Privacy and sexual health at Digital Citizen Summit

Hidden Pockets discussing Privacy with regard to sexual health at Digital Citizen Summit

We were present at Digital Citizen Summit organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation on 1st and 2nd November, 2018.

 

It was a great experience to discuss the role of privacy in our work on sexual and reproductive health and how do we work with other open source communities like Free Software Movement of Karnataka to build this further.

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.

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 #Ahmedabad

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 Ahmedabad and enjoy these streets 😉

#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 😉

 

 

A love letter to Delhi: Breathing in the old and the new together

Every time I am heading to Dilli now, there is exhilaration in my belly, greed for the streets and skies of this city. Don’t get me wrong — I still hate it too, I hate how much I fear it and how much it makes me fear it, I hate the air thick with smog and the anger on strangers’ faces. Every trip outside is an experience fuelled by adrenalin, where I shed the comfort and peace of a bare air-conditioned room for the madness of Delhi’s streets, talk to strangers, get lost, eventually find my way. Perhaps Dilli for me is a metaphor for life: to go out there, to put myself out there, is terrifying and often overwhelming, it is difficult and it is work, but in the end it is always worth it. It transforms you. Delhi will never just be a city for me: it will be a reminder to let go of my fears. Or perhaps Delhi has transformed all cities for me, has made them somehow approachable, has let me see the magic in encountering places and people as if I were a traveller, has shown me that I will always find places and people that value the same things that I do.

Delhi is a strange, strange experience: it lives in so many different times at once — the metro ride from Chandni Chowk to CP or Hauz Khas takes place in terms of years, not kilometres. Yet instead of being confusing or conflicting (which Delhi often is), this aspect of Delhi gives me hope, makes me feel as though I am a part of something larger than myself. And also: that this too will pass, and will remain. The old and the new lock horns and carry on, struggling with each other, but aware that this battle has no end. Delhi (like all of India, perhaps) is amused at our efforts to remain enclosed in bubbles, separate from all the people around us, but it will not let us have it. So many worlds, in terms of time and wealth and age and ideas, so many bubbles interact in Delhi on a daily basis. I am convinced this interaction is important, is vital, is transformative: you must meet what is different from you, and respect it. You must cease to fear it. A love letter to Delhi is the same as a love letter to life: Kipling said that Delhi was the naval of the world, and it feels like that to me — for me, it is, because I have made it so. Cities seem less scary, and strangers don’t seem so threatening. At the very least, it seems possible — travel, and discovery, and all the rest of it.

Despite everything, Delhi is sometimes constricting, violent, and petty. But I love it like family, like somebody who has seen through its layers and is convinced that at the heart of it, the city is only vast and inclusive and has space for everybody, makes space for everybody. The metro was, to me, a revelation, a space that made me interact with all the men and women that I would otherwise ignore on a street — it let me observe a cross-section of all the people who live here, and told me that I too was a part of this heaving mass, no matter what I wore or thought or said today — I belong here. No matter which godforsaken corner of Dilli I may land up in, a metro station is a few minutes away, and that makes me feel safe and free, like I have some control over time and space in this capital. That I belong here too. It’s what I’ve always felt when I’ve encountered Delhi’s various monuments that are open to the public, when I’ve been able to spend hours under swaying trees without having to answer any questions. That’s what I felt one sunny afternoon in Paharganj, where I was secretly terrified and lost with a friend, but a series of shopkeepers, rickshaw-wallahs, and strangers on scooters guided us to the bookstore we were looking for. I belong here, there is value in what I love, I belong here. I must move out of my comfort zone to be a part of this magic, I must be kind and brave, I must be persistent with this mad city, but at the heart of it, it loves me. I belong here.

About the writer:

Purvai Aranya is a 20 year old undergraduate at Ashoka University. She is studying English and Philosophy. When she isn’t writing or drawing on any available surface, you will find her worrying or talking to the moon. She wants to continue reading, exploring and learning as she grows older, She has recenty fallen in love with cities, and wants to fight fiercely to make space for herself in the world. She puts up poetry, pictures, and paraphernalia at http://purvaiaranya.blogspot.in/

Discovering #PleasurePockets in Bangalore: Walk free like Pockets spree

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 presents ‘Walk Free like a Pockets Spree,’ a walk that aims to bring about a change with regard to how people look at, thinking about these places and aim to reestablish their confidence to come back out and reclaim these ‘unsafe streets’. Join us on the 6th of January, 2016 in front of Christ University’s Main Gate at 8.00 p.m to walk with us as we share our experiences and reclaim- inch by inch- the streets; your streets; our streets.

P.S- Everyone who joins this walk will be allowed to speak their mind be it through words, poems, song,etc. All for a good cause, people!

Author profile:

Sharran Thomas is a millennial writer who belongs in the counter-culture; studying law to make the world a more understanding space.

Tales of fear and safety from June evenings…

On 17th June, the Hidden Pockets Collective team organised a walk through Mehrauli Archaeological Park and neighbouring areas – the walk event aptly called ‘Mehrauli and You’. Hidden-Pockets is a start-up run by feminists, who focus on issues of pleasure and safety for women in urban spaces, sexual and reproductive rights, and thinking about these in terms of maps as well.

So, that evening, starting from the rainy streets in front of Ojas Art Gallery, we traipsed through streets and footpaths and explored a mysterious yet charming part of our own Dilli.

It was raining, we were standing under the shed of what was probably a paan shop (I actually didn’t notice), and all I could think of was “where are we going with this?”. It usually takes a lot more than just a Facebook invite to get me out of my comfortable bed on any evening, but since it was raining I let it pass, because I happen to like the rain.

But rainy evenings in a part of the city I’ve barely visited in all the 19+ years I’ve been alive? This was definitely a first.

So we started our walk from in front of Ojas Art Gallery, near Qutub Minar. As if the idea of a bunch of women walking alone through Mehrauli wasn’t anxiety-inducing enough, the area was even more deserted because of the unexpected rains.

But the weather was good, we still had feet in our shoes, and so we walked on.

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We walked past the Qutub Complex, through some bumpy road I can barely remember the name of, and reached the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. It was getting dimmer, and like the nervous personality I am, I kept a lookout for any sign of “danger”.

But the thing about danger is – where does it even manifest most? Indoors or outdoors? Where does “danger”, “fear” and “safety” figure in our imaginations?

According to Shilpa Phadke et al, our fear of the outdoors is constructed by narratives that ignore the fact that women are more likely to face sexual violation within their homes or around people they know, than outdoors. “Stranger Danger” is a common term we ma sexual violation within their homes or around people they know, than outdoors. “Stranger Danger” is a common term we may all have heard of, but in light of this fact, does it really make sense?

The team at Hidden Pockets discussed these issues of what makes us “feel” safe or unsafe, as opposed to what is actually statistically safe or unsafe. Our ideas of spaces, especially as women, are moulded by not just gender, but class and religion as well. Is Mehrauli an area I am less likely to enter alone because I am an upper caste, upper-middle class, Hindu woman, and have been conditioned into believing that any identity that isn’t my identity could pose a threat to me – especially in terms of sexual violence?

As we walked, we discovered the park at Mehrauli like I never had before – we chatted, we looked around, we read and discussed poetry. We took pleasure from just being, and discussed this pleasure too – what brings us all together, as young women, and what about this public spaces appeals to us? The (supposed) inaccessibility? The absence of peering and leering eyes (it was, after all, post 7 pm)? The company of others like us?

And I also realised, that walks are a great way for us all to explore the spaces that surround us. A teacher of mine told me once that the best way of knowing a city was to get lost in it. Some of the best books I’ve read have explored city and country spaces through the eyes of the people walking them, and some of the best novelists like Charles Dickens are also well-known for their habit of expressing their oneness with cities by walking through them. So as a young woman who’d lived in this wonderful city all her life, the idea of just walking through busy streets at night was exciting and refreshing.

With all these questions and ideas bubbling in my head, and more, we walked on, back where we started. We walked on roads with nothing but those yellow street lights to guide us. And we discussed the beauty of those lights, too. For me, those lights represented everything I’d been missing out on when I turned down dinner plans with friends because I couldn’t figure out if public transportation would be “safe” enough for me to travel at night. And then finally that evening, those lights came to represent my personal rebellion against narratives of fear, safety, and public spaces that have been generated for women for years and years.

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Photo Credit: Pallavi

But maybe my biggest victory moment through this walk was not the ‘Hidden-Pockets’ I explored, the wonderful sights I saw and the conversations I took part in or was witness to, it was the fact that walking back, skipping over alternate blocks on the path through Mehrauli Archaeological Park, looking at the people around us, I could finally bring myself to the thought that –

This here, this is my Dilli. There are men and women here, of all walks of life, and I am as much part of their city as they are part of mine. There are men here, in this park, I am walking past them, and I am unafraid. I am unafraid, not because I am brave, or because I am adventurous: but because I have nothing to be afraid of.

I can only hope now, to claim more spaces, go on more walks, and explore more of these lovely Hidden-Pockets with young feminists, in this city I call “Home”…

 

Article by: Shirin Choudhary
Photo Courtesy: Oindrila Duttagupta
Video Director: Oindrila Duttagupta
Video Editor : Pallavi.

The Mehrauli and You walk is happening on 29 July. Book tickets here. Hurry the seats are limited.

Mehrauli and You : Our Monthly Walk

Do you sometimes feel the urge to see the city, yet don’t take the plunge?
Do you feel the city of Delhi is unsafe and you can no more go out? Have you heard of Mehrauli ki galiyaan, do you sometimes feel the need to find other people who would like to walk the public spaces and share experiences with them?

If it is yes, yes and yes, then join us for this beautiful night walk from the Qutub Minar itself to the world of Jamali Kamali. What we witness it the presence of an old city amidst the bustling sound of the modernity, while still trying to make spaces for the gendered beings.
We walk from Ojas Art Gallery ( in front of Qutub Minar), to slowly following the walls of Qutub Minar complex, which also also makes a beautiful evening walk path, we stop at Bhool Bhulaiya, which has its own secrets, also a favourite among the lovers, we sit and talk about our experiences of being who we are in the city of Delhi, and how much have we really engaged with Dil waalon ki dilli. Then we brave the crowds of Mehrauli, and explore the galiyaan of Mehrauli, which interestingly enough takes us to dargah, baoli and a person who reads your future. From there, we head to Jamali Kamali and witness the beauties against the backdrop of night shadows.
If you are willing to explore your senses, we have more experiences to share with you, if you want to loiter, loiter with us, who knows, you might just find a friend.

We will also request the poets among us to share their work meanwhile we read some of the poetry around the city of Delhi and love.

Come join us on July 29.

Assembly time: 6:15 pm
Duration: 2.5- 3 hours.
Rate: Rs 500
Starting Point: Ojas Art Gallery ( In front of Qutub Minar)
Kids not allowed. (Below 12 years)

Check out our event on Facebook.
Book your tickets on Book My Show.

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Bhool Bhulaiya or Adam Khan’s Tomb.
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Mehrauli Market.
Gumnaam Maqbara, Mehrauli Archeological Park.
Gumnaam Maqbara, Mehrauli Archeological Park.

Photo Courtesy: Pallavi

Delhi Walk Festival – Mehrauli and You

[sg_popup id=”2″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]Delhi Walk Festival conducted a first of its kinds where streets of Delhi were covered by people trying to find streets and galiyan. Spread across a week, 21-28 February 2016, it brought around 50 walking groups to conduct 85 walks in different parts of Delhi.

Hidden-Pockets along with Reclaim the Nights, Delhi chapter conducted a Mehrauli walk, locating safety discourse within walks especially walks at nights.

 

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We walked from Ojas Art Gallery => Bhool Bhulaiya => Jamali Kamali => Qutub Minar Metro Station.

With around 41 walk lovers it did seem like a huge task, walking through this maze of Mehrauli, talking about safety and trying to understand the hidden layers of city and night. What we encountered host of questions, host of curiosity, willingness to peer through one’s own thoughts and resistance to a certain model of development

The walk was divided into 3 neat zones. The first zone included the walk from Ojas Art Gallery to Bhool Bhulaiya, which encompassed the main road that connected the Mehrauli village to the city. Devoid of pedestrian paths, the walk was bit tedious, especially since most of the walk lovers were new to this place. At Bhool Bhulaiya, the beautiful tomb, we took a small break to read some poetry by Ravish Kumar. We were also trying to open up conversations around night, Delhi and pleasure, and how we could re-think this safety model and make it more inclusive.

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From there, we headed towards Fruit market and finally took a break in front of ridge. We were about to enter Ridge post 8 pm and it was not much lit. We wanted to experience the idea of a walk at night, without street lights. We wanted to engage in conversations around safety and ask ourselves, why do we feel so safe within lights.

 

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We did realize it was poetry and conversations that kept the walk going. It was a wonderful experience of enjoying a slow walk, along the lanes of Delhi, lanes that might not intersect your daily paths, but still one would like to experience.

Pallavi reading Ishq mein Shehar hona by Ravish Kumar. Photo Courtesy: Ankit Gupta
Pallavi reading Ishq mein Shehar hona by Ravish Kumar.
Photo Courtesy: Ankit Gupta

 

Photo Courtesy: Pallavi
We are back with the walk on 29 July. Book tickets here.