Shadhika Shadhika


Practicing yoga makes me feel refreshed. Meditation helps me to have strong breathing in my body and helps me to balance my mental health.

When She Leads: Mirekha, Navya, Nritha, & Meera

June 29, 2020

Reading Time: 12 minutes

This interview is part of our When She Leads Under Lockdown series. Learn more.

COVID-19 continues to keep the young women of Shadhika isolated from friends, school, and their NGO community centers. In this interview, four young women at Baale Mane, our partner site on the outskirts of Bangalore, discuss their experiences since the lockdown and how they’re trying to stay mentally and physically healthy. Baale Mane (meaning “girls’ home”) serves girls who are either orphans, have a single parent who is unable to care for them, or have lost contact with their parents. At Baale Mane, the younger program participants live in a boarding home where all of the activities are carried out. Once they reach the age of 18, the young women graduate onto living independently with the continued financial and emotional support from Baale Mane. While the young residents of Baale Mane have been shielded from some of the effects of the pandemic, it is evident that the strength and support of the Baale Mane community extends beyond the walls of the center to reach the young women who live on their own. Mirekha, Navya, Nritha*, and Meera* were interviewed by Vaishu Manjunath, Marketing Associate. 

*name changed for minor’s safety

Can you please introduce yourselves and tell us something about you?

I’m Mirekha from Baale Mane. Now I’m a Shadhika Scholar pursuing a one-year certificate in digital marketing. The course was very difficult in the beginning but has turned out to be very interesting. Now I’m live in a PG (paying guest house for young women). It’s very hard to be without my family, but I’m trying to face this situation. I like to cook when I’m bored, and I play with my PG mates in the evening, which keeps me happy.

I’m Navya from Baale Mane. I’m a Shadhika Scholar pursuing my Bachelors of Business Aviation degree. I visited Shadhika’s headquarters this March. When I came back to India from America, I could see the COVID-19 impact in my city. My aunt was afraid and refused to have me at her house. Then I stayed in a hospital in self-isolation for 15 days. It was a government hospital that wasn’t well equipped, so Baale Mane helped me shift to another better facilitated hospital. A Baale caretaker was there with me. It was very sad to be alone for that many days, but I didn’t have another option. When our Indian government announced the lockdown, I went to Baale. Staying at Baale is always my favorite, and I have become more healthy now. Now I’m waiting for my college to reopen so I can continue my studies.

My name is Nritha. I’m studying in 10th standard (grade). I study six subjects at school, but Hindi is my favorite subject. My hobbies are reading books and playing games wth other friends.

I’m Meera. I study six subjects at school: Kannada, Hindi, English, mathematics, science, and sociology. The Indian languages, Kannada and Hindi, are my favorite subjects. My hobbies are playing Koko and Kabaddi (games). I like to be with all the girls at Baale. We watch television together. I enjoy being here in Baale.

Nritha & Meera practicing yoga at Baale Mane.

Can you share with us what it is like to live at Baale Mane?

Mirekha: The greenery at Baale is the best, especially the garden and the nature outside of Baale is my favorite. I can’t wait to visit again after the COVID-19 lockdown. I used to live at Baale, but when I graduated 12th standard last year, I moved to a PG. It’s very challenging to stay in an unknown city and to stay in the PG independently. I miss Baale because of its green nature, caring staff, and healthy food. My dream is to be a wild life photographer. When I sit outside on the rooftop at my PG, I observe the birds and wish I had a camera with me to capture everything about nature’s beauty. My mental health also plays well when I’m there in beautiful nature.

Navya: I have spent my quarantine days at Baale. One of my favorite places at Baale is the library. The playground is another favorite place at Baale, as well as the garden. There we can enjoy beautiful nature and listen to bird sounds. The garden has colorful chairs, where I like to spend time together with other sisters. It’s a great place to talk about so many things, which keeps us relaxed and healthy. It reduces my anxiety and fills my soul with peace and love. 

Nritha & Meera: We like being here at Baale with our friends. We call each other “sister”. We both feel very lucky to be in a beautiful place like Baale. We have a garden here and sometimes we get mangoes from the tree. We all go out for a nature walk that makes us curious about different kinds of flowers, trees, and colorful leaves. We have seen many birds with different kinds of feathers. We have farming land next to Baale where we see peacocks. All of these things help us stay happy, active, talkative, and mentally healthy because we find peace in nature. That’s why we all are really strong.

There are younger and older girls at Baale Mane. What is it like to have sisters of all ages? Do the older girls mentor the younger girls?

Navya: When I lived at Baale, I was a group leader. Now when I visit Baale, I play with the younger girls. That way I get a chance to talk to them. They share their thoughts and what happened with them or what’s been sad or happy for them, so I hear them and counsel them on various things.

Mirekha: When I visit Baale, the younger girls share their feelings about various things. My younger sister is also at Baale, so I tell her to study well and learn new things without fear.

Manasa: We have our team meetings every day in the evening and my team leaders are very keen to listen to us and help us to solve our problems.

Nritha: We have our team meetings every day in the evening and my team leaders are very keen to listen to us and help us to solve our problems.

Meera: I talk to my team leader whenever I feel unhappy about anything. Younger girls always play with me, and I like to give them advice about their problems if it’s possible. I also help the juniors (young girls) with their studies, and I have fun doing crafts and cycling with them.

When the coronavirus pandemic started, how did you all feel? What have you been thinking?

Meera: I was very scared to hear or read about the COVID-19 news every day. But now I feel better because India is trying to fight the pandemic in a great way.

Nritha: It was summer when I learned of COVID-19, and I was with family to spend the rest of the summer holiday. Suddenly I learned about the COVID-19 spread all over India. I was scared and was thinking about Baale girls a lot. I came back to Baale as soon as possible and was happy all my friends were safe. I’m happy that Baale is a very safe place.

Mirekha: I miss my family a lot. I have been thinking about my mom and my younger sisters. I talk to them over the phone every day. I used to visit them from the PG, but I cannot do this since the lockdown began. I can’t wait to hug my mom again.

Navya: I miss my teachers and college friends. My teachers have been calling me to say that they are all missing me too. This COVID-19 lockdown has affected my relationships with everyone. We have weekly calls with Baale trustees and other Baale alumni. When we are on video calls, it’s very joyful to see everyone’s faces. 

What has changed since the pandemic? What is still the same?

Nritha: This lockdown has kept us in one place. I have started to do yoga every day. I miss my school, my usual classes, teachers and friends. It’s really hard to be locked up in the same place for a long time. I can’t wait to go back to school.

Mirekha: There’s been a lot of changes in my life since the lockdown started. I haven’t seen my mom and sisters yet. I miss my computer classes. This COVID-19 lockdown has made me to realize how important it is to spend time with family and friends.

Meera – My exams were cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdown. I felt relieved not to have to take my exams and risk exposure to the virus.  I’m having fun and learning new things at Baale. Hopefully my school starts again in September, so I’m waiting to go back.

Mirekha, you led a Shadhika Virtual Session with the Baale sisters. What was your experience?

Mirekha: Yes! I really enjoyed leading the virtual session. I was sad that Shadhika’s Leaders for Change Summit was cancelled. But when Shadhika began conducting online virtual sessions, I felt happy. It was very encouraging. I was a leader for the first activity focused on exercising, so I coordinated with all the girls at Baale to practice yoga as well as some new exercises. 

Do you practice yoga every day? What do you like the most about yoga?

Meera: I practice yoga every day, except Sunday. When I practice meditation in yoga it keeps me concentrated on many things. Yoga makes me feel relaxed and mentally healthy and happy. My favorite yoga pose is Lord Shiva’s dancing pose. At Baale, we begin the mornings with yoga practice together with 50 girls. 

Nritha: I practice yoga every day. When I practice yoga it keeps me fit and healthy. My favorite yoga poses is sun salutation.

Mirekha: I practice yoga often  in the PG. I feel yoga is the best thing to reduce body pains. When we visit temple or church we feel peace or happiness, and I feel the same way when I practice yoga. It makes me feel refreshed. Meditation helps me to have strong breathing in my body, and yoga helps me to balance my mental health.

Navya: I like all body stretching yoga poses. Yoga helps me stay strong. When I practice yoga, it keeps happy and active.

What else are you doing to cope with the lockdown?

Mirekha: In this lockdown we are all trying to stay safe and healthy. The girls in my PG like to do crafts together. We talk to each other to feel calm. I think talking with the other girls also makes us emotionally stronger to share what we feel inside. Sometimes we play games on our phones or cook snacks. Once a week we have a virtual meeting with the Baale Mane trustees. It makes me happy to see all the girls at Baale and the other alumni on the call. 

Navya: During this lockdown we cannot go anywhere, so I’m staying safe in a PG. I live with another independent Baale girl, Asiya. We take care of each other. She is teaching me how to cook, and I like to call my other friends to share what we’ve cooked that day.

Asiya and Navya cooking together in their PG.

How are you finding strength in each other?

Mirekha: Even thought we can’t be in person with our Baale Mane family and friends, we can still talk on the phone. If l feel sad or happy, I share my feelings with Navya and our other best friend, Shruthi. We are all supportive of each other in this difficult time.

Navya: Everyday Mirekha, Shruthi, and I talk on the phone because we don’t live in the same PG. If I feel low, they encourage me and motivate me. Other times I will call my college friends to reminisce about last year at school and talk about how great it will be to go back after the lockdown.

Shadhika continues to closely monitor the circumstances in India in order to best support our partners and program participants. In order to remain nimble and responsive to the needs on the ground, please help us meet our goal of raising an additional $15,000 for COVID-related funds.

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