What happens when a gynaecologist, a poet and a man walk into the room?

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Write to us at hiddenpocketsinfo@gmail.com
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With four lovely performers and three speakers, Hidden Pockets and Krantikalli for #Sep28 campaign took this initiative to bring young people together and talk about Women’s Health and the City. The best part was that we had a gynecologist with us as a speaker. Dr. Suchitra is a medical officer for Family planning Association of India at the Delhi branch. Having a gynecologist among us made the audience very excited. The youngest in the crowd was a 16 years old performer.

The event was conducted at the Playground Creative House in Defense Colony, Delhi. The event started with two of the lovely performers reciting their poems. Brindalakshmi through her poems voiced the need for Red Lipstick, as if every women in the room was dying to put the red lipstick but was scared.  Anuradha recited her poetry in Hindi wherein she connected various different women and their struggles with health. Ankita spoke about body shaming and loving our own bodies while Amia brought a young adolescent’s anxieties into the room. The room was filled with an aura where we all had some questions to be answered. We all could connect with the poems, and we all connected with each other.

To the make the evening more interesting, we had our speakers next.  We had three speakers, Aisha from Hidden Pockets Collective, who mapped public health centers, and is a single women staying in a metropolitan city, went first. Second was Nitin, a man in a women’s meet, who spoke about how important it is to be a part of such discussions. As a partner, a brother and a friend, he wanted to be more engaged in these issues and be more sensitive to such issues. And third was the gynecologist, Dr. Suchitra.

 

 

The conversation was mostly focused on discussing public health centers and how difficult it is for women to access health centers, followed by sharing of experience on how it felt to visit Family Planning Association for the first time. Nitin shared his experience about visiting clinics and understanding how important it is to visit these centers with your partners.  And then we had the gynecologist talking about safe abortion, about how it is a women’s right to get a safe abortion and also about myths related to abortion.

Slowly the audience in the room started opening up. And then one by one we had the women asking questions. There was an excitement as well as seriousness in the room. Excitement because women were finally asking questions directly to a gynecologist and seriousness because all were paying attention to what the doctor was saying. The questions were related to periods, methods to contraception, pregnancy, safe abortion etc..

The audience also got to know about FPAI (Family Planning Association of India).  FPA India envisages sexual and reproductive health for all as a human right, including gender equality leading to alleviation of poverty, population stabilization and sustainable development. They have clinics around India such as in Delhi, Agra, Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. We got to know how  FPAI follows ‘No Refusal Policy’ and also about how it gives importance to “after care” post having abortion and helps the person in understanding choices to contraception.

To sum up the beautiful evening, we had our performers recite their amazing poems. By the end a few still had questions, few looked content and while a few others were still in that fascinating aura.

Hidden Pockets Collective would like to thank out host partners @Krantikaali for helping us conduct this event in Delhi.

Pic credit: Riya Singh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast: What is pleasure for you – Tanzila Khan

Has anyone ever asked you what is pleasure for you? Tanzila Khan gets personal with Aisha Lovely George and shares her stories on this podcast. She tries to reclaim the word “pleasure ” from the sexual connotation. For her it’s success. She discusses her idea of body, idea of sexual fantasy and what all can be done with it.

Can you get pleasure without a partner? Can we have conversations about it without sex? Can it be about food? What all options do we have? Does sex restricts the idea of pleasure for some groups? Can woman talk about pleasure? Is there a guilt element that prevents women from engaging with the idea of sex? Is there a class angle, can it only be enjoyed by people from certain class? Do we all long for pleasure?

These are some of the questions with which Tanzila in this podcast asks us to expand our understanding of pleasure. A woman with disability tries to take back the idea of pleasure and fight for it.

Kishmish Products

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

Beauty through the eyes of a woman with physical disability: Tanzila Khan

The word body brings about a myriad of notions for women. The most obvious connotation of the word is around ‘body image’ referring to the outer beauty of a woman. There could not be a more painful misinterpretation of this word. Listen to Tanzila Khan, an inspiring motivational speaker from Pakistan, who overcomes her physical disability and redefines beauty for thousands of women who are struggling with body image issues each day. Khan goes on to motivate us to love our body and acknowledge the importance of taking care of oneself and recognizing the value of sexual and reproductive health care.

 

Ratnaboli Ray on sexuality of persons with psychosocial disabilities

Pleasure, Politics & Pagalpan was a conference that happened on May 13 & 14, 2017, on ‘Sexuality, Rights and Persons with Psychosocial Disability’ co- convened by Anjali and ARROW (The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women) with support from CREA. Speaking to Hidden Pockets about the conference, Ratnaboli Ray, Founder of Anjali shared about Anjali’s experience and understanding to do with sexuality of persons with psychosocial disabilities. Listen to a fascinating conversation with Ratnaboli Ray where she explains the deeper nuances involved in the lives of people living with psychosocial disabilities. Hope you enjoy!

 

Disclosure: Hidden Pockets is Media Outreach Partner for Pleasure, Politics and Pagalpan

Read more on Pleasure, Politics and Pagalpan

Pleasure, Politics and Pagalpan: What do those words really mean?

Pleasure, Politics & Pagalpan: Abilities, independence and consent of persons with psychosocial disabilities

“Medication for psychosocial disabilities have effect on sexuality” – Ratnaboli Ray, Anjali

“Seeking pleasure is seen as a sin and self-indulgent” – Ratnaboli Ray, Anjali

Has the sexual right of persons with psychosocial disabilities been forgotten?

 

 

 

Stories and Safe spaces in our work: SAHR

 The Role of Stories and Safe Spaces in Our Work 

“The idea this week is not to lecture or teach, but to experience.” – Sondos Shabayek, Workshop Facilitator

SAHR is a non-profit human rights organisation led by a global team of women with a mission to increase access to justice for women at the margins. We work in South Asia and the Middle East, bringing together expertise in human rights, law, academia and various forms of activism. The BuSSy Project is a Cairo-based performing arts initiative that documents and gives voice to censored, untold stories about gender in different communities.

Due to generous support from FRIDA, Shiva Foundation and Thomson Reuters Foundation in India, SAHR had the pleasure of hosting two members of the BuSSy Project in Mumbai where we conducted a five day workshop with our partners and peers. Hidden Pockets also participated in the workshop.

Empty Spaces

Just two weeks ago, 16 of us stood in an empty room to explore the use of storytelling in our work as women’s rights activists. This was the first time that BuSSy was conducting a workshop in India and the first time SAHR had held a workshop outside of our core work as experts in the law. This workshop represented a different part of our work – something that we call self advocacy. To us, self advocacy is about holding space for individuals and communities in contexts where empty spaces (space free of expectation) are not usually held. It is about asking why the voices of those at the margins are not heard as clearly as our own and understanding what role we can play in ensuring that these individuals have a chance to advocate for their own causes.

Participants of the workshop included lawyers, academics, social workers, therapists and journalists from across India, Singapore, U.K. and Afghanistan. Coming from fairly structured professions, we were intrigued; how could something as free-flowing as storytelling be joined up with something as structured as our work?

Before attending the workshop, we came in with the idea that they would learn about the different techniques and processes of documenting stories for our clients. Little did any of us know that in those five days each of us would don the hat of storyteller. By sharing our own experiences through stories, we left with a much greater sense of possibility about the power of storytelling for change.

Safe Spaces

One of the core learnings from this workshop was understanding the notion of a ‘safe space’ and how to create it. The idea being that the physical space (in this case, the room where the workshop was being held) would be a space where each of us could share our stories without those stories being taken out, without being judged and without expectation. In other words, a space where the storyteller knows that their stories are safe. As we learnt over the course of the workshop, creating a safe space is paramount in the process of story documentation since it enables a story-teller to trust the listener and share openly.

Several of the activities at the beginning of each day would be about building trust. Participants were not told that this was the aim of the exercises but, instead, they experienced the very act of building trust through participation. As the days progressed, we all eventually felt comfortable enough with the others in the room to share often deeply personal stories. Most of these exercises were simple and incorporated breathing, eye contact and games.

Creating a safe space also included some ground rules such as refraining from commenting or offering advice and practising empathy instead of sympathy when listening to another’s story. Before we knew it, we were peeling off our own layers in the safe space that we had created.

Sharing Our Stories

Throughout the workshop, every participant alternated between a storyteller (when sharing their individual stories) and listener (when listening to the stories of other participants). Each day would end with us sharing a story of our own. This included memories from school days, an experience of an incident on the street, a time we had asked someone not to leave and so on. Sometimes we simply told the story to a partner and other times we performed it as a small skit.

For me, one of the most powerful exercises that we did in the workshop was working in pairs. We shared our story with our partner who would then narrate it to the group in first person. Witnessing our stories being retold by another as though it had happened to them was an extremely powerful experience; I realised that my story which till now held meaning only for me, was actually a story worth sharing because of the impact which it had on a group of 15 others. I realised that no story was too trivial.

It was also powerful to feel that we did not have to do anything with our story. We could simply tell it. There was no need to use it for advocacy or a campaign. There was no need to add opinions or morals. It was transformative to simply share it and have others listen.

Role of Stories

Later in the week, we discussed the various forms of story documentation including comic strips, poetry, theatre, games, spoken word and more. We took inspiration from these but also began to understand how personal testimonies were the basis for all of them. We dove deeper into why personal testimonies (free of an agenda or goal) were key to capturing the reality of someone’s experience and how we could try our best to do that in our work.

Importantly, we also discussed the ethical concerns surrounding story-documentation including storyteller’s consent to have their stories shared/documented in a particular manner and our own responsibility when listening to someone sharing their stories. Given our work as lawyers, we were acutely aware of the power dynamics that could possibly play out with clients as well as the strict rules in which we tell “stories” in court. This workshop challenged us to think outside of these bounds.

As the workshop came to an end, we were bursting with ideas of how storytelling could be used in our own work and we’re excited to continue discussing these ideas in a monthly meeting we hope to now hold with the participants.

If you’re keen to join or learn more please feel free to contact nishma@sa-hr.org.

by 

Nishma Jethwa, Director at SAHR

Devika Agarwal, Member at SAHR

 

Jaipur Literature Festival: Journey of the last 10 Years

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

  • – John Adams

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How does one describe the experience that is the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF)? How does one reduce to paper, the sights, thoughts, music, food, art, creativity and positivity that burst from every part of the festival? One can only do so by borrowing the words of the 2nd President of the United States of America, which capture the essence of the JLF. During the festival introduction, Sanjoy Roy, the co-Director of JLF, elaborated this idea that festival had morphed over time, into a knowledge sharing event as well as a place where free speech was valued, encouraged and protected. NamitaGokhale and William Dalrymple, the co-Directors added the element of diversity of thought, expression and language, as themes represented through the JLF.With impeccable organisation, the courteous and friendly volunteers run the show with efficiency and minimum fuss. Queues for registration, book signings, and entry into events were regulated well. These minute details, merely enhance the experience one has at the JLF. The JLF is not merely a place where authors come to promote their books, with book stores strategically placed for easy purchases of those books. That is one aspect of the JLF. However, as a reader or as a writer, there was something at the JLF for both.

People normally attend as ardent booklovers, or fans of certain authors who are appearing at the JLF and leave with renewed passion. Some, however glean a different perspective; that of what it means to be a writer. As a booklover, the JLF is the way for us to look under the hood or behind the curtains, to understand how the magic is created. For people who enjoy writing (with or without publishing ambitions), the JLF presents a treasure trove of insight and experience of minds more systematic and confident where conveying thoughts is concerned. The renowned playwright, David Hare, remarked very aptly at the JLF this year, “Writing is a real skill”. It truly is. To have good grasp of situations, and describe them with appropriate choice of words, strung together in sentences that jolt the minds of readers, truly requires skill. It requires not only the command of a language, but also introspection, thinking and the discipline to reduce the words and ideas that float around in one’s head, to paper. Be it factual writing or storytelling, writing is a skill that only some truly possess.

One aspect of the JLF that is little discussed, is the way the relationship between the art form, the artist and the audience is brought out. It is not often thought of this way, but art is an interaction where the artist and the audience converse with art as the medium. Every author who spoke at the JLF brought out this relationship in their own ways. Each art form has rules and each artist makes, breaks, bends and moulds these rules to evoke feelings from their audience. Where literature is concerned, writers with their boundless imaginations, create and destroy worlds and push the boundaries of the readers’ comprehensions. Literary works make people think and feel. They are living creatures that connect minds. This idea of a collective conscience and connection through literature is a beautiful one, that emerged repeatedly at the JLF. It is as Anne Waldman remarkedin her address at the 2017 JLF; in a time where the world is polarised, art has a way of bringing people together by helping understand one another.Dr.AlkaPande in her address at the discussion on Indian Aesthetics, explaining that one aspect of aesthetics is sensuality, brought out the place of the “third gender”, in the Kama Sutra, The inclusivity of the JLF is unmistakeable, where speakers agree, argue, dissent and discuss a variety of issues.

 

 

With chai, available in abundance, and the beautiful weather, the 2017 JLF did what it set out to do ten years ago: provoke thoughts, create joy, spread knowledge and bring people from all walks of life together. There were school students from all over India, who had come to attend and broaden their minds. The JLF works with schools through a variety of ways to increase knowledge and awareness in schools across Rajasthan and other parts of India. The registration for the JLF was kept free with the idea that everyone should have a chance at engaging with other minds, to open their eyes to new thoughts and ideas. With sprawling stalls for food, clothes, bags, pretty diaries and jewellery, the JLF was a festival in the truest sense, as it celebrated life and all that is beautiful and positive about it. The festival popped colour, life, creativity and joy. It is a must attend event, simply because the experience rejuvenates one’s soul, by elevating their thinking, and a strong infuse of positivity.

About the author:

Shambhavi Ravishankar is a human rights lawyer and an ardent lover of writing and reading, who believes in the pen being mightier than the sword!

Images credit: Shambhavi Ravishankar

7 things you never notice while walking around Delhi

While I have to notice the potholes and the broken footpaths and the rough trails, there are things that I do pay attention to, even more. We forget to see the life in the everyday. Being part of the rat race, we forget to acknowledge the creations around in the process, because we are always in a hurry. We forget to smile! Delhi is a beautiful place to walk around. Walking is a pleasure to me. It is a leisurely evening walk that completes my day.

Here are few of the things that can bring a smile to our faces if we start to notice our surroundings!

1.The mesmerising skyline.

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 A wise man once said to me, “In life always look up as you walk. Your attitude matters.” And I took that really seriously. I always look at the sky as I walk and everyday I get to see a different hue a different formation of the clouds. This is what makes my day! Try doing this, it’s a lovely feeling.

 

2. The kaleidoscope that the traffic light, vehicle tail lights and nature create.

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Colours can brighten your life. And nature has ample colours of its own to keep us enchanted. We just need to notice. The red and the yellows in the pic set the mood for the evening.

3.The smiles of the kids around.

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Smile is the only curve that sets everything straight. And a kid’s smile is simply adorable! Try passing a smile to to every kid you pass, at traffic signals or in the market place. Well, it’s still tax free. So just smile and spread happiness around!

4.The Kulchey wale bhaiya.

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Come hail, come storm. Our Kulchey wale bhaiya stands still like a rock. In Delhi, almost every lane has a kulchey wala who sells chhole kulchey or chhole paranthe for INR 20/- a plate. They even have raita to quench your thirst for just INR 10/-. It is a filling, pocket friendly meal that they provide. I am ever thankful to them for satisfying this foodie’s soul!

5.The beautiful amalgam of the modern and the historical that Delhi is.

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Every nook and corner of Delhi has monuments that remind you of the glorious past every now and then. The present becomes a ‘present’ for us with so much of the majestic past around.

6.The street dogs who follow you or look at you with the sole wish to get a loving pat.

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All they need is love! And all they give is love. These dogs are definition of unconditional love. Pat them once and every time you pass by, they keep following you. And who does not like a follower? Well, I do!

7.The daily struggle and happiness of the people we see around.

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We are all sailing in the same boat, every day of our lives. All we can do is say hello to our fellow sailor, share our stories and get inspired or give inspiration. Human tales can be healing. It can spread the much needed happiness that we look for in life.

Here’s a secret formula for happiness by Tim from the movie About Time. “He told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.”

So people start noticing, walking would become a pleasure for you to!

Photo Courtesy: Instagram @aabra_ka_daabra

Single Women, Pleasure Pockets and Delhi

In a search for pleasure pockets for single women in the Delhi to hangout, we found these spots which women associated with safe, accessible and fun places to be!

Go ahead and click the spots and identify the spaces.

Blue Circle – Free place

Green Circle – Paid place

If you have more of these spaces, please do write to us!

Grandma’s greatest joy: Grandson

Have you ever felt like everything that has happened to you, however big or small, has led to this moment that you’re in? This moment, this place, this time, this. The moment when you really know in your gut that this is what your life is about, your purpose in life, your place in the universe, your greatest, most absolute joy.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s just because you haven’t found yours yet. If you had, you would have known instantly. But don’t worry about it too much. I’m 60 years old and I have just found mine.

They say grandchildren are the greatest happiness one can receive in life. A bit too unfair when you say this to a 20 year old, don’t you think? She could probably work harder than everyone else at her studies, get a great job and excel at it, even enjoy marital bliss at some point within the decade. But to tell her that her greatest joy not only awaits her at the far end of her life, but also that it is completely dependent on firstly, her longevity, and most importantly, on a decision that her future child may or may not make, is like telling her that true happiness is an insurmountable goal, which should not be expected anytime soon.

Well, I consider myself lucky to have somehow survived those 40 years in one piece, more or less. My first grandchild came into my life seven years back. Of course he was a joy from the get go. He was the one I was expected to spoil because he had another person in charge of disciplining him. But the truth was that my affection for him came from my encounter with his innocence at a time in my life when I could truly admire and enjoy it.

As I age, I find myself less burdened. There is always someone around, younger than me, to give a helping hand. Even though my health is fine for my age, a couple of brief health problems scared my children. I want to tell them that hitting the 60 mark doesn’t mean that I suddenly got in line to get to the end. Overnight, my children became my parents. I didn’t change, but the way they looked at me did.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but my ever‐helpful children can also be demoralizing to a ‘senior citizen’ parent like me. No matter how desperately I want to hold on to my independence, they think I’m better off letting them assist me in my daily chores.

This is where my grandson became a breath of fresh air. Little Kabir had no judgment or fears, only unlimited adoration in his eyes for me. Playing with him, telling him stories, singing to him, hearing his laughter and getting sloppy kisses on my face have all been unbelievably precious moments. And yet, it didn’t quite feel like the ultimate state of happiness that I had been promised.

A few weeks ago, my daughter called to tell me that Kabir would like to spend the first week of his summer holidays with me. Over the last year, he had started going to a big school and had become really busy. He would go to football class, guitar class, and gymnastics and art class. Every time I spoke to my daughter, she would complain about something or the other regarding him. All I could do was marvel at how quickly he was growing up. He was seven now ‐ a big boy.

As the summer holidays approached, I wondered about how I would engage Kabir now that he is older and used to so much physical activity. Would he still be interested in my stories? Could I still tickle him and expect those peals of laughter that I enjoyed so much? Would he be too shy or embarrassed to give his naani a tight hug and a big kiss? Would he still fit in my lap and let me sing to him? I imagined him as this restless child with a lot of energy in a house that might seem a bit too small to him now. I was nervous but thrilled nonetheless.

The day arrived soon enough. After greeting me lovingly at the door, Kabir ran inside the guest room with his unusually heavy bag. When I asked my daughter about what was going on, all she did was smile.

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I went after him to see what he was up to. I saw him taking out lots of books from his bag and arranging them on the bedside table. He carefully put them one on top of the other. Then he tried to take out the one right at the bottom of the pile. He pulled and pulled with all his might, while his other arm tried to stop all the other books from toppling over him. Finally, he got the one he wanted and ran into me at the door.

That’s when he shyly told me that he wanted it to be a surprise. I was still not sure what he was talking about. ‘I can read now, Nani!’, he squealed in his sweet, still childish voice. I expressed my amazement and reached out to hug him. He stopped me mid‐way and looked at me like I didn’t understand. He dragged me to the living room, and led me to my reading corner. He found a spot right next to me and opened his book. He then signaled toward a book I had kept half open, upside down – something I had been reading just before the bell had rung. I opened it, still not sure what was going on. He relaxed and started reading quietly. Not knowing what else to do, I also started reading my book.

And then it happened. My moment had arrived. Everything I had ever done had led to this moment here, reading in silence with my grandson.

My daughter told me later how he would always talk about my love for reading, and how he had been working hard all year round to learn to read so he could surprise me. She told me about how hungrily he had been going through books, almost as if he had to catch up on the last seven years that he missed out.

You try hard with your children, trying to make them the best version of who you think they are. But with your grandchildren, it is different. Grandchildren arrive in perfection. Peace, joy, and my greatest happiness lay right there in my living room as my grandson and I traveled to distant lands that whole week. This was what I had been waiting for all these years without knowing where I would find it – this little silent companion in my many imagined journeys. This was it – my moment of absolute joy.

 

 

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Photo and Article Courtesy: Surbhi Dewan