At 8PM on a Friday Night, my friends and I were standing outside Christ University Main Gate for the walk to start. Yes, I had invited half my friend list on Facebook, and yes, the event page on Facebook says 39 going and 100 interested, but I still wondered if people would turn up. Within a span of 10 minutes, 30 people were standing at the venue. A few regular faces, and others unknown, all of us eager to know what will happen next.
By 8:10, the Hidden Pockets team had inaugurated the walk. All of us stood in a circle with Jasmine in between explaining to us what the walk is all about.
“Why should we suddenly wake up one morning to reclaim the streets?”
“Do we actually feel safe walking at night?”
“Isn’t it a bit awkward to walk around with strangers?”
While a few of these questions were thrown at us at the beginning of the walk, we were asked not to walk ‘with our friend/known face’ and observe the streets carefully. Quite frankly, I was doubtful regarding what difference this walk could make. Till I reached Stop number 1: Under the Dairy Circle Bridge
The Junction under the Dairy Circle Bridge in Hosur Road is one of a kind. With not a single street light on the road and nobody around, it could be one of the creepiest spots of our area. Again, we stood around Jasmine as she asked us if we have ever commuted via that road. Everyone were quite participative and she asked about our experiences traveling in a dark/shady road. Each one of us had different answers. While, one of the girls in the group was afraid of tall bulky men walking behind her in the evening another boy was afraid of Transgenders following him in the night. Each one of us had our own stories that we are embarrassed about and this walk made us open up about it. Not only were negative experiences shared, every possible utilization of a dark/shady road was discussed.
Jasmine: Have you ever made out under a bridge?
Me: Well, not bridge specifically..
A few my friends raised their hands. Good thing it was dark, no one remembered their faces in the morning in order to tease them to death. The next stop was somewhere in the middle of the main road. We got into a discussion on whether or not CCTV cameras in streets is a good option in order to keep the streets safe. A few of us felt that it was a good initiative as everything is recorded and can be under supervision while a few others thought it was a major invasion of privacy. This particular discussion got me thinking. I used to be someone who used to think that the more the security devices (CCTV cameras, Safety Apps etc) the more the safety. But, with 1,500 police men present in the New years eve in Brigade road, many, many women got molested. A CCTV footage of a group of men grouping a girl on a street went viral on Facebook. But, did that really help change any mentalities around? Do I feel safer to walk after 8PM just because a CCTV is capturing my movement?
The last two stops where in SG Pallaya. (A well known street near Christ University where most of the students stay). One was near a park, the other was near a famous theatre in that area. We got into many interesting discussions and debates. While we gathered in a big circle to listen and respond to Jasmine, we also noticed random strangers in the streets joining behind us to find out what was happening. One of the most interesting discussions included whether or not our safety depends upon the income group of a person, or the ‘class’ they belonged to. Yes, we were after all a group of strangers strolling around the streets together and having discussions, how is it that I felt safer around them, but suddenly felt conscious when a stranger from a lower income group joined the gathering? Are we being stereotypical of people? Are we judgmental with people on streets? Am I being too comfortable with my Facebook-user-Activists group that I’m forgetting to educate everyone in the movement?
While all these questions were shot in the air, all of us kept walking and reached the end of the walk. Quite frankly, we were not only searching our way back, but also the answers to all those questions. I must have walked the same route a million times in 3 years, but this was the most insightful and thought provoking walk I’ve been in. While a few of us were inquisitive as to what can be done next, a whole group of others were confident that changing mentalities is one of the biggest challenges. No, not every problem needs to have a solution right now. I know that CCTV on roads isn’t the answer, I also know that moral policing and staying “back at home” isn’t the answer. I also don’t have an alternative, but sometimes, acknowledging that the principle is wrong is all we need to start a movement and make a change. The Hidden Pockets Team made a difference by creating a thought bubble among us. We need to do something, and we need to start now. Looking forward to more and more #pleasure pockets walks. Here’s to reclaiming the streets, inch-by-inch, street-by street and debunking myths about spaces around us.
Mira is an ardent left leaning feminist who prefers pizzas over pastas any!