11.3.08

BLANK NOISE MUMBAI- MARCH 8. I NEVER ASK FOR IT





Photo documentation by Abhishek Ray, Chiranjeev Chandok and Nishant Thakur
Running around by:
sticker printing -Aditi K
whistles and photocopy letters-Varsha Chandwani,

Aditi K - Blank Noise Action Hero, Mumbai , writes in about her experiences from March 8.

BEFORE EVENT
I wasn't sure what i was getting myself into when i decided to participate in the intervention. i was a regular on the blog for ages but actually participated only now...
Anyway this is what the March 8th event was like. I managed to print stickers a day in advance hence anxiety levels settled down...though i was still quite nervous about going into public standing there "doing nothing" for an hour and just soaking up the bandstand (bandra) atmosphere. On reaching the venue all were gathered at Barista...we started of by signing and folding the letters...some ran around for xeroxex...others got on the phone to chechk if more people were coming and after about 15- 20 mins when most of them had gathered Varsha did a quick briefing with Sanjana pitching in with her experiences....whistles we re handed out so were the testimonials...bags were dumped into Abhishek's car (awesome presence of mind to get his car) and at 5:30 approx we all took positions by Bandstand which would be the vantage point for street action for next 60 minutes to come....

DURING EVENT
I stood there whistle and testimonials in hands and confidence in heart...muttering in my head- today is my day, today the roles will be reversed- today i will look at the on goings and perhaps you will avoid my gaze...you will be the one to look away! I started noticing all the people jogging there, walking their dogs, couples strolling by hand in hand....aunties chattering so and so forth....initially though we were approx 30 girls no one seemed to notice us...but slowly people took notice of the fact that there are girls standing lots of them with stickers on their tops....all the people seem to take notice of the words Blank Noise than the message "I never ask for it" People would look at the stickers make a mental note of the words Blank noise and move on; not one person stopped to ask what we were doing why we were gathered here...i was getting desperate then i decided now if females pass by i am going to smile at them- randomly....i have rarely done this except ofcourse in trains so next time when i noticed a female reading the sticker on my chest i would flash the brightest smile and it worked they then started coming up and asking me what Blank Noise was about, what we were doing on the street etc etc and then i would offer them the testimonial- not one girl chose to stand with us but they did read the testimonial....one aunty in her late 50s prolly who came with her three young adult daughters immediately identified with our cause and was very appreciative. That sort of boosted my confidence....There were copuples walking by many of whom looked through us as if we were transparent or simply not present many women would look at us the stickers and appear to be in deep thought for a moment only to look away as if shrugging the very fact that "eve teasing" is an issue. There were men passing by....today we gave them a reason to look at our chests and we were not apologetic about it at all of what we were wearing and even the sticker on our breast....so they would read it and pass away...some would wait and ask...some would talk. engage in dailogue ....meanwhile the boys were doing a good job supplying testimonials to the girls who ran out of them and distributing it to those around...and generally getting the feel of all of it. There were a lot of people a LOT who did not understand English and such people though probably curious were immediately alienated by the fact that the stickers were in English which meant we needed stickers in national / local language. There was a couple who walked our way..newly married it seems...the wife read the sticker on my kurta and stoped to ask questions while the husband started laughing loudly telling her "lets just walk out from here" she broke into laughter too but immediately gained composure and mock-scolded him saying these sirls are doing this for a cause and both appeared amused at how we had decided to spoil suc a beautiful evening standing here. They also gave out the vibe that this was just another women's day gimmick. The man mocked at us....and couldnt stop laughing his dry sarcastic laughter. I calmly answered the questions posed by his wife but somehow chose to ignore him....did not want an argument. There was this one aunty who bluntly said- whats the point of you girls standing here? Whats going to come out of it? How does it help the situation? She was being very very cynical....but then i told her that atleast someone had chosen to go beyond merely contemplating the solution - someone had decided to speak against it...bring public attention to the gravity of the issue...isn't that a good beginning to which she remained mum as she could not sustain her argument...

Experience and conclusions:
On my way home, i felt much more comfortable in my own skin...and much more confident...i wasnt worried about walking though shady parts of my town even late in the night somehow...i managed to exude that confidence for quite a while.

I enjoyed my time on the street- i enjoyed being there soaking in the atmosphere without having to worry who is looking at me and whether i am going to be groped etc the next minute.

I wore a long full sleeve kurta...the same one i was wearing when i was groped (my breast was squeezed so hard that it hurt for three days). That time i had become ashamed of my body and myself because i could not protect it....i came home and took a cold water bath scrubbing my breasts extra hard just to get the touch of that horrible man off my skin but nothing had worked....it brought back old memories...painful ones as well on the other hand it had now given me the strength to fight back...

I walked home stronger in the sense that i was able to command my space on the street through my body language on my way back home....It felt good.

Blank Noise Action Hero Nisha Chandwani writes in-

It never fails to give us the feeling of being empowered. And for once, if not always, we can stand very casually without any kind of apprehension on the street.


3 comments:

  1. Hey Jasmeen, I was part of the BNP Action Hero Street Intervention in Mumbai this past weekend.
    It was definitely interesting - first time taking part in the project. While we managed to get the message across in some situations, the lack of Hindi/Marathi stickers & testimonials may have seen us losing out on spreading the word a bit further. Also, waiting for people to ask us about what we were doing out there lined up on the Bandra Bandstand Walkway seemed kind of reactionary in approach.
    I mention the last bit since we noticed many onlookers watching us from afar. A friend even mentioned afterwards that diners in the outdoor cafe facing us (but across the road) actually moved their chairs to better positions so as to be able to view us lined-up women much better... So, maybe a more pro-active approach of going up to people might have been a bit more interactive?

    Also - I wondered if I can access the pictures taken from that day of my friends and myself? I'd like to share them on my Facebook profile with friends and all.
    (I'm Hena, and think my photo numbers were 36 & 37, or somewhere thereabouts)

    All in all - a very thoughtful exercise, and I look forward to being part of the next one hopefully.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, just a correction -

    photo documentation by Nishant Thakur :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. thanks sanjana! send in your comments soon. we need to have it up on the blog asap!

    ReplyDelete