Mumbai #pleasurepockets

Single woman exploring Mumbai for the first time!

Mumbai is known for its stardom, for its local trains, Marine drive, Mumbai wala attitude and many more things. It is a city which never sleeps. It’s a city made of beautiful public spaces, yum food especially vada pav, expressive people, highly active dabbawalas, the list never ends 😊. So, I got this chance of staying in Mumbai for a week and that too during January so the weather was good. This is the first time I travelled alone in Mumbai and saw the city alone. So, four things for single women travellers who want to explore Mumbai 😉

  • The Local Trains: The local trains are so well connected around the city. If one wants to enjoy a real ride, they should try local trains. You would learn about the city map soon. The women coach makes the local trains more approachable. One can see that the women who have a fix time table about their travelling time, have already made their own friends in the coach. Most of them know each other, most of them work in the same office.  The Female students also take woman coach. By the time you end your journey you would probably speak to at least one co woman passenger. Most of them have travelled through local trains for decades, so all will give their valuable inputs if one would ask for help. And these inputs would really help you in your travel. The train from Bandra to Churchgate normally remains lesser crowded than the other trains. If one is planning to travel from Bandra to south Mumbai, then this train would be helpful. Maximum it costs INR 10.  The feel of the women coach is really different. It somewhere gives the feeling of being united. It gives the feeling that we all are together and nobody can touch us. Each and every women passenger in the coach sits as if she owns that space and most of them are very comfortable with each other.  I felt as if they were my protectors. I felt safe. So, women try out the woman coach in local trains and explore the city and your own self.
  • The Kali Pilli Cabs – I landed at the Mumbai airport at 9:30 pm. I came out and started checking city maps. I had byhearted the direction but still was feeling bit hesitated to take cabs. Then suddenly a woman approached me asking where I wanted to go. I told her the place and told her that I was looking for a cab. To my surprise, she told me she is a taxi driver, I was shocked. I had never seen a woman taxi driver. Suddenly I got my lost confidence and I took her cab. I felt very relaxed cause she was with me. She told me that she was from Priyadarshini –  Taxi Services (Only women taxi drivers), they provide 24 hours’ services. I forgot to check my map and the only thing now I remember is the beautiful drive we had, talking about our lives and laughing.  I felt relaxed and safe. We reached my destination by 10:30pm. She said a sweet good bye and left. Women taxi drivers!! I am still amazed. So, ladies if you are alone and you need a taxi at night and you are not sure what to do, you can always call up – Priyadarshini –  Taxi Service.
  • Free Public Spaces – When it comes to public spaces, Mumbai is one of the first cities which comes to anyone’s mind.  Mumbai never sleeps!!! Yes, it is true! Starting from Marine Drive, Chowpatty , Juhu Beach, Nariman Point, Colaba market, all these public spaces are free. One can sit and enjoy the place and wander in dreams. The beauty rises at night, when the yellow lights from the street lights lit up the place. Here one can sit for long hours staring at the sea, looking at people and the food stalls. Here there is no time boundaries. Men, women, families, can sit and enjoy the breeze as long they want to without any time constraints. So, ladies if you are alone try visiting these places. More than fun these places are meant for relaxing and breathing.
  • South Mumbai infrastructure – The architecture of the buildings in south Mumbai is amazing. “It blends Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic and contemporary architectural styles.” Says The Hindu (Newspaper). In simple words, the architecture is beautiful. One can walk around the place and have one’s pleasure walk around these architectures. The CST Terminal, Bombay High court, St. Xavier’s college. One should walk these lanes and see. Evening walks are the best.

So if you are looking for a place to unwind and a place where no one is going to stare at you cos you are woman, Mumbai might just be your place! 🙂

Where can I find good health services for women in Mumbai?

Mumbai city promotes women empowerment through its various facilities, be it safe public spaces, women coaches in local train or women’s health. When we talk about health in Mumbai, King Edward Memorial Hospital would be the first on the list. It is one of the oldest hospitals in Mumbai. KEM is one of the foremost teaching and medical care providing institution in India. It is funded by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. It treats about 1.8 million out-patients and 85,000 in-patients annually and provides both basic care and advanced treatment facilities in all fields of medicine and surgery.

Recently, Supreme Court allowed a Mumbai woman to terminate her pregnancy after examination by expert panel at KEM. The court allowed her for a medical termination of pregnancy at 24 weeks. In India, as per the MTP Act 1971, pregnancies may be “Terminated: Pregnancies not exceeding 12 weeks may be terminated based on a single opinion formed in good faith. In case of pregnancies exceeding 12 weeks but less than 20 weeks, termination needs opinion of two doctors.”

Hidden Pockets decided to visit KEM which is situated at Acharya Donde Marg, Parel. The closest local railway station from KEM is Parel Railway Station. The distance between them is about 1 Km. For a person who is not from Mumbai, the architecture of KEM could come as a surprise. The building has a British architecture. The hospital can be easily located. Most of the instructions are written both in Marathi and English. As it is a referral hospital, it is always very crowded.  One can see people standing in que to get the admit cards.

We straight away went in search of the gynaecology department. The local guards were helpful in finding the department. One needs to enter the main gate, walk straight through the main entrance, take the first building on the right and climb till the first floor. Go to room number 109. You would find the room just next to the entrance.

At KEM, at the gynae department you would find different services on different days.

  • On Monday:       STI/RTI Clinic
  • On Tuesday:     Gynaecological Endocrinology Clinic
  • On Wednesday: Gynaecological Oncology Clinic
  • On Thursday:     Adolescent Gynaecology Clinic
  • On Friday:          ART/Advance Infertility Clinic
  • On Saturday:      Menopause Clinic

Most of the doctors were young. One of the doctors told us that KEM provides Pap smear test (also called a Pap test – It is a screening procedure for cervical cancer), it provides HIV counselling, adolescent counselling and provides medical termination of pregnancy. The room looked cleaned and had a positive vibe.  So, next time if you need any help and wondering where to go, you can explore KEM.

The other places where one can receive good facilities at very low prices or free are at FPAI, Mumbai clinics. They are one of the few places which we can vouch with full faith. FPAI’s no refusal policy and friendly approach makes us feel proud to spread the information. In Mumbai, there are two clinics within the city where one can receive affordable and good services.

  • Kutumb Sudhar Kendra (KSK), Family Planning Association of India, Western Railway Quarters      Compound, Dr. A. L. Nair Marg, Mumbai Central, MUMBAI 400 008
  • Avabai Wadia Health Centre (AWHC), Family Planning Association of India, 1st Floor, Radhika Residency, Mahatma Phule Nagar, Near Tilak Nagar Railway Station (Harbour Line) Tilak Nagar(W),MUMBAI-400 089.

FPAI also does HIV testing, Cervical cancer test (compulsory for women above 30 years), vasectomy, tubectomy and test for breast cancer. The tests are done after the consent of the patient only. At FPAI, the information about the patient is kept highly confidential and also before any check-up the person meets the counsellor which is the best part of FPAI.

So ladies, explore these health centres! Write back to us telling about your experience 😊

QUEER AZADI MUMBAI PRIDE 2017: An experience!

Last year, I found myself witnessing the largest pride celebration on this planet, the 46th annual New York City Pride March. An electric, colorful, almost Mardi Gras-esque celebration of love and life, that was attended by a record setting 32,000 marchers. And thousands upon thousands of supporters that lined up all along 5th Avenue, from outside Empire State Building all the way to the historic Stonewall Inn.

As I stood there on the side (with strangers who became friends by the end of the day), I felt overwhelmed – the good kind – at the energy and happiness that surrounded us. At the same time, I couldn’t help feel a twinge of regret and sadness that we were nowhere near this in India. That in my country, we are still fighting to repeal Section 377 that criminalizes “unnatural sex”, uncaring of the fact that what happens between two consenting adults is their goddamn business. That LGBTQ+ persons are treated as lesser people, fodder for crass Bollywood comedy and TV shows, and are nowhere near the realm of equality afforded by the Indian constitution. It is hard being LGBTQ+ in India. It hard being different.

The thing is, when you notice for the first time that you are.. different, you start seeing it everywhere. You notice it in the newspapers, the things that play on TV, the movies at the cinema, the many magazines and books, hidden between the idle chatter with friends. Everything is a reminder that you are different, that you defy the standard accepted definition of “normal”. You try to hide it, change it, pretend like it isn’t true and that you are just as normal as everyone else is. You try your damnest.. but all it does is leaving you feeling like you’ve used up all the air that was allocated to you. So you settle. You live in this permanent state of fugue. You really cannot explain how it works, and in the long run it probably doesn’t even matter. All you know is that of all the things the world told you were unnatural.. living this false life was the most unnatural you ever felt.

Everything eases up the second you finally find your people. The people who know and accept and understand everything, before a greeting is out of your lips. People who are cut of the same cloth, who in all probability lived lives just like yours. It feels like you suddenly have all the air in the world to breathe and that feeling.. it is fucking brilliant. There is no other way to put it. On Saturday, I marched in the Queer Azadi Mumbai (QAM) Pride 2017. With my loved ones, my best friends and old colleagues, beautiful strangers with or without masks, proud of who they were and who they loved…. my people. It filled my heart with so much joy I thought it would implode. I mean seriously, would you look at all this happiness?!

My first time at Mumbai Pride was low-key, I was there just for the experience. I was out, but was not involved with the community in any way. Everything changed after that first Pride, because I made friends, got involved, and have never looked back since. I am far more comfortable of my sexuality and my identity than I was many years ago, and everything started with that awe-inspiring feeling of watching thousands of people march for their right to love in a Mumbai Pride March.

This time around, I marched for bisexuals everywhere, who face discrimination from the outside world AND from within the LGBTQ+ community. The Indian LGBTQ+ community has not been especially kind to me and my kind (ironic considering all the straight people I came out to supported me unconditionally!). Biphobia and bierasure are rampant within the community and outside it. This time, I had zero desire to hide ANYTHING about who I was. I got my local nukkad tailor guy to custom-make me a bipride flag (if I wasn’t going to find one online, I will damn well make myself one!) and I wore it proudly as my friends cheered for me. 🙂

No, we are not confused or going through a phase. We are not greedy and selfish, and no we are not “really gay and closeted” or “really straight and looking for attention”. We are certainly NOT up for threesomes. We are NOT gray areas. Accept that we are here to stay, we exist.

About the writer:

Anita Shyam is many things; middle of the night writer, photographer, marketer, social media junkie, engineer, incurable geek, rescue mom, closet crafter.. but most importantly, she is a story teller trying to change the world, one day at a time.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in the article are solely of the writer. 

Slogans of Queer Azadi, Mumbai Pride March 2017: A photo story

Mumbai held its Pride Walk on January 28, 2017. This is a photo story capturing the sentiments of the participants through the slogans carried by the marching crowd through the roads of Mumbai.

 

Photo credit: QGraphy
Photo credit: QGraphy
Photo credit: QGraphy
Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy
Photo credit: QGraphy

Finally, the Queen’s take on LGBTQ rights!

Photo credit: QGraphy

Rainbow Voices Mumbai to perform with London’s Pink Singers for Queer Azadi

“With the transformative power of music, we wish to imagine a future free of discrimination, oppression, ignorance and prejudice, to speak for the voiceless, the silenced, and those awakening to who they are, and to encourage compassion and activism.” – Aditya Khare, Rainbow Voices Mumbai

Rainbow Voices Mumbai choir are joining forces with London’s Pink Singers, to bring home the message of love on January 27, 2017 at the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai. Unlike other concerts, this concert has not been commercialised with sale of tickets for the show, in the hope of creating awareness about the issues that the LGBT community faces and its struggles to find an identity in present day India. Instead, the Rainbow Voices Mumbai has decided to give passes to the donors of their crowdfunding campaign which ended yesterday on Ketto.org. Though the goal was to reach Rs. 6,00,000, the campaign has managed to raise only Rs. 2,83,925.

However, the choir will continue to accept donations for the show. People interested in contributing can still donate offline at their stall during the Gulabi Mela, Pride’s Pre-March Fair to be held on the 22nd of January 2017 between 4PM to 9PM in Juhu, Mumbai. Apart from that, people can also contact them through their Facebook page and donate. All donors will get a donor pass for the show. This money will be used to cover the cost of the venue, performance licenses, programs, publicity, sound, lighting, recording, costumes and make up, and accompanists.

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London’s Pink Singers calls itself “a fun, friendly LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) choir based in London.” The choir has been singing since 1983, and claims to be the longest-running LGBT choir in Europe.

Rainbow Voices Mumbai: What about lesbian and transgender members?

Started in 2014 by Vinodh Philip and Sibi Mathen, Rainbow Voices Mumbai claims to be India’s first LGBT choir. With their music ranging from Classical English to Bollywood, the intent seems to be to keep their music open to different kinds of audiences though the twenty-four member choir consists predominantly of gay and bisexual men and only one heterosexual woman. Presently, the choir does not have any lesbian or transgender members. On why the LGBT choir does not have lesbian women or transgender members, Khare only said that the choir plans to expand its work.