[VoxSpace Life] I’m THAT Kind Of A Feminist – This Is My Story

Being A Feminist – The Origin Story

Well, I am Alisha and I am 25. I belong to Lucknow. I started off after school, doing my Graduation in Mass Communication and Journalism from Delhi. Life had just started getting back on track but before I knew, this whole college-getting-over thing came up. Internships. Load. Competitions. I was told I’m a “people-pleaser”. I must try the radio. I must counsel. I must write. And what not. And I remember joining a leading newspaper back then. Also, a few PR firms. Only to make sure that I don’t just throw myself into the awkward jungle, I wanted to try all fields that came under the umbrella of Mass Communication.

I soon realized that it wasn’t my thing, though. I could definitely do those jobs, finish them in time to achieve the “estimated goals” but I didn’t want to Pursue those. Now, pursuing is one word we undermine and don’t understand usually. To pursue something is to follow or chase it, to live it. I definitely didn’t want to work in the corporate sector, endlessly doing the 10-5 cycle, get back home, relax, sleep, and do it all over again the next morning. I am no way demeaning the 10-5 jobs. I am just a misfit for those, just not cut out for those. I cannot function very well in jobs in which my heart and soul isn’t there.

Oh and I’m brutally honest, crass, super impulsive and goddamn vocal. Many people cannot handle that.

Juggling through these very complex emotions, almost feeling that I was useless, it soon hit me how the highlight of the week would always be the hours I used to spend with a few kids at this orphanage and old-age home I used to volunteer at. I realized I must do that, not just on weekends, but pretty much all my life. Why could I not pursue that? And I’ve not looked back ever since. I soon took up a volunteership with Cancer patients, for half a year, then later a part-time job as a facilitator at an NGO called Project KHEL here in Lucknow, which works for underprivileged kids- to impart in them life-skills through sports and various indoor and outdoor activities. The NGO also conducts sessions on Child Sexual Abuse and Menstrual Hygiene. The point is to only make the children open up better.

I’ve learned that every kid has a creative side, in the most truthful and raw form of it and we must help them realize that and not give it up, irrespective of no matter which background they belong to.

Let’s Look At Where The Feminist In Me Started For Good

So, I’ll take you back in time a little bit. This is the high school phase I’m talking about. I’m totally crushing on this boy, he tells me he’d want to, “go around”? It’s silly but when you’re sixteen you’ve just got to believe him. And then this one night, the drugs outdo him. *PAUSES*

.. Assault isn’t just physical, you know. It goes beyond that. It grows on you. I am more than glad I didn’t hang in there for too long. I was never a boyfriend person anyway, but my friends, most of them, left with him. That bit sucked. It grew on me. But you know what? I outgrew that. I sort of HAD TO. The high school version of me could never imagine how deeply I’d be working with children on issues like ‘Consent’, ‘Good Touch and Bad Touch’ in the years that were to come.

Yes, I Am A Feminist, Needless To Say.

As a 19-year-old, I felt the feeling of ‘hate’ deeply. I was sexually abused by my cousin when I was 5 but when something similar happened in my teenage years, I was taken aback for a while. Mostly by the way everyone around me treated it like it was OK and how I should just get over it. I then knew what I wanted towards making the concepts of Consent more and more accepted and prevailing around me, in my family and friend circles at least.

I was sexually abused quite a few times, by 1) my cousin, 2) a friend, 3) by a so-called “friendly neighbour”, 4) by a guy who I casually went out on a date with. But none of these understood consent, of course. Age 7. Age 18. Age 22. Age 25. Got sexually harassed or what you call “eve-teased” on the streets every other day. Got cat-called. Was labelled “easy” by a lot of others.

So hell yes. ME-TOO! But that doesn’t mean I give in. That means, I of all the people, must fight!

The Price To Pay And The Fight For Sense To Prevail

It wasn’t easy. I lost friends along the way. I kept getting into tiffs. I suffered from Depression. I fought it all. You know why? BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION, REALLY. I am a woman with a history of sexual abuse, depression, failures and I ain’t seeking for your approvals, especially of the ones who don’t understand how deep-rooted these issues are. I ain’t doubting myself, I ain’t backing down. I have my weak days, but I mostly take my history to my stride because it makes the strong woman that I am.

I faced a lot at home because not every family understands why would their daughter want to quit a regular, very functional job and join an NGO. I tell them it felt like it was my calling. I then decided to pursue my Masters in Social Work and specialized in Women and Children Studies.

I got the chance to work with rural women and understood them in ways I never thought I would. I know while reading this you might think to yourself what a scatterbrain I am. Well, yes. I was one. But Social Work as a field is so wide, one must figure out what she/he genuinely wants to aim at working on in the long run. Women and Children are my things and I can say this now because of a whole lot of volunteerships and part-time jobs that I was engaged in.

I am currently back to my workaholic phase and am working at an organization with an idea to educate and develop underprivileged children with special needs. The whole point of me putting this down here is that – LET NOTHING STOP YOU. Working towards a better generation, being vocal about my issues, about good touch and bad touch, about consent is my idea of a revenge.

The Image Of A Feminist – The Bearing Of Nature

I know people probably were trying to break me through it all but I thank them today for making me grow immensely as a human being. They’ve sensitized me to a whole new level. I had before then only read about our so-called evils in the news but never had never got a chance to experience it and understand it so deeply.  One of the majorly happy moments of my life that I’ve lived was on the January 21st, 2017.

33 of us from all across the country came out with a National Movement referred to as I Will Go Out. This movement was us taking a stand with our women reclaiming the streets as theirs. You get out on the road, or especially if you go to that ‘Chai ki Tapri’, you will realize how male-dominated our streets are.

A bunch of women along with so many others went out partying on the New Year’s Eve and so many of them got molested. In the masses? Yes, the angst is just frustrating. I Will Go Out was against that. 33 Cities participated and I was the Lucknow organizer. I tried to keep it low-key because we couldn’t manage to get police permissions. We were told it’s “unimportant” or something. But the little revolutionary in me couldn’t keep myself from pushing the movement and making it as big as we could in Lucknow. And we did. More than 200 people turned up on the street that day, to protest in peace, men and women all taking a stand for Gender Equality to prevail on the streets.

When There Is Hope And Strong Will…

I very recently was awarded and invited to speak at the Uttar Pradesh Young Women Leaders’ Conclave. It was such a big moment for a girl like me, who has mostly felt useless all her life. Yes, I was one of the “weak students” in my class throughout and my parents would always refrain from coming for my PTMs in school. But that one day, at the Conclave, I know how proud my mother was.

So, what we’re saying is that we’ve realized it’s not about cribbing on Mondays, but about climbing that goddamn mountain or taking that trip or taking that dance course you’ve always wanted to or simply connecting with yourself. (Check.) And not about settling for things, but having chosen them. (Check.) No, my life isn’t perfect. I also have tough times, regular issues that anybody my age would have and should be struggling through. But, one thing that I’m sure of is the fact that at least I’m directed somewhere good. I am honestly working towards a better society, contributing and doing my bit and nobody can tell me otherwise. That feeling alone is more than enough to keep me going.
I am often asked,

“Why would you want to catch up on Kathak after all these years?” Or “Why are you going for a Volunteership again? What’s the point? Why don’t you do something legit in the social development/entrepreneurship field so that it ‘adds to your resume’? Isn’t it too late to learn a language, dance, work on the grassroots level, or “explore” fields?”

Somethings That I Still Fail To Understand

What I don’t understand is, why is everything about resumes and “collection” of degrees to get better “job prospects”?

Why are we so obsessed with stereotypical timelines? I am 26 years old and I want to do things with my life and not just with my bank account and it’s high time people got over it. I’m surrounded by stories all day. My work never seems like work. And my job is totally bigger than my paycheque. And the bad experiences, all stand null.

I think the most influential group of people will be the youth of our country and the major alteration in the mindsets can be done only in a person’s teenage years, which is why the heart reaches out to Child issues the most and I work on them. Even down the next 5 or 10 years, I see myself continue doing just that because I know how gradual that change will be and how much work it needs.

My advice to the ones reading this will ONLY be that please, you are free to pursue whatever passion and dream you may have, but Never Forget To Pay It Forward. Never underestimate the value of paying it forward. You’re not educated if you do a regular job, make money out of it and chill. You’re educated if you take a day off during the week and teach a bunch of people for free, or go spend some quality time at an old-age home or an orphanage home. No matter how philosophical or cheesy this may sound but I take it as my duty and I hope someday all of us or at least most of us do and that will be my ONLY advice to the ones reading, even if it isn’t socially as “acceptable” or whatever.

And guess what? If you’ve had similar experiences, and people taunt at you by throwing stuff like “Oh, look at her, she’s the feminist type!” in your face, you take it in your stride woman. Show them the bad woman that you are, show your judgemental relatives the “bad beti” that you are and do what you’ve got to do anyway!

We at VoxSpace have always got your back, we give the most amount of important to voices that need to be heard. In case anyone of you would want to get in touch, open up about your issues and just say it out loud, you’ll find us here and we’ll have your back.