The dress-code for the competitions, is shorts and t-shirt, which resulted in a huge backlash. We overcame that hurdle through talks and have never looked back. The girls in Versova have been going for competitions for 2 years now, and last time, even came back to the slum in shorts.
Gosh, when I sat down to start writing this, I didn’t even know where to begin. My experience with this organisation has been such a wild, wild ride!
I started off as someone who was brought on board as a ‘Blogging Volunteer’. My, how that changed so quickly! In a short span of time, I evolved into MukkaMaar’s Social Media Manager, and it remained so only until very recently. I won’t lie, it was a lot of work, but I just had so much fun doing it; this was a field completely new to me, and I loved that I just had this creative space to experiment with all these platforms. Most importantly, though, was the fact that I was advocating for a cause I truly resonated with.
I think the best thing I’ve done while with MukkaMaar was help them organise their annual fest. Because holy moly, what amazing work that was.
It was difficult, no doubt. Late nights, laptops and papers everywhere, using every possible bit of social media to find volunteers, constantly co-ordinating with people, running around, oh, and getting the mother of all sunburns on the day of the event (kinda my fault for not putting sunscreen, but my skin was about as pink as my hair, and my hair is *really* pink) – it was what we overcame as a team to put on one of the most fantastic events. So many of our fierce, warrior girls up on the stage, proudly showcasing their skills to their parents who just cheered them on. I just remember dissociating during that event for a moment, just soaking in that sight, the cheers, the applause, and thinking to myself, “Okay, I get it now. I get why people do this. I get why Ishita’s doing this.” Because up until then, I was just a volunteer helping out with a cause. I realised then that it was so much more.
Something a lot of people don’t realise is that NGOs aren’t just organisations, they’re families, made up of individuals. MukkaMaar isn’t just an NGO; MukkaMaar is Ishita. It’s Stuti. It’s Vinnie. It’s Babita. It’s Khushboo, Asmita, Kanchan, Saba, Bhishma, Saubhagya, Khalid, Vishnu, Sahil. It’s Saumya, Deepti, Urmila and Sama. And these fantastic people invited me into their family and made me a part of it. For that, I will be eternally grateful. The fun we’ve had, the stories we’ve uncovered and the milestones we’ve accomplished; a lot pales in comparison to this.
I have to give my special thanks to Ishita, though. I’ve had some very poignant and important conversations with her regarding feminism, patriarchy, Indian society; she’s taught me so much and redefined, for me, what it means to be an advocate for women’s rights and an equal society. Through her and my experience at MukkaMaar, I’ve found myself being more tuned into stuff that happens beyond my own bubble of comfort, more vocal, more sure of what I say, and more curious. I’ve started reading papers on gender studies and exploring aspects like language and how it links to stigmas and stereotypes, something I had really never done before.
So this is my final pen-to-paper moment here, I guess. Thank you, guys, for an experience I’ll never, ever forget. Thanks for helping me grow and evolve. Thanks for showing me that life is more than just studying, working and existing. Big love to you all!
P.S. A tiny note regarding volunteering and its impacts:
I wasn’t a complete newbie to volunteering; I have volunteered before, but never in such a massive capacity. It allowed me to glance into the nitty-gritty of NGOs, the stuff that happens behind the scenes. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows; people like Ishita put their heart and soul, blood, sweat and tears into such organisations, and it’s not always met with roaring success. I’ve seen the team face backlash, seen people come and seen people go, heard stories that gave me major reality checks. It made me realise the significance of my role; spreading the word, promoting the NGO, writing about them, aiding in any way possible: all of this helps. In big ways. So when you have the opportunity to volunteer, you should. Especially in these times. Your involvement could mean the difference between an NGO surviving or dying out. And in my totally unbiased opinion, there is no better place to start than MukkaMaar.