From a Smart City to a Sustainable City? 

                       First Published on RESURJ , 13th Feb 2018 as part of Reflections.

City’s governing body’s plans are used to shape the work and infrastructure in the city over a period of time. When Bangalore Development Authority released the master plan for 2031, at Hidden Pockets Collective we saw this as an opportunity to look at the gendered needs in the city and highlight the same. As any new developing city, it had all the proponents of development. It had allocation for industries, it had allocation for roads, and it very much was based on a design of a concrete city. What seriously affected us was the lack of imagination employed by the urban designers in including vision of a young women living in this city?

Smart City has been one of the key visions of the present government which has allocated resources for designing 100 smart cities by the end of 2020. Several cities have been submitting proposals to be accepted by the government. Some of the features smart city mission are access to the open spaces, walkable localities and strong emphasis on tech based solutions.

There is a lack of gender lens employed in the smart city solutions, not reflecting the lived experiences of people from the marginalised communities living in these smart cities. For example, in Bangalore- The IT Capital of India, the latest Draft solution by the governing authority emphasised  more on developing lands for industries and technology, than concerns of women, persons from disabled community, migrant community, children and old persons.

This silence over including experiences of citizens in the draft model of smart cities results in lopsided development. As part of allocating resources, there was nothing mentioned about street lighting on the streets or footpaths for pedestrians to walk. There are so many cases of harassment in specific dense areas but this has not resulted in any allocation of resources concerning safety for people of different genders in these specific areas.

Cities are the future blocks of the sustainable economy and members states of international community have come to accept this in the form of Sustainable Development goals (SDG). SDG11 discusses about sustainable cities with a transformative agenda that believes everyone must have a dignified life and create preconditions that allow people to grow and flourish.Some of the targets of Goal 11 clearly provides for  accessible transportation and green and safe public spaces. which can be used by people with disabilities, older people,  women children.

Indian cities need to re-look at the some of these targets and have to understand the value of making sustainable cities over smart cities. Cities cant exist in vacuum and not including concerns of its citizens, further make the citizens of these cities prone to various harm in the future. The cities have to see value in making inclusive cities which are made sustainable using the right amount of balance of information from both the technology and its living beings.

 

Image Credit : Jasmine Lovely George

Podcast: Own your city: Pune #makeyourcityinclusive

What are some of your favorite spots in the city? Which places do you enjoy going the most to in your city? Hidden Pockets presents,”Own your city.”

This is the first of a series where we will talk about unique and exciting spots in a city that happen to be favorites with the women living in those cities. So where will our first stop be? It is none other than Shaniwarwada: Pune.

“Kaka, mala vachva”, “Kaka, mala vachva” are the first words you’ll hear as you enter this haunted palace called Shaniwarwada. For everyone, who is wondering what these Marathi words mean, it simply means, “Uncle, save me”, “Uncle, save me.” This is the first piece of information our intern, Aishwarya shared with us. Mind you, Pune is her most cherished city. You’ll see how she does a great job of proclaiming her relentless love  to Pune and Shaniwarwada all through this podcast.

This spot has been popular for centuries altogether and it continues to attract people of all generations and from all walks of life. If you are a history buff, an arts enthusiast, an architecture lover, a tourist or simply a seeker of knowledge, this is your go to spot.  If you haven’t already made this trip, don’t worry! This is your chance to get onto a virtual trip by listening to Aishwarya and transposing yourself to this mansion; feeling no less than our Mastani leaping out of the saga Bajirao Mastani.

Stay tuned to listen to Aishwarya describe the scintillating beauty of this mansion and the enamor exhilarated by the edifices therein. Don’t miss a moment of this talk if you want to have this fun filled virtual tour. I am excited to make this trip. Are you? So fasten your seat belts and let’s get ready for our very own city, Pune!!

Host and Voice Artist: Aishwarya Chordiya
Pic Credit: Being Punekar.
Music Credit: Audionautix.com and Bensound

 

P.S.:  Every 2nd Friday of the month we would take you to a different place in your city.
Join us to explore these places 🙂
Contact us if you want to narrate your city’s stories @ aisha.george@hidden-pockets.com

Reach for the stars, rainbow and beyond! #makeyourcityinclusive goes to Kochi

Add some red

Some green

May be some yellow

A dash of blue

Definitely some orange

Don’t forget the violet

And finally make some room for some indigo

Mix it altogether and get the wildest, most colourful and happiest rainbow!

Rainbow is one of the most inclusive symbols and rightly so. It has room for all colours. You can be blue and yet be yellow. You can be any colour you want to be and you’d still find your space in a rainbow because that is how cool a rainbow is.

With #makeyourcityinclusive being in its next phase, it only made sense for us at Hidden Pockets to use a rainbow. But why use a rainbow while launching our campaign in Kochi?

As we all know Kerala is the most literate state in India. Often, education does not go beyond just literacy. It does not necessarily translate into any change in behaviour. It is true education when that shift in attitude happens. Kerala has truly pioneered in achieving that distinction by making its state inclusive of all going even beyond gender distinctions. It is the first state in the country to introduce a welfare policy for transgenders in 2015. In 2016, the government introduced free Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) and further allocated budgets for employment and skill training progress for the transgender community, introduced Gender Taxi’s driven by the transgenders, all in an effort to remove the social stigma around them.

With all this happening in Kerala, it only made sense for our campaign to move to this state in its next phase. Being alive, open and the hub for anything cultural, Kochi became our next destination to be. We’d like to capture life and stories around inclusivity in Kochi and the state of Kerala. Let’s make an example out of Kochi, an inspiration for others. Tell us about the Hidden Pockets in your  city. What is your safe spot? What makes it safe? Where should we go when we visit Kerala? What are your recommendations? Tell us all about your city and your state in the form below. We are listening!

Follow the hashtag #makeyourcityinclusive for other updates on our campaign. Coming soon to other cities too!

About #makeyourcityinclusive:

#makeyourcityinclusive is Hidden Pockets’ campaign on making all cities inclusive, making everyone more inclusive. Tell us about all the places in your city that are disabled-friendly, open to single women even late at night, safe for senior citizens or not homophobic. How do we talk openly about mental health? Is your city inclusive to all them and more?

Kolkata tumi shotti City of Joy: Netizens take-on Mocambo on Zomato #makeyourcityinclusive

From 5388 reviews at 11:45am on 13 sept, 2016 to 5774 at 4:24 pm the same day, Mocambo’s Zomato page has been on a review marathon, constantly pulling its rating down! 386 reviews in 4 hr 40 min!

With almost all the ratings since September 12 being 1.0, Mocambo’s ratings have fallen from 4.5 to 1.8 on Zomato!

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It all started with a Facebook post by Dilashi Hemnani whose only wish was to have dinner with her driver Manish Bhaiya who took her around Kolkata during her official visit to the city. You can read Dilashi’s account here.

“Staff : Ma’am we can’t give you a table
Me : But why ?
Staff : who are you with
Me : subtly pointing towards Manish bhaiya .
Staff : aahhh….Ma’am he is not properly dressed .”

Mocambo established in 1956 is one of the most noted eateries of Kolkata, serving old-style Kolkata Continental (Khansama) cuisine. It is one of the remnants of the British Raj. After this incident it still seems to be thriving in the times of “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.

We do not have a dress code. But at least a person should be neat and clean. He was having roadside jhalmuri, walking around and grazing people. That is not acceptable. How could you have a roadsider coming in to your restaurant? This is not a dhaba.” Mocambo’s response to the incident as reported in Vagabomb.

But the ‘fine dine establishment’ did not anticipate the wrath that saying no to a humble human being, (a ‘roadsider’ according to them) could bring them. Incidents of entry being denied to people of a certain class keeps popping up every now and then but what Kolkata did to Mocambo was unique and worth an applause!

The virtual world of the Internet and social media is a very powerful tool. The moment Dilashi’s Facebook post went viral, the hashtag #BoycottMocambo began trending on Facebook. People from Kolkata got to task. They hit where it hurts most. They targeted the restaurant’s Zomato ratings, meanwhile creating a buzz over Twitter and Facebook alike. Zomato is a popular application that is used as our restaurant finder anytime we are hungry. The restaurant’s ratings dropped from 4.5 to 1.8 on Zomato. The reviews are still trickling in every minute lambasting the restaurant for its racism. This incident has showed us two things – netizens still have a human heart and two, never disrespect a human being for the class they belong to.

We do wish to give back the good that Manish bhaiyas in our lives give us daily. We do wish to serve them back, in the little ways we can. It is not about the give and take but about acknowledging a fellow human being. Kolkata, which is known as the city of joy, gave us immense joy with it’s response to the Mocambo incident. It showed us that irrespective of the size of the institution, you cannot combat the power of the people. What this online protest has brought out is that people do believe in inclusivity. They do want their cities and restaurants to be inclusive. Kolkata just did that!

It took a step forward in being inclusive. It took a step forward to make Mocambo realise the change in attitude of the people in the times that we live in. It showed us that the city and its people still has a soul! And hopefully Mocambo realises its mistake and do what Vir Sanghvi suggests in his tweet!

Be inclusive! Be happy!

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Have stories to tell about your city? Tell us here – https://form.jotform.me/62413021206438

Chennai Namma Ooru: Reflections of a thankful heart #makeyourcityinclusive

Quite often you hear of a place and even without going there your heart tells you in an instant that you are going to be welcomed there.

As a young girl from Rajkot (A small city in Gujarat), I had just finished my schooling and first came to Chennai to pursue my college education. I still remember, as I walked through the corridors of the airport I smelled a sense of happiness. It was a different air. Those smiling faces asking me if I want a taxi , the sight of a lanky fellow pouring filter coffee from one cup to another, a group of auto drivers bellowing in Tamil – a language that was completely unknown to me then, all that spoke to me. It somehow told me that I was home.

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The scorching heat of the city didn’t disturb me at all. One just learns to live with it, and like it. There was a sense of freedom that I experienced which I couldn’t define then but I was delighted and excited. Chennai has its own distinct identity in every little thing. The paintings of the Chief Minister on the walls, the names of the shops written in Tamil , the ladies wearing Mallipoo (jasmine flowers) in their hair , the men riding bikes wearing stark white lungis, it always seems like a beautiful organised chaos.

Chennai has often been called insular as a city but I see this notion in a completely different perspective. The city has always maintained its flavour and culture. The people are fanatic about the language and one has to learn Tamil in order to become a part of the place, but haven’t we all heard that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do“!!!

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I learnt Tamil in the first six months of my stay in Chennai to be at one with the city. I had always heard that Tamil is the most difficult language to learn but for me it was a piece of cake. Moreover, people looked at me with respect when I spoke to them in Tamil because they recognised the efforts that I was putting in to be accepted. Not only did I get encouraged to learn a new language in detail but they also allowed me to make mistakes while speaking and corrected them without judging me.

I loved the city even more because it gave me the confidence to step out of my house without any self-doubts or second thoughts. I liked the fact that I could travel in the city wearing anything simple and inexpensive because nobody would look down upon me because of my clothes. There is always an astonishing simplicity found in the people of Chennai which will build an immediate affectionate camaraderie with them and will only make you feel safe and less self-conscious.

Over time I fell in love with the city even more. The fact that a metro city can give you the comfort of simple living and access to the big malls and beaches both at the same was a pleasant feeling and needless to say it made me feel inclusive.

Often when I look around, I see people dancing on the streets to Tamil songs blaring out of huge speakers. I see an old man wearing thick rimmed glasses and he gives me a one toothed smile while crossing the road. A middle aged man waits at the bus stop in scorching heat but has a look of satisfaction on his face probably because he has sweated enough for the day for his carnival of needs. I see beautiful dark skinned ladies speaking broken English and trying to sell their catch of fishes to people who don’t speak or understand Tamil. I take a second glance at all of them and I find my definition of freedom. Amidst the hullaballoo of life and density of purpose I see equality, peace, happiness, liberation, innocence and how everybody is weaved together through a common language of love and trust, and that is Chennai – Namma Ooru.

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Article and Images by Siddhi Pujara

Author Profile:

Siddhi Pujara is a media professional and works as an Executive Producer for films. Her career spans from Bollywood to Kollywood and she has also worked for the Hindi Feature film, “Happy New Year”. She is a film enthusiast and takes a keen interest in writing as well. She is currently residing in Chennai and divides her time between producing Tamil feature films, writing & photography. She can be reached at siddhi.7@gmail.com

5 obstacles that make pedestrian lives difficult in India #makeyourcityinclusive

25 seconds to cross the double lane road at the signal near the Qutub Minar metro station? How illogical is it? And there’s definitely no thought given to a disabled or an elderly who might have to cross the road. The thought is scary because it is heavy traffic road with cars zooming past you in jet speed. The city roads are only for vehicles it seems. The pedestrians do not even cross the minds of the urban planner.

The more I walked, the more I got to know of the roads where you can walk and where you can’t. Meaning there are stretches where there are footpaths for us pedestrians. Some are broken with potholes and then there are no footpaths at all.

Here are some of the observations that hinder walking in cities based on the roads that I have walked on.

1.Lack of proper Parking. Roadside car parking reduces walking space.

To walk freely you need space to walk. When footpaths are difficult to reach due to the way the cars have been parked, you end up walking on the road. With parked cars taking over the roads, there’s little space for the moving ones. Walking becomes a daredevil act since your chances of getting hit increases.

 

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2. Maintain the Footpaths, clean it so that it’s a smooth walk.

The sight of a footpath is a happy feeling but walking on it is no less of a trauma. The rugged footpath will make you walk on the roads anyway, because the pedestrian paths are filled with everything else other than the space to walk. And then there are the hidden stretches behind the cars! I once managed to reach it and the filth over it made me go back to the road. I did manage to find a by-lane which was meant only for pedestrians but two-wheelers and autos had even reached there.

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3. Not Disabled Friendly

There are no paved or tactile paths to guide a visually impaired person. In Delhi University’s North Campus region the footpaths do have a paved path but get discontinued all of a sudden as an obstacle in the form of a tree emerges. The ramps in most places are broken which make it inaccessible for wheelchairs. “A student of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), who uses a motorised wheelchair, said: “The footpaths are just not accessible. They are broken at many points and ramps are not constructed properly. Most importantly, there is no space on the footpaths for a wheelchair to move. People park vehicles on the footpath and obstruct it.” “- The Hindu (2014)

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Tactile or paved paths on foothpath Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia

4.Crossing the road in limited time: Get set, Go!

At the road near the Qutub Minar metro station, the traffic signal goes red for less than a minute to cross both the lanes. It sounds insane. It was around 9pm at night and the pedestrians had to run past it, with our hearts pounding hard with anxiety. It only left us thinking are we pedestrians even thought about while planning such minute and important issues.

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Representational image Photo Courtesy : www.mapsofindia.com

5. Water clogging after rains makes footpaths inaccessible

With roads turned into unidentified water-bodies, you cannot avoid stepping into dirty water. The clogging is such that reaching the footpath becomes an impossible task. We do await rains to relieve us of the hot weather but once here, we just wish that it stops. Not only pedestrians but also the traffic comes to a standstill. It was only a few days back that #DelhiRains was trending on Twitter because of the traffic issue.

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Making the road inclusive for all would require infrastructure like a well-maintained footpath, a zebra crossing and sensible traffic signal clock.

What we also need is civic sense! The pot holes can be mended by the authorities but we need to keep the sidewalks clean. A zebra crossing can be provided but we need to stop our cars behind the zebra crossing and not on it.

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To me, walking is a leisure activity which I choose to do. But the cities need to be made walkable because there is still a major chunk of population who are bound to walk because they have no other alternative. #makeyourcityinclusive not only in thought but also in practice.

Tell us what are the obstacle you face as pedestrians in your cities in the comments section below. Making roads inclusive will be a step further to #makeyourcityinclusive.

Have stories to tell about your city? Tell us here – https://form.jotform.me/62413021206438

Photo Credits: Pallavi (Instagram: @aabra_ka_daabra)

How dark is defined as fearsome and light as ‘safe’: Ghats of Kolkata

“Don’t even dare step into Loha Ghat or Ram Chandra Goenka bathing ghat. Drunks, ruffians, eunuchs, dead animals and mounds of filth greet you on the half broken staircases. At Loha Ghat, pavement dwellers drink in the open and prostitutes solicit clients. “At night it turns into a drug den and sleaze shop,” says a priest who lives in the temple just outside the Mullick Ghat Pumping station.” – Times Of India (2010)

For centuries, the ghats of Ganga have been a crucial part of Kolkata and the growth of civilisation around it. Ironically, the ghats became a sight of decay and despair due to low maintainence by the riverine authorities, dilapidated and on the verge of extinction. In the recent past, the ghats have earned notoriety given the presence of anti-social elements as well.

Kolkata has multiple such ghats namely the Princep Ghat, the Outram Ghat, the Armenian Ghat etc. All are relics of the British Raj named after scholars and Generals from that era. I have been a frequent visitor to Kolkata, thanks to my Bengali roots. The ghost of such narratives have haunted my visits as well.

I remember visiting the Outram ghat once as a child, that too in the morning. I have faded memories about how it looked but the serene feeling that the sight of the river gave me, is still pristine in my memory.

Every time I visit Kolkata during my summer holidays, my requests to visit Ghats were met with the ‘unsafe’ narrative. Interestingly, even a google search cannot pinpoint any major incident there but the elders said prevention is better than cure. So I was taken to some market instead.

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In 2012, to my amazement my family said yes to me visiting the Ghats, mentioning how beautiful the place has become. I immediately got my camera and was all ready. We reached Princep Ghat and I had the “my entire life was a lie” feeling. The lively atmosphere, the street lights, the people, the asthetics of the place made me question the ‘unsafe’ narrative that I had grown up listening to.

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Post 2012, every time I have visited Kolkata I have made it a point to visit the Princep Ghat. It is a sheer pleasure to the eyes. You can walk around, have an ice-cream sitting at Scoop with the enchanting view of the Ganges and the Hugli Bridge or enjoy the tangy phuchkas (water-cups), the spicy pav-bhaji and the zesty bhel-puris from the stalls nearby. Or even go on a ferry ride.

With an online search, I found out that the present TMC Government has taken up the Riverfront Beautification Project to bring these ghats back to its former glory.

Several beautification drives have been undertaken in collaboration with Urban Development Department and Municipal Engineering Directorate which includes installation of artistic street lights, beautification of waterfront along the Hooghly from Princep Ghat to Millennium Park, renovation of 16 ghats along the banks of Hooghly, beautification of medians along the 16 major roads in the city etc.” as per TMC’s official website. (2015)

As a visitor who has been part of the memory of the dominant anti-social narrative of the place, the way this beautification project has changed the dynamics of it, is really fascinating. The presence of lights have brought people out in the evenings. It is not only giving the city a new safer narrative of the Ghats, but is also making the place more inclusive.

Why is dark unsafe?

I couldn’t help but smile at the transformation that putting up of street lights has brought to the place. The connection between lights and safety intrigues me. Why is dark unsafe and anti-social? What is this mystery in the darkness that asks us to avoid the night? What happens in villages where there’s little or no light. People are okay with it, isn’t it? Sometimes I feel it is a modern way to look at ‘safety’. Our fears and biases latched on to the lights to avoid the dark, the evil, the bad, the unknown, maybe. I always keep thinking.

Sipping through my bhaa(n)d of cha (kullhad of chai), as we say in Bangla, I let the thought subside and immersed myself in the moment amongst the sea of people.

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Photo Credit:Pallavi (Instagram: @aabra_ka_daabra)

#makeyourcityinclusive: Delhi’s Jal Adhikar Scheme ensures water for all

“Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!”- Immortal Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

It is a dialogue from a telling scene of the plight that people face due to lack of access to water. In this 2015 movie Immortal Joe is the character who rules over the population. He controls the population by controlling the access to the water supply.

Similar was the situation of the slum dwellers and the residents of the irregular colonies in Delhi before the introduction of Jal Adhikar scheme. Delhi Jal Board tankers or private water suppliers were the Immortal Joe to the slum dwellers up untill now. Brawls and fight to get access to water from those tankers was a regular feature.

“Children climb up the trucks to put the pipes into the tanker and sometimes fall down leading to serious injuries and adults also tend to hurt each other physically when struggling for water,” says Ved Prakash, a residence, who runs a general store in the near by market. as per a report in YKA

The irregular colonies and slums till now were kept away from getting water connections. According to the Delhi Jal Board website there were a number of conditions based on which an area, society or individual gets a legal connection. “Water supply shall not be provided unless arrangement for proper disposal of waste water exists.” being one of those.

The Delhi slums and the irregular colonies which house a big population of the city, has access to none till now. This picture changes with the announcement of the Jal Adhikaar scheme on 29 Aug 2016 by Kapil Mishra the Water Minister and the Chairperson of Delhi Jal Board. As per the scheme now the Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) colonies are entitled to individual connections apart from the common pipeline. A plan for sewage treatment plants evades the clause of the presence of proper waste water disposal system to gain a legal connection.

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Twitter had different reactions to the scheme.

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On one hand where the scheme guarantees access to water to the JJ and irregular colonies, and villages, it also acknowledges the presence of the unauthorised colonies giving them an authorised status of sorts. It also brings in the concept of equal distribution of water irrespective of the profile of the area.

Water is an elixir of life. Life without water is unimaginable. And this scheme, at least in conception provides a human status to all its citizens irrespective of the economical background and the area one belongs to.

Although it is a step forward to think of cities in an inclusive manner by providing one access to the basic necessities of life, only time will tell if the policy will really be effective. After all a good policy with bad implementation serves no good.

In the open gym of Jahapanah city forest!

“Don’t go there alone. It is quite unsafe.” said everyone from people to news articles.

“Our maids use it because it connects Govindpuri to Greater Kailash and Alaknanda region during the day but avoid it post 5pm.”

The vastness and the anti-social narrative of the place is intriguing enough to call for a visit to the Jahapanah city forest. It has multiple entry points from Sheikh Sarai, Govindpuri, Tughlaqabad, and Chirag Delhi etc. You can take the Gate no. 1, opposite Don Bosco School in Greater Kailash 2 as it is quite close to the M-block market.

Maintained by the Delhi Development Authority the forest gates open from 5 am to 10am in the morning and 4pm to 6pm in the evening. Once you enter you will feel as if you are in a well maintained park than a forest. Frankly speaking the jogging tracks and the presence of too many people will make you feel that you are at the right place. Walking a little further you reach an open gym where you will see women of all age groups. Little girls accompanying their mothers, middle aged women, adolescent girls and few men.


Source : Hidden Pockets Youtube Channel

 

It is a sight that will leave you gaping. It is that unbelievable.

But what one wonders is that; isn’t this place supposed to be unsafe? How come the google never leads one to this open gym? Why isn’t this a part of people’s narrative about the place? Why do people discourage coming here at all?

As you approach the women, exercising vigorously you will that find they come here in the afternoon. It’s their time. Earlier they used to come here for a walk, to meet friends and now they come to exercise their lungs out at the gym. The gym got inaugurated in Feb 2016 by Member of Parliament Mrs. Meenakshi Lekhi.

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The women came from various parts of Delhi; Sangam Vihar, Govindpuri, and Tughlaqabad etc. For them this gym has given them the much needed ‘reason’ to their daily walk. Now they have made it a point to visit the city forest everyday. They wait for their turns and maintain the decorum of the open gym. You can sit and try your hands at the biceps/triceps building machine! The gym has the arm machine for both men and women which I was informed  about while trying out the men one unknowingly.

Since nothing is written on it you might wonder how one knows which one is for whom?  One of the women there said that she figured it out based on the weight of the machine. So she assumed that the heavier one was for men. Asking further about the other machines she added that most of them are unisex apart from the arm ones. She mentioned that she is a homemaker and that afternoon is her time of the day which she uses to loiter around the city forest and exercise.

One never thought that an open gym can bring out so many women. It’s a pleasure pocket amidst the city for these homemakers. It has turned their afternoon siesta time into a fiesta.

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You can take different gates and see how the view and feel of the place changes. The gate no. 7 has a Dargah the moment you enter and that has a more foresty feel to it. But that too is used by people from all age groups alike. The city forest becomes a melting pot of sorts and makes the city dwellers converse with each other. It gives both access to the various pockets of Delhi, the free open gym, and the people. You will love the diversity. You will find that it is a pleasure pocket and not one to be feared off.

It also makes you think how a rumour can stop you from venturing out. So stop believing them until you visit the place yourself. I have started doing that. And believe me, Jahapanah City Forest has been a unique experience because of the open gym and the friendly women around.

You go there once, you will keep going back!

Photo Credit: Pallavi