbits that might be in the show.
2. I wanted a source of entertainment during the lockdown time.

The Impact Of Big Boss On Me

Watching ‘Bigg Boss 14’ during a tough period like the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown was undoubtedly the worst mistake I have made during that time. This is the first time contestant I rooted for from the beginning won the show. Still, I switched off and uninstalled Voot long before that because it was messing up my mental health.

It was very difficult to watch the WeekendKaVaar episodes where Salman Khan showed massive bias towards certain contestants despite their wrongdoings. He excused Eijaz Khan’s toxic behavior towards women multiple times despite complaints from Jasmin Bhasin, Kavita Kaushik, and Rubina Dilaik. Jasmin mentioned how Eijaz comes close to her face but Khan’s advice was “just move away when he comes close.” He didn’t ask Eijaz to downplay his anger. Khan used to spend ample time to ‘correct’ who did wrong to Eijaz.

Salman Khan showed massive bias towards several contestants.

At the same time, he had ‘bashed’ Rubina Dilaik over silly negligible reasons like showing her pinky, not stopping an angry Jasmin from throwing water on Rahul, sitting next to women who were bullying Rakhi Sawant, protesting against Eijaz for hitting her hand, etc.

Rakhi Sawant, also a visible favorite of Khan’s, tore off Rahul Mahajan’s dhoti. She was seen harassing Abhinav Shukla even when he asked her not to. She pulled Abhinav Shukla’s trouser drawstrings and colors conveniently used a screenshot of that on social media. But Khan declared her as the biggest entertainer of the house before a tearful Abhinav. Khan told both Abhinav and Rubina that the audience “thinks that they are going wrong.” Plenty of their family and friends called it the worst episode ever aired on TV.

In another episode, Khan and contestant Jasmin Bhasin was seen blaming Abhinav for ‘letting’ the harassment happen. These episodes messed up my mental health so badly. I had insomnia. I felt both angry and sad at the level of bias exhibited by Khan in his treatment of contestants. Several days after the episode aired, I had morning anxiety, even when I was not thinking about the show.

Many can argue that ‘Bigg Boss’ might be scripted and the contestants know what they signed up for. Salman Khan himself is following what the makers want him to say and they themselves ‘bash’ popular contestants to get ratings for the show. One can argue that the contestants got their fat paychecks after their respective evictions. I was told that it was stupid and silly to let a reality show affect me to that degree.

But something about downplaying harassment that was shown on national television and gaslighting those at the receiving end of it hit me hard. I wrote a long blog piece on the day the episode aired.
‘BB 14’ also aired the live feed of the house. In the days following the controversial episode I had mentioned, Rubina was seen crying alone in the bedroom area. She is aware that no matter what, Khan will support Rakhi and bash her. Abhinav experienced dizziness and anxiety after a bad fight with Rakhi where she referred to him as ‘tharki.’ As expected, Khan cornered them both in the next WeekendKaVaar.

A recent Instagram post of last season’s winner Rubina Dilaik triggered some uncomfortable memories I had while watching the show. She mentioned how her husband Abhinav Shukla’s elimination affected her and that not calling out the unfair nature of his removal was her biggest regret.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rubina Dilaik (@rubinadilaik)

Is Big Boss The ‘Janata Ka Show’?

I stopped watching the show altogether after Abhinav was ejected by three celebrities who entered as family connections.
‘Bigg Boss’ was described as ‘Janata ka show’ yet the decision that was supposed to be taken by millions was lefts in the hands of three. Fans who followed the show from the beginning, including the live feed, expressed this.
Abhinav was someone who went from the bottom three to the top, as mentioned in the Ormax list. He was there in the show from the beginning and aced in several tasks. Abhinav was not someone I was rooting but his removal was nothing short of a betrayal.

‘Bigg Boss 14’ faced its share of criticisms when Sara Gurpal was ejected similarly by the seniors after just one week in the house. Contestants such as Nishant Malkani and Shehzad Deol were also removed. The show was criticized for bringing back ejected contestants including the ones voted out by the audience. Vikas Gupta re-entered twice after his exit. Abhinav’s removal from the show, two weeks before the finale points out that makers don’t really listen to criticisms. And the person who harassed him remained till the finale.

‘Bigg Boss’ OTT also started getting noticed for the favoritism shown towards Shamita Shetty and unfair bashing. Netizens stated that Karan Johar is no different from Khan in that regard.

My suggestion is pretty simple. Reality shows like ‘BB’ will go on as long as they receive that specific audience who enjoys such contests (disregarding the morality aspect) and fans of the contestants. It is better to avoid the show altogether if you feel like it’s weighing you down.
No point in letting the cacophony of noises distort your day. Since the host is seen embracing gaslighting as a quality while dealing with contestants, it can affect you. So better not to feed your time to it.

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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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