BDA 2031 Master Plan Consultation

BDA 2031 Master Plan Consultation

                                                                                                  By The Bachchao Project and Hidden Pockets Collective

Our Intention behind this

The way to build an inclusive city is to understand the diverse needs of the people interacting with the city. Every city has an governing body to draft plans, these plans essentially used to shape the work and infrastructure in the city over a period of time. Every few years when new plans are formulated, these plans are released for consultation to the citizens of the city.  These are opportunities for citizens to engage and shape their city to their needs.

When BDA released the master plan for 2031 we saw this as an opportunity to look at the gendered needs in the city and highlight the same. This is the first of our efforts to be more involved in the City Plans.

Our observations :

In our analysis of the BDA Master Plan, we realized that most of the draft of the planning is based on a concrete understanding of a city, which is focussed more on developing spaces for industrial purposes without reflecting the lived experiences of people living in these spaces.  The plan is more focussed more making the cities more functional without looking at some of the problems presently being faced by the people living in these spaces.

We have based our observations on the maps provided in the BDA 2031.  With regard to land use, there is a need for more public audits and data collection. Data is insufficient and does not accurately locate some of the spaces.

The proposed city planning does not attend to needs of all persons living in these spaces. While the BDA has considered traffic, emergencies and disasters; safety as a parameter has not received any mention in the document. Based on experience, we can identify some of the spaces in the city, which are densely populated and some of these spaces have reported several harassment incidents and are considered unsafe for eg: the petta area right in the center of the city and the city bus stand. However safety has not been considered and this has not reflected in the urban planning of some of the spaces. These are just few spaces we could easily point out but there are several such pockets in the city. While the master plan has looked at all the available data sources when it comes to emergencies, disasters and even of archaeological importance. They have failed to look at any available safety indexes and nor have initiated conversations in that direction

Similarly while considering the infrastructure of the city. In area zoning regulation there is mention of width of the road, but indicators like street lighting and footpaths for pedestrians which can be some of the markers for safety concerns in an area is missed out.

In a city like Bangalore, which has a growing concerns around migration, there is no mention of shelter homes for different communities. They have not received any place in area zoning regulation. Not just shelter homes for different communities, shelter homes for women and children were also not considered under public spaces. These spaces are important is supporting a healthy community. A city as large as bangalore should have safe spaces for survivors of abuse and people with no support systems. We thought it was odd that the plans did not consider this as a need of the city.

Bangalore is a melting point of people coming from different parts of India, who are adding to the booming economy of the city. Migration of human resources also puts onus on the city to make the city more accomodating for people who are migrating. This is often done by encroaching spaces which are allocated as public spaces.

The rising population also leads to the question of utilization of empty and open spaces to accommodate the in flow of people. We strongly suggest that the language used for interlinking open spaces and eco sensitive spaces defeats the purpose as eco sensitive spaces are not spaces meant for usage by public.

The draft mentions Public sector enterprises as lung spaces of a city, indicating that these spaces can be used by general public for purpose other than functions of public sector. This is a very limited understanding of a public space and also reduces the space which could have been accessible to general public.

There is a potential of public spaces to be point of interaction where people from different communities can interact, it can be a great space for flourishing informal sectors. There is a need to define public space with usage perspective and not just see it as empty spaces.

UNESCO defines a public space as an area or place that is open and accessible to all persons, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. Some of the structures can be  plazas, squares and parks.

More SDZs seemed to have been proposed which are not connected within the existing layout of the city.

The industrial and residential areas do not have a clear path of connection between the two sections. These spaces can become inaccessible and unsafe for people from different communities.

Public spaces also provide an opportunity to design sanitation as part of the urban planning and introduce several public toilets especially for women working in the informal sector who might not have access to close toilets in their work spaces.  Public toilet is another aspect, which failed to get notice of the planning process. This also gets linked to safety aspects in these public spaces. If public spaces are designed keeping in mind the needs of people from different communities, it becomes more diverse, attracts more people and provides the space with a community feeling, which also makes safety then as a community issue instead of an individual issue.

Need for additional Data

Through our work we also realised the need of city specific gender data. We released there were no public records of safety audits, nor there were enough material talking about experiences. The mapping of what makes women’s lives in the Bangalore meaningful was also missing.

Future Work

Through our work we recognised that the need for more rigorous and in detailed submission. Our comments were unfortunately limited by lack of time and readily available information to make it possible.

  • We plan to build a joint process for reviewing such plans in the future.
  • We also understand the need for establishing better communication with the city planning committees and to review the existing regulations and push for a more inclusive approach in them.
  • We understand the need of safety audits and the dearth of informations due to lack of it and we hope to support more community audits.
  • We also would like to build a larger community which can work and think of these issues in the gendered lines and we welcome any partnerships in this direction.  

References  

Our submission to the consultation are based on our broad learnings from :

  1. Phadke .S, Khan. S, Ranade .S‎ ,2011 Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets
  2. Citizen Labs Articles on Inclusive Cities :

https://www.citylab.com/amp/article/365541/

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/09/the-how-and-why-of-inclusive-growth/541422/

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/06/how-to-build-inclusive-cities/487322/

The Bachchao Project is a community effort to develop / support Open Source Technologies and technical frameworks with the following goals :

1. Prevention of Gender Based Violence.
2. Equal Rights for Women and LGBTQIA communities

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! 🙂

#IWillGoOut: Podcast

Did you take part in the national event called #IWillGoOut on 21st January,2017? Some of us did attend it and we asked some of the participants what walking and public places meant for some of them.

Listen to it and do share your views with us.

 

With this, we are launching our #walktoremember series where we will be asking people to share their stories of a walk in a public place that they remember. If you would like to be part of this series, do write to us at aisha.george@hidden-pockets.com

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)

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

 

 


 

Need a reason to get out? Try Delhi’s Street Food!

Sipping a cup of tea by the roadside!
Dinner under the open night sky!

To act upon these lines all you need is a street food joint. It gives you both food and food for thought. My relationship with street food dates back to my college days. Inedible food and unidentified vegetables on the plate asking “guess who?” were an usual affair then.

Watery dal, chapattis with uncooked edges in the hostel mess would lead me out to the market with the sole purpose of getting something edible. And for a student, the street food vendors were ‘Gods in disguise’. Even as I write, I can imagine their smiling faces with a halo around their heads. With a petty sum of money in the pocket, the street food vendors were our sole providers. Rolls, momos, maggi, burgers, chowmein anything under INR 40 for a meal was, both viable and buy-able.

It was during these errands that I started enjoying my time on the street. Momo stalls surrounded by girls and boys alike was a pleasing sight. It made, both the street and the food accessible for me, letting me taste freedom and independence in some sense.

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Going out always has to have a reason. Aimless wandering seems a bit strange. It also depends on the area and the rumours around it whether it is ‘safe’ to venture out at all. But the moment it is about food and a foodie’s soul, the picture changes a little.

It is okay if you are out there to buy food. It’s okay if you are eating. It’s okay if you are at the juice stall or near the paranthe wala. Although, if it’s late at night the bhaiya offers to get the food packed for you, given the dearth of women around. But food somehow provides a purpose to our wanderings. Food is the most important thing for our survival anyway. We earn so that we can feed our stomachs, isn’t it? So food also justifies your being out in the open. If food can be the pretext to go out then why not? Let’s just use it!

And you know what? I already have! I have been to old Delhi’s secluded spaces and enjoyed the kebabs and the biryanis and the Mughlai cuisines. I went to the paranthe wali gali and savoured the sweet lassi and the stuffed and fried paranthas. And you need to see the list of paranthas to believe that it even exists. Nimbu parantha, mirchi parantha, badam parantha, rabri parantha, total 26 stuffings in all. Woah!

And Majnu Ka Tilla’s amazing Tibetan food is my all time favourite that I keep going back to. Lephing is my love! A filling bowl for INR 25/-. Amar colony’s Tandoori momos, CR park’s cutlets, chops and egg devils, Kerala Hotel’s meal, North campus’ bun tikki, chholey kulchey, Moolchand’s chur churn naan, you need to taste it to believe it!

Lephing, both dry and soupy options are available!
Lephing, both dry and soupy options are available!

Every place I have been to, I experienced a part of that place, just through taste of its food. Striking a conversation with the vendors exposes you to stories about food you have never heard before. The food and the vendors tell you stories, about the space, the people who live there, their history, lives and all this, at pocket friendly prices. I love the way they happily share the recipes. Street food opens up spaces. It makes you visit places which you otherwise might not visit. It helps you know your city better. The time it takes to hunt down the shops asking people the exact locations, the fun of getting lost in the lanes (if you are in Chandni Chowk or Mehrauli) and reaching your destination, seeing the food on the table makes everything so worth it.

And you know what my ‘to visit’ list gets a little longer everyday. I am yet to explore the Afghani food trail in Lajpat and Jungpura, Changhezi murgh of Daryaganj, kulle ki chaat, khurchan ki chaat of Chandni Chowk, the stuffed kulfis of Chawri Bazaar and many more. My mouth’s watering already! The food tastes yum and the independence yummier. Street food can do what anything else can’t. Effortlessly bring people out in the open. Make spaces more inclusive.

Now what are you waiting for? Go out, explore and eat to your heart’s content!  This picture should do the trick!

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Paranthas straight from 36, Gali Paranthe wali, Chandni Chowk!
 Photo Courtesy: Pallavi

Be independent like a Kite, woman: Delhi on Independence Day!

I woke up to the overexcited, shrill voices and laughter of the kids in my locality. Perplexed, I moved out to my balcony to see kites in the sky.

Ah well! Today is Independence Day! I told myself.

Flying kites is a ritual people look forward to, on this day, here in Delhi. I don’t know about the historical link between the two but I relate kite flying to ‘freedom’. High up in the sky the colourful bits of paper fill me with hope. These are positive and free spirited images that I relate to .

And when a free-spirited soul like me is asked  to stay home, I feel my freedom gets curtailed. Whenever I am asked to be back home before sunset or whenever I am alone in the public, I am being asked to be fearful of the night, of the darkness. But the fact is that I love the night. I love the moonlit sky. I love to just walk around and be myself. Being the wanderer that I’m, I decided to go for a different trail for my evening walk as any other day.  Besides, and what better day to feel more ‘free’ and ‘independent’ than on the Independence Day?

I along with a friend went to the Satpula Lake complex, a 14th century water reservoir which is devoid of any water but has a beautiful park around. It was full of people flying kites and lots of women too. The clear sky, the moon overhead, wind blowing across and lots of people around as the night befalls. This is the sight I was dying for. I repented not carrying my camera. I wanted to capture this unusual phenomena.

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Image: Wikipedia

We walked towards the reservoir which is a ruin the local guys use as a meeting place and playground. My friend and I were the only girls there but we were very comfortable around and didn’t feel intimidated. They minded their business and we were completely absorbed in the moment. Without the presence of people it would have been a spooky experience, I must say.

We got out of the park, started walking and took a detour from inside the lanes of Khirkee village, instead of taking the main road. Khirkee is home to migrants, labourers and corporate workers alike. Any time you wish to look for an accommodation, people would suggest not to live there because there are too many men, and it’s not ‘safe’ for a woman living on her own. It’s dirty too. They were not wrong in pointing out about the number of men considering that we found the lanes to be full of men.

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On asking whether there is any other way to reach the main road, an elderly man said, “It’s not a properly constructed road, you might not like it.” But then we insisted and he guided us. There were narrow lanes and the buildings were so close that you could look into each others dwelling. We simply followed the people and we were out on the main road. We were the only women apart from one or two locals who live there. We did NOT feel unsafe at all. The men were helpful and courteous. The presence of people was a great relief.

While walking back I saw a kite entangled in a tree above. It defined the situation of women and public space for me. The rumours are like the thread that stops women from venturing out. By listening to those we propagate and reinstate fear.

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To achieve freedom, I will have to feel free. I will have to come out and own the space. I will have to tell people that yes, I exist. Yes, I will take the risk. Yes, I will venture out. Why? Because I live in a free country and I am free. I am free of any burden of fear, moral and societal obligations, people’s judgements. Only then will I achieve freedom in real sense. It was my attempt to be a little more independent on Independence day. And I observed that we will have to be like the kite.

Just keep flying high, do not bother to look anywhere else!

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 Photo Courtesy: Pallavi

What does it mean to be a Delhiite?

What does it mean to be a Delhiite?

That’s a simple question, one that invariably has many answers? What do you think of when you think of a Delhiite?

The men in loud cars cruising down the Outer Ring Road at midnight? The couples walking hand in hand in forgotten parks? The women struggling to build their lives in the cramped centers of Seelampur? The people swarming Sarojini on weekends? The people struggling to find metro seats on their way to work? Or the people who find even Metro fares too expensive and take the Suburban instead?

These are questions that we wanted to answer. What does Delhi mean to you? And what does it mean to me (someone who moved here)?

On 6th March,2016, Hidden-Pockets and Two Girls and a Camera organized its first public  art installation that sought to talk about these  questions. Against a backdrop of videos taken during solitary city-defining moments, pictures and music, set to the tune of Aisha’s gentle strumming and holding cups of chai and biscuits, a bunch of people gathered on a terrace, looked out at the city and spent the evening talking about identity.

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Gagan talked about his experiences with the patriarchy in the city, Pallavi took us on a visually appeasing tour of the city spun around her experience of walking around the city, Oindrila spoke on how various auditory experiences of Delhi weaved new narratives into various pockets of the city and Himel talked about the people of the city.

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After the installation, everyone weighed in a discussion about what the city means to them and what are the politics that revolve around the city. Language was discussed, defended and attacked. Points were made and countered. The role of class, caste, race and sexuality in defining the identity of the city was talked about. There was a clear understanding that the nature of city had been changing and it was very difficult to ascertain who exactly was a true Delhiite. This led to many interesting dialogues around who can access the city, what does the city feel like, and who really defines a city.

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There is a need to take art to public, but is public creating this art? Can art be invasive, and are we thinking about communities that would be subjected to the art? These were some of the questions that the installation tried answering, or at least tried raising these questions. As artists we are equally responsible for the art that is being created.

 

Article Courtesy: Himel Sarkar
Photo Courtesy: Ankit Gupta