Pleasure Pockets around Agara Lake of Bangalore

As part of 2018 Women’s Day special, we at Hidden Pockets Collective, decided to walk around recently inaugurated Agara Lake. We were happy to realise that the inauguration coincided  with our pleasure pockets walk 🙂

 

 

We were intrigued to realise that there was this beautiful lake right in the centre of the bustling Hosur Sarjapur Road (HSR Layout) and people were yet to discover the joys of this public place.

 

 

Armed with umbrellas, phones and our spirit we went for a pleasure pockets walk, looking for spots.

 

 

There were plenty of women who had joined us, who were already there ready with running shoes.

 

 

It was simply a beautiful view to look at the sunset next to this lake in the city.

 

 

It was beautiful to see this poster of a woman with message on planting of trees.


Image Credit : Sekulu Nyekha

Walking the New Years Eve on MG Road, Bangalore

2016’s New Years Eve started with horrific images of New Year Celebrations at MG Road in Bangalore. People had gone wild, women were groped and pretty much everybody had a bad night. This is what the media wanted us to believe. For days there were national debates around women’s safety, Indian cultural values and everything one could think to spoil a party. Nobody really asked anyone about what could have been done differently. At Hidden Pockets, we were bit scared of the consequences ensuing post this traumatic night. In response, we resorted to walks. We decided to conduct a pleasure pockets walk in one of the lanes behind Christ University, a lane which was full of young people. We curated a walk, where people from very different backgrounds came together, discussed, fought and amongst all of this, walked. A lot of people questioned the nuances of safety, some of them shared their fears and some of them even disclosed their own prejudices against some communities. But we all had one thing in common; we really wanted to have fun and spend some good time together.

This was the background, so to my utter surprise when preparations for New Years Eve for 2017 began, the focus was completely on putting CCTVs, installing around 10,000 police personnels and putting barricades everywhere possible. I was amused by this focus on providing security to young women from young men. There was an almost whisper going around that this year also things would go bad. People would be assaulted. After all, Sunny Lione was banned from performing in Bangalore city. Surely, the city was not ready to handle fun.

At this same time, some of the students from research institutions and colleges from Bangalore  were getting agitated as well as saddened by the situation. They were one of those few bystanders who had witnessed the commotion at 2016 New Years Eve. Yes, it was bad, Yes, they had to protect their friends, but still wanted to go out and see the commotion. How does one make a public place safer?

Extremely tough question : How does one make a public place safer? A question that we at Hidden Pockets have been unravelling with.  How do we take back these public places, and ensure that women would like to go back to these spaces, feel comfortable and at the same time enjoy their time there. We have been conducting walks in various cities looking for this answer. Be it Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore or Delhi, what makes us leave the roads and stay inside to the extent we have forgotten public places.

As part of the solution, we decided that we would curate a walk for New Years Eve on 31st Dec 2017. Not at all an easy decision. Not something that our parents would have agreed off. Not after the media reportage of the 2016 night. There was nothing to look forward, nothing to be hopeful about.

But there were this bunch of college students who wanted to be there, who wanted to ensure these places are accessible for everyone.

After all, who were we actually scared off? 

So we started conversations, meetings, discussions, wherever possible ask those uncomfortable questions. How can we make roads safer? Who are we scared off? What if police tell us not to proceed with the walk? What if the crowd goes beyond control? What will we tell people? Why should anyone trust us?

As clearly observed, we did not start on positive note, it was a lot of self-doubt, fear as well as fear of the invisible stranger. We did not have much to hold on to, and even the optimist amongst had a tough time keeping the spirit of people up throughout these conversations. After all, women safety had become the utmost issue in the world, and here we were trying to take back a lane in a city that some of us were brought up.

 

On 31st night, most of us reached the starting point, around 2 hours before the midnight. We were completely not sure of the situation that we might be encountering. A lot of us had to back out, because lack of permission from parents, guardians and anyone who thought it was unsafe for anyone to be there at that time of the year. Remember, we are talking about New Years Eve in a metropolitan city like Bangalore in India, at the city center. Not just the guardians, a lot of us ourselves did not feel like being part of this narrative which had become completely about modern cities which are becoming decadent and about loss of cultural values. But there were some of us, who were still longing to be part of this mishmash of night, which had some real mixed signals to offer.

What is the night, if not fear of the stranger? 

Around 40 of us had gathered in front of the LIC building on MG Road. There were thousands of police everywhere with lathis. There were scores of young people around. There were plenty of people with their families also walking around and admiring the crowd, the noise and just seamless rush of people pouring into this part of the city.

I was busy noticing the strangers around. Most of them were men, walking around aimlessly, walking about in their own happy times. Some smoking, some busy taking selfies and most of them walking around in groups. As people trickled in for the walk, we started talking to each other, there were some senior people who had decided to join us and who happily told us that they had been coming for the New Years Eve as young boys, it was always like this crazy. It did surprise me. Such a waste of a night.

As the night progressed and we prepared ourselves for the walk, we did realise our original path curated for the walk, was blocked for security reasons. This is something that truly disappointed me. A beautiful path which could have been a great place for people to hold events was blocked because the government was scared of its own people. This was stupid, sad and at some level even kiddish. We still decided to continue with our walk.

The idea was simple, we will walk towards the celebrations as a group and maybe even attempt singing songs. Some of us sang, some of us attempted enjoying the sight around and some of were alert. It was not an easy walk.

With so many people running around, some people howling, some people screaming. It did get confusing after a point. Why was everyone shouting? Is this a way to celebrate an event?

We never reached the finish line. We stopped our walk in the middle of it, and decided to join the onlookers and stare at the sky. Yes, that is exactly what we did. We looked up in the sky, waiting for something awesome to happen.

 

No countdown, no fireworks, no Sunny Lione. It was not what I thought it could be.

 

This is small glimpse of it:


While I was returning post the midnight, post a walk that could have been much more, I thought about some of the strangers I hugged as the New Years approached, some of the strangers who protected me from some  men on the streets and some of the people who decided to join the walk; well they did not have anything else to do or maybe they were just lonely. I remember specifically this one girl who kept on insisting that we sing songs. While boys were howling, some of us even attempted singing “Hum honge kamyab”.

Images and Video courtesy : Sekulu Nyekha.

Hornbill Festival: Land of Festivals

A Glimpse of the Hornbill Festival celebrated in the ‘Land of festivals’.

  • Hornbill is the biggest festival celebrated in Nagaland and also in the Northeast region of India.

 

The Hornbill Festival is an annual festival which started in the year 2000 with a vision to showcase the tradition and culture of the Nagas as a form of preserving and celebrating it.

 

It is celebrated in the first week of December commencing from the 1St of December and is celebrated till December 10th.

Each day has it’s own set of competitions, contests, cultural shows etc. Such as, Photography contest, Miss Nagaland Beauty Pageant, WW2 Vintage Motor Rally and other competitions such as The Naga King Chili eating competition, Pork Belly Fat eating competition etc. which are greatly enjoyed by the crowd.

 

There are also stalls which sells arts and crafts, which includes paintings, wood crafts, doll making, traditional ornaments etc. Giving a platform for the Naga artists to promote themselves.

 

 

  • Handicrafts sold at Hornbill Fest

Hornbill International Rock Contest is also held during the festival which has the biggest prize money in the country. The contest is joined by competitors all over the country competing against each other for the prize money. This attracts audiences from all over the country, young and old. Bringing music lovers from all over the state and country together.

  • Pictures of the International Hornbill Rock Contest.

The Hornbill festival brings along with it, the celebration of the varied traditions of the Naga culture. It helps as a means of bringing unity among the varied tribes of the Nagas. This celebration of the festival showcases the richness of the Naga culture by letting other people from different cultures experience the culture of the Nagas by going back to their roots.

 

Image Courtesy : Menule Chirhah

Podcast: Own Your City – Cubbon Park – Bangalore

 

In this series “Own Your City”, we have Akarshitha  taking you to Bangalore, a city in the Southern part of India.  It is a city that is famous for its gardens, malls, pubs, food and lovely streets. In this walk, Akarshitha focuses on Cubbon Park, a beautiful park situated right in the middle of the city. She takes us through memory lanes and shares her stories around this park. To find out the various stories that unfold in this park, go ahead and listen to this podcast.

 

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

Designer explores clothes and gender using Mohiniyattam and drag

“I think that a lot of feel people feel that clothes restrict a person by their gender and the idea is to reject gender conformism,” – Aishwarya Ravi

The Bangalore-based fashion photographer recently released a thought-provoking photo series in collaboration with drag performer, Alex Mathew (and his drag persona, Mayamma). The pictures throw light on the substantiality of the part played by fashion and clothing in the perpetual formation of gender roles in the society. It explores how in most societies, what most people would consider ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ is largely affected by the kind of clothes the human body is sheathed in. However, once in a while, these gender roles are challenged. This project was one such attempt. Although Aishwarya’s degree is in International Business and International Integrated Studies, she has followed her passion of designing, styling and photography since she was a teenager.

Exploring gender fluidity through the drag lens

Aishwarya’s first experience with drag occurred when she was in Paris at the age of fifteen. Though it initially seemed funny to her, she realized that some of the drag performers were men and some were transgender women. She was tempted to go backstage and take a look at their hair and makeup.

“What you see on the face of it is extremely boisterous, flamboyant performers with heavy costumes, wigs and make up, but when you go backstage, you can see the differences. Some of them might have gone under the knife, they try really hard to be feminine because they are really trying to find themselves and some of them are just men who do it for fun.

There is a stigma around drag in general in India. It is not a concept that one can explore and people are not really open to it. When I met Alex, I was surprised in a really positive way. Keeping in mind the unacceptability of drag in India, I felt it was really brave of him to just put his work out there” – Aishwarya Ravi

 

Alex Mathew has been performing drag since September 2014. Despite all the hitches that he has faced being a drag queen, Alex never really stopped. It was this perseverance that sparked the creative connection between Aishwarya and Alex. When the two met, they realized that their interests were congruent and their convictions matched. As a queer man proud of his identity, Alex was open to the idea of the project. Aishwarya dismisses the idea that a person belonging to any gender should submit to given set of roles and rules defined by the society.

“A lot of people think that blue is a guy’s colour and pink is a girl’s colour. You see that in even hospitals. If it’s a baby girl, everything in the room is pink and everything will be blue and bold if it is a boy. I find this concept so stupid because before the cold war, men actually wore pink and it was associated with masculinity. It was only after the cold war that men started wearing blue and gender roles came to be associated with colours,” she adds.

She points out that in the photos, there is coordination in colours and the background was specifically chosen to go from blue to pink.

Wo(man): Two sides of the same coin

Many labels have been laid down by the society as conformed prescriptions to dress, talk or even just be. In this photoshoot, they (Aishwarya and Alex) have attempted to challenge this notion of confinement of genders by colours, claims Aishwarya.

Though drag is identified more with exaggeration and elaborate costumes, to Aishwarya drag is more about the performance. Reason enough, the duo decided to try something different. Inspired by the costume of Mohiniyattam, a classical dance form from Kerala, Aishwarya designed a gender-agnostic jumpsuit that Alex could wear as not just Maya, but as Alex as well. To her, Alex and ‘Maya, the drag queen’ are actually two sides of the same coin and Maya is just one of Alex’s alter egos. Aishwarya wanted the outfit to be provocative and unconventional, unlike normal jumpsuits. A little head crown was also added to the costume as a finishing touch to bring out the persona of a queen. The message of the project was one of gender neutrality.

“The piece itself is a performance piece but drag to both of us, isn’t just about a person, it’s also about their attitude and personality”, she says.

Shakespeare once said, “Clothes maketh the man”. How true this is in its complete literal sense! This photo series triggers people to ask this very question. Now that LGBTQIA issues are being thrown under the spotlight, it is becoming easier to step outside the threshold of binary gender and explore gender expression in a much more diverse manner. With the emergence of gender labels like ‘gender fluid’, ‘gender non-conforming’, ‘gender non-binary’, ‘gender variant’, it becomes much more complex than a simple question of ‘man’ or ‘woman’. When human beings themselves cannot be put into simple boxes labeled ‘male’ and ‘female’, how can their clothes conform to particular gender roles?

Model: Alex Mathew

Concept, Styling, Designing, Direction, Photography: Aishwarya Ravi

MUA: Ria Khimji

About the writer:

Purnima P.V is pursuing History(Hons) from Miranda House, University of Delhi. Although a huge history buff, sociology is her one true love. She is also a photographer by passion. She describes herself as an ambivert, an amateur traveler, an avid reader with a special interest in the genre of fictional non-fantasy, a politically opinionated feminist, and an ally as well as a member of the LGTBQIA community.

#PleasurePockets: Women in Public Places in Kohima

Women in Public Places in Kohima.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Courtesy :Sekulu Nyekha

Sekulu Nyekha is currently pursuing Bachelor of Vocation in Visual Communication, Performing Arts and Psychology at Jyoti Nivas College, Autonomous. This photo essay is part of her summer internship.

Where do you feel safe in Ahmedabad? #pleasurepockets

Dhaval from Ahmedabad on behalf of Hidden Pockets, asked residents of Ahmedabad, where did they feel safe and why. Most of the respondents were women and it was interesting to realize though they loved some of the spots on this map, there were places they would have loved to visit, if only the narratives around those spots were different.

For most of the residents of Ahmedabad, food was a great source of pleasure, and it also justified the presence of so many women in public places; for their love of food, brought them out.

#pleasurepockets walk in Jaipur

When you are a stranger in a new city, the best way to get a feel of your new neighborhood and to map out interests close to you, is by foot. This essentially means long walks through a maze of streets, buildings, bazaars and the works.

Many cities in India have a reputation for being ‘unsafe’ post sundown. Walks and vigils have been conducted across the globe by professionals, student bodies and others alike who, like us, believe that the streets (no matter what time of the day) must not be feared in any respect. These streets were made with a sole intention of public use in mind and if that purpose expires with the setting of the sun, it is lost and the forces in play that perpetuate the visage of it being unsafe automatically get the upper hand. This is what we aim to stop. Reclaiming the streets is more than just speaking out for our rights to use them at any given time, it is also about us debunking the myths that surround certain spaces. This is a problem that affects both women and men.

Hidden Pockets is back to its walking spree and this time we are busy reclaiming the streets of Jaipur. Join us as we walk the streets of Jaipur and enjoy these streets 😉