Thursday, 8 June 2017

How loitering changed my politics- Pooja Nair

On May 29th 2017, WhyLoiter? celebrated three years of taking tiny, slow but steady steps towards a new mindset.




The idea behind the WhyLoiter? movement is to assert a woman’s freedom to occupy public spaces anywhere in the world, at anytime of the day or night wearing anything she pleases. How do we assert this? By simply, doing exactly that. Once a week, we gather at a public place and well, loiter – purposelessly. (Except that we happen to be serving a larger purpose)
When I first heard of the idea, honestly, I did not feel much for it. I believed ‘loitering’ to be a wasteful activity that men with nothing better to do did. I didn’t really understand why I should fight for my right to do something wasteful. However, I decided to participate because it sounded like fun. (Today, I notice the irony that had earlier eluded me. While I thought of ‘loitering’ as something wasteful for useless people, given a choice, I wanted to do it sometimes. I had never realised that the reason I never loitered is not that I did not want to, but that I did not have the freedom do it.)



Even though I did not initially buy into the cause entirely, I never regretted participating because I got to meet intelligent, talented, meaningful women from all walks of life. We sat late into the night at parks playing Pictionary or hired cycles and cycled across town in the rain, getting soaked to the skin, or played anatakshari on local trains, or took long walks in the city after dark, after midnight even - talking about life, society, relationships, attitudes, dreams, the arts, philosophies, dilemmas, epiphanies and more or exchanging horror stories.




This basic freedom is something men take for granted. Men, having lived their entire lives as males in society, have no clue what it is like to have to factor in the possibility of being humiliated or physically attacked EVERY time you step out into the public. What’s disturbing is that women themselves are so deeply conditioned that we have no idea how much we strain and restrict ourselves in order to be simply be allowed to exist, leave alone flourish. A majority of our preoccupation is how to get from one place to another safely and to not be blamed if we were to be attacked.
And yet, every second of the day, men feel entitled to humiliate women, of all ages, dressed in anything, at any time, at any place. And in the biggest ironies of all, the first tendency of both men and women in society, when they hear the news of sexual assault is to wonder, “what was SHE wearing?”, “ where was SHE?”, “what was SHE doing?”, and then concluding that she was an idiot to not have seen it coming. It was her fault. They then tutor their moms, sisters, daughters to be safe and not be stupid - out of love and care, of course. And continue to wake up each day to news of gang-rapes and gang-molestations.




All these restrictions and endless list of do’s and don’t simply disallows a woman from having equal space in society. Plus ‘being safe’ comes with zero guarantee of being safe and therefore means nothing.  We need to break the pattern.
The only way to change the status quo, is to stop being afraid. Instead of ‘being safe’ we need to ‘create safer environments’. A safer environment is an environment with more women in it.  We need to stop stopping women from stepping out at night. The more the women on the streets, the safer the streets become for women and for men. More so, for men because it is men who need to live with the stigma of being molesters, rapists or murderers. We all need to understand women have nothing to lose, except their lives, (if they are also killed). But isn’t dying better than a life of slavery? There is no shame in being raped and killed. There is however, no dignity in living life as a slave to fear.
Being a part of this movement has taught me to sift the chauvinist persons from the crowd. It has given me new eyes with which to view my life and my place in society, everyday. Now, when strangers stare me down when I am at a crowded local train station, late at night, I don’t look away sheepishly (as if to convey I am sorry for being out this late), I look him straight in the eye quizzically. I silently remind myself that I have every right to be there with the same ease that he does. When a neighbouring pharmacist, making small talk with me, shared with me the titbit about his village in Rajasthan, where they never allow women to step out alone, because they respect their women a lot. I did not just smile dismissively. I looked him in the eye and said politely, “but what about her freedoms? “azaadi mili toh sammaan khatam ho jata hai?” (does having freedoms spell the end of your respect worthiness?) He was shocked at my refusal to let him have his dig at this man-like confident young girl. I didn’t care so much about what he thought of me. I do know that I think very little of him. When a colleague joked that his women juniors in office never brought him home-cooked food hilariously adding, “what was the use of having women juniors?” Instead of laughing it off, I managed to say, “Men can cook too, can’t they?” and changed the joke.




The event on the 29th, was one of 2 times that we invited men for a late night walk. It was called the “walk like a woman”.  The men had to dress as women. Again, to be honest I found it strange. The deep conditioning in me, made me think I can’t look at men in women’s clothes with a straight face. I wasn’t even sure, what we were hoping to achieve except get a lot of attention. However, I had the time and thankfully am blessed with an open mind, so decided to attend the event. Within 3 minutes of being in the presence of these men, I realised how superficial ‘clothing’ is.  As we loitered from Versova beach to Juhu chowpaty, I took turns having little inconsequential one-on-one chats with each of these men wearing dresses, spaghetti tops, tights and head scarfs etc, I discovered that there is something very comforting and attractive about men comfortable in women’s clothing. I know that these are the kind of men who understand and support the need for feminism. There is nothing more attractive than that, in a man!




One of the conversations revealed that men too become vulnerable to attacks when dressed in women’s clothing. Had the men dressed in women’s clothing been alone, they would surely have been beaten-up! This means that society would kill to maintain a clear difference between men and women. Why? I wondered.
As I looked ahead of me, and saw these men and women, all dressed in women’s clothing walking in many little groups, chitchatting with one another, it dawned on me - I couldn’t tell from far which are the men and which are the women.  And THAT is probably, the problem society has with this. If all the silhouettes appeared the same from afar, how would you spot a woman? How would you know, who is ‘safe’ and who is ‘unsafe’?  Who can attack and who can be blamed?





Pooja Nair is a theatre and film actor-blogger-advertising professional-avid loiterer.


Friday, 2 June 2017

When men walked with/like women- by many authors





Why loiter? the movement in Mumbai celebrated its third year of existence by organizing a loitering session where men and women loitered on the streets wearing what is traditionally 'Women's clothing'. This walk is special because its inclusive and also because it beautifully passes the litmus test of the Why loiter? movement, that of 'the right to take risks' and 'the right to have fun'. By putting their male bodies in women's clothing in an aggressively patriarchal and homophobic society, these men were definitely risking a lot. But, they didnt let this deter them from having lots of fun too. This was the third such walk and I can say the men are getting more experimental with their attire, the route was longer and we had a lot more interaction with people on the roads than the times earlier. It is important to know how men feel when they break notions of masculinity in such a visceral and vulnerable way. It is truly brave of them to make themselves accessible to anyone on the streets, wearing women's clothing, knowing fully well how that attacks a patriarchal man's sense of masculinity and can even result in violence. Here are some testimonies of the men that participated in the walk. Read on. 









FRIENDS, LOITERERS AND COUNTRY(wo)MEN... LEND ME YOUR CLOTHES

This had probably been the 6th  or 7th time, that I walked on the roads, wearing a woman’s clothes. Not that one is counting, but it only makes sense to keep an account of the silly little victories one manages to accomplish in a world which is otherwise more concerned with the real, pragmatic, solid, applaud-worthy victories.

Come to think of it, it was a silly and outrageous idea some 3 years ago when I had asked Neha Singh, my dear friend and founder member of Why loiter  to be a part of their ‘loitering in public places’ sessions. Since my gender automatically makes me ineligible for the politics of the movement, it was only natural that I push for some more silliness. Little did I know that she would agree. Little did I know that there would be so many other men who would join me in this seemingly harmless but gently persuasive social experiment.

Now that one has done some 9 shows of our theatre piece LOITERING (where I come onstage in a woman’s clothes), there is nothing new or uncomfortable about cross dressing. But the stage, or an auditorium has its own comforting cocoon. The real joy of actually taking the streets and engaging with members of public space who are curious, amused, provoked, offended, dismissive amongst other things is a different ball game altogether.

Right from little street urchins to people in their cars. From traffic policemen to the moonlighting transvestites. From coffee sellers on cycles to the people driving down to a 5 star hotel lobby for their midnight dose of caffeine – the range of an audience one gets here is simply mind boggling.

Invisible theatre is here to stay and I am ecstatic that there are some steps here which I can take fearlessly. I don’t need my producers approval of the financial implications of the show, I don’t need to sell tickets online or otherwise, i don’t need anybody’s dates or support. All I need is some women friends to lend me their clothes and join me on the streets. Offers anyone?

- Satchit Puranik, theatre maker, film maker, and has worked in five languages across different media. While India Today covered him in an article about ‘male feminists in India’, he is non committal about his real reasons for cross dressing and stepping out in public. Part fashion, part exhibitionism, part weather, part shock value – his essential reason is PURELY POLITICAL – to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable.





Walk Like a Woman is organised to draw awareness to the lack of safe public spaces for women. I participate not only because I align with this objective, but also because it allows me to satisfy a very personal desire- to express my femininity in public. For a majority of my life I subscribe to normative ideas of being a man, with respect to my clothing, behaviour etc. I would never walk out of my house wearing a dress or a skirt or a saree or a blouse, and dare to walk down the street by myself. I don't want to be harrassed, I don't want to be stared at, I don't want to be beaten up. There is security in a group. When Walk Like a Woman is over, and I have to change into my shorts and t shirt, there is a feeling of emptiness. I stop myself from going to a restaurant in a dress. Is it because I will be the center of attention? Is it because I haven't worn make up and haven't shaved my face, legs, arms and armpit hair and I don't look woman enough? 
The number of pressures we put on women on a daily basis is entirely absurd- no leg hair, no arm hair, no armpit hair, no upper lip hair, no nipple hair, no belly button hair. If a woman comes to work with no kajal on, (I have been guilty of this myself) she is asked if everything is ok and why she looks so tired/sick. I remember in college being repulsed by the girls who hadn't started waxing yet, and sniggering at them along with my friends. These friends were girls, by the way, not boys.

What all does a biologically male person have to do to be considered woman enough? I am reminded of Alok Vaid-Menon, a trans-feminine performance artist who identifies as both genders. It is very hard to watch them and not say, 'that's just a man in a dress.' Alok does not shave their(*) arm and armpit hair and did not shave their beard for the show I watched. Their performance very cleverly complicates the act of performing gender. In their poetry chapbook, Femme in Public, they write:
"Promise me that you see the femme in my hairy body...
Promise me that you understand that I wasn't just assigned male at birth, I'm assigned male every day walking on the street
Promise me that you understand that as a form of gender violence."

I wish I had kept a copy of Alok's book and given it to the men on the street who saw us and exclaimed, "Ladki hai ya ladka?" and (this is my favourite), "Zindagi mein kya takleef hai bhai?"

Alok sums it up beautifully:

"To the two men who yelled 'that's a man in a dress! That's a man in a dress!' while pointing at me on Sixth Avenue: 
I wanted to turn around and point back and shout:
'Hey everyone that's an insecure man! That's an insecure man! That's an insecure man!' "

"I have spent 25 years trying to figure out where man begins and where man ends and what I have discovered is that man begins only where I end. 
Let me be more explicit: Man begins when I end. Or rather: Man begins because I am ended.
Which goes to say in order for man to exist I cannot. 
Which goes to say one day I got so confident in myself I was no longer a man.."

(*): The pronoun they/their is used in place of he/she as a gender neutral pronoun.



- Vikrant is a performer and writer based in Bombay, whose work over the last few years has centered largely around gender and sexuality. 







I had never worn women's clothes in public. Of course my elder sisters dressed me up in their clothes for fun when I was a kid. But this was a first. The militant exhibitionist in me was excited but the 'man' in me who was raised in a patriarchal and gender in-equal set up was a little uncomfortable. I minded the tremendous attention, stares and hooting from crowd on the roads, but only for the first 10-15 minutes. Then came a strange sense of freedom and liberation from God knows where. It had me engaging with strangers. Some curious people asked and I was happy to explain the vision of 'Walk like a woman'. Some young boys on bikes hooted and whistled and I hooted back at them and they were amused. For the first time in my life I got a sense of what it must feel like for a woman to be eve-teased/hooted at. I was supported by a bunch of other ballsy men who cross-dressed in clothes borrowed by our female friends and we marched from Versova to Juhu along with hose women. We thus attempted to make a statement about gender-equality and dousing the shame attached to 'women's clothing' in general. I feel proud of myself for participating. And I feel grateful to Neha and her team for this wondrous initiative.

-Himanshu Singh, juggles between being a fashion model, acting in the theatre and making photographs. In his free time he loves to clarify the widespread and ridiculous misconceptions about feminism.









It cannot be contained by saying just an experience, for me it has beyond an experience. I first hand feeling of getting into the clothes of a women itself was difficult. But while it took some time to sync in I got comfortable when I meet other male into the same attire. Walking through and feeding on live reaction from passerby was little awkward , but all settled down in few minutes. Then it really did not matter who is feeling what, infact the feeling was how many are actually turning back to checkout what is happening. Overall it was a moment of truth for me and will always remain one of the special event of my life.

-Devashish Nandy, father, husband, media person, tennis player and 'experi-mental'



Apart from Satchit, Vikrant, Himanshu and Devashish, we had Dhruv Lohumi, Sumeet Thakur, Shawn Lewis, Saurabh, Manoj Gopalakrishna and Arpit Singh who participated in the walk. Watch out for their reflections in the next post. 





















As the city, state, nation and the world gets intensely skewed in terms of gender violence, ignorance, pitting men against women and even refusing to acknowledge the entire spectrum of genders that exist, it becomes more and more relevant to include all genders in the walk towards women empowerment and gender equality. Thank you, all of you, for being the torchbearers of not just support for women, but also for celebrating gender, sexuality and beauty in all its vivid forms. 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

10 ways how Indian families fail their daughters

I am not even going to get into female feoticide, infanticide, honour killing or child marriage, because that may seem something that the 'others' do. To tell you the truth, I have first hand information of these too, from friends, colleagues, cousins and more.
But for now lets stick to the middle class and the rich families that do not indulge in any of these 'heinous crimes against women' that they wouldnt even think of. They also give their daughters nutritious food, an education, love, care and protection. So then how do Indian families fail their daughters? How do they slowly condition their daughters to dumb down, think less, speak less, have fewer ideas, ambitions, desires and the quest to live out their entire potential?
They do it everyday.

1. When they stop their daughters to go swimming because they would tan and then look 'ugly' or if they go swimming they would have to wear swimming costumes that reveal the shape of their body and they would rather not have people see the shape of their daughter's body than let her have the pleasure of a swim.

2. They do it when they encourage their daughters to aspire to be the next 'Aishwarya Rai' or 'Priyanka Chopra' or 'Miss Universe' instead of asking them to aspire to be the next Kalpana Chawla or the next Saina Nehwal.

3. They do it when they buy princess books and princess bags and princess tiffin boxes and princess dresses and take them to malls where there are 'princess makeovers' happening and allow their daughters to get that makeover done and then click photos and put them on facebook with tags that say 'my cutie princess'.

4. They do it when they bar their daughters from sports and extra curricular activities because some good-for-nothing neighbour wrote on their wall 'I love you 'daughter's name'. Or because some aunty ji came home and said that everyone is saying that their daughter is 'becoming really fast'.

5. They do it when they ask their daughter to keep fasts on Mondays to get a 'handsome husband' like Shiv ji (yes, my friends did that in school)

6. When they tell their daughters to hush-up about the uncle or neighbour or cousin who touched them inappropriately in a wedding function.

7. When they are so surprised that their daughter's boyfriend wants to marry her and doesnt have any demands! They think their daughter is so lucky that this person wants only her and not money or a car along.

8. When after marriage, the family serves the daughter's husband like he is God and ask her to 'let go' of her aspirations and dreams if it in any way hampers her 'successful married life'.

9. When they make sure to advice the girl time and again that she should hail her husband in high regard, never get angry with him, serve him food before daring to serve food for herself and always put his needs above hers, never get more successful than him and basically 'never hurt his ego because it may be fragile'.

10. When they start enquiring about when their married daughter is planning to have a baby, without bothering to ask her if she even wants one at all.

If you see an Indian woman living out her entire potential, most likely she is doing it inspite of her family, not because of it.

P.S. - the thoughts are purely personal and not based on any data or survey. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Breaking the "Rich kids loiter freely" myth- Neha Singh

I was invited by a very rich, international, prestigious, with-it school to conduct a session on gender and public spaces with their seventh grade students this week. This school has been very active in sensitizing and working with their students on gender related issues and I gladly accepted the invitation.
Now, a lot of criticism that Why loiter? faces is usually "But what abt the poor girls? What are you doing for them? Rich and middle class women loiter all the time, they are privileged. What is the point of you middle class, educated women loitering? You should "help" the poor women loiter, because those poor women are the ones that never loiter. Rich kids dont need your activism, You should start Why loiter? in villages because THAT'S where it is really needed. "

NOT TRUE. Rich, middle class, educated, super educated, south Mumbai, so-called privileged women/girls DO NOT/CANNOT loiter. Public spaces are considered as UNSAFE by them as they are by anyone else.

Case in point, the extra ordinarily rich students of this extra-ordinarily rich school.

I designed an activity where I marked different public and private spaces in their library through the use of simple placards taped on walls. The spaces I marked were as follows

HOME
GATED NEIGHBOURHOOD
COFFEE SHOP
MALL
SCHOOL
BMC PARK
CHAI TAPRI
PUBLIC TOILET
DHABA
SLUM
POLICE STATION

First I asked the boys to do the exercise. I asked the boys to roam around in these spaces and tell me how unsafe/uncomfortable they felt on a scale of 0 to 10. I kept changing the time of day. Sometimes it was morning, sometimes, afternoon and sometimes post midnight.

Spaces like home, nieghbourhood, mall and coffee shop got an average score of 0 or 1 from the boys. As the spaces became more and more 'public', and as the time of day turned to night, their scores had a gradual progression to 3-4-5. Public toilets at night time scored the highest with a boy scoring his level of fear and discomfort as 10.

Most of the boys said that the reason that they would be scared after dark in spaces like dhaba, chai tapri and BMC park is because "there would be people of DIFFERENT IDENTITIES" and that there was a fear of being "KIDNAPPED".
Some boys said that they had never been to a dhaba or a chai tapri so they dont know how they would feel if they were there.

"Fair enough!", I said to them. "Now sit down and lets see the girls take on this exercise."

While planning this exercise for a group of 12-13 year old students studying in a high-end institution, I wasnt sure the girls and boys would have different scores, but I still wanted it to be a boys-only and a girls-only exercise.

The girls entered the space. They were given the same instructions.
By the time the girls finished the exercise, I wanted to cry.

NONE of the girls gave a score of zero for ANY space, at any time of the day. NOT EVEN HOME.

Their scores hovered around 4 and 5 in so-called safe spaces like gated neighbourhood, malls, coffee shops and school and shot up to 8 and 9 in spaces like chai tapri, slum, BMC park and dhaba.

Their reasons were also more complex and articulate.

When one girl gave a score of '3' for home in the afternoon, I asked her why. She said "it depends, if there are relatives and servants around then I feel unsafe, but if its only immediate family then maybe zero."

When two girls gave a score of '2' to school at 10 a.m, the reason they gave was "because there are security gaurds and cleaners and people we dont know, so no space is completely safe."

When a girl said '8' for feeling unsafe in her OWN GATED NEIGHBOURHOOD at 7 p.m and I asked her why, she said "because there are gaurds and neighbours."

The same reasons for feeling unsafe at malls, coffee shops too. And none of the girls said that they would feel unsafe because of a fear of being kidnapped! 'Sexual abuse' was the most pertinent fear.

After the exercise, we all realised that even 7th grade girls who are extremely 'privileged' live in a state of constant fear EVEN AT HOME AND SCHOOL and their entire life experiences and personalities are based on the foundation of this fear.
For the boys it was sort of an eye opener, and I hope they would be more sensitive towards their classmates.

I told them about Why loiter? and reclamation of public spaces and why its important to not operate on the fear-principle but exercise our right to taking risks and enriching our life experiences through interactions that are not based on prejudice but an openness to engage and learn.

But I also came out of the session with a greater resolve to loiter INSPITE of being middle class- educated- privileged etc. etc. etc, because there is NO GREATER MYTH than the one that says "RICH KIDS LOITER FREELY AND DO NOT NEED MY ACTIVISM".


Thursday, 9 March 2017

When Kamathipura showed me the mirror- Neha Singh

Last night, to celebrate International Women's Day and to commemorate the many, many struggles and fights women have had to go through to get us some of the most basic rights, we decided to go to Kamathipura to loiter.
For those who arent aware, Kamathipura is the (in) famous "red light district" of Bombay, or the place where a majority of sex workers live and carry out their daily work.
The idea seemed simple and innocent. We planned to meet at 8.00 p.m at Merwan's bakery at Grant Road East, and then start walking towards Kamathipura, which is about a kilometre or two away from the bakery. We were ten of us, eight women and two men. Some of us were friends already, some of us meeting each other for the first time, some just acquaintances who wanted to be part of the session.



We began walking and slowly the landscape changed. From more well lit, families infested lanes and gullies, the streets became darker and narrower, with mostly men standing, working or walking around us. A few men walked by extremely dangerously, brushing their bodies against mine. But we were a group of ten and we were determined to visit this much-talked-about place called 'Kamathipura'.

Prior to our visit their had been discussions about buying red roses and handing them out to the sex workers, but the options were open to those that wanted to do it and others who didnt. I personally didnt feel I wanted to hand out red roses to sex workers, so I chose not to. Some of us bought chocolates instead.




Slowly, the lanes became narrower and stuffy. There emerged small and gaudily lit old cinema halls that were playing Bollywood films from the eighties and ninetees. We seemed a bit lost, not having managed to reach our destination yet. We checked google maps for Kamathipura while some of us just asked the men working on the streets for it. Somehow, it took a lot more effort to ask, "Bhaiyya, kamathipura kahaan hai?" than the amount of effort it would have taken to ask for any other destination in the city. We subconsciously even judged the men who did know where Kamathipura was.



Finally, I saw a sign that said 'Kamathipura, Lane 3' on an inconspicuous small blue board. My smartphone carrying self immediately clicked a photo. It would definitely bring a lot of 'likes' on facebook. We were finally in Kamathipura. Another discussion ensued, about whether we should divide ourselves into smaller groups and just roam around and meet at a fixed point at a given time, or stick together. The majority voted for sticking together. So we did.


The place was a let down for us since it looked so 'normal', it didnt seem at all like the red light districts I had seen in films, I couldnt hear any titillating music, or spot vendors of gajras, paan and itar. No drunken men eyeing women, no pimps looking evil, no little children running around getting business for their unfortunate mothers. In fact, I couldnt spot a single sex worker! Then one of the loiterers whispered in my ears to look above. And thats when I saw the three to four storeyed dilapidated buildings with tiny, iron barred windows. And from behind those windows and balconies, women staring out on the streets.
I felt excited. I stared at them, they stared at me. It was getting real now.
We walked some more and I saw a bunch of women dressed in bright saris sitting on the steps of closed shops. They sat there waiting to get some work. I began talking with them. Some of us joined me. We asked them their names, where they came from, where they lived and how business is these days. They didnt mind talking to us. They told us their names, where they came from, how business was and where they lived. Some of us gave them chocolates to take home to their children. They accepted it gracefully and smiled at us. Some of the men that were inhabiting the streets gathered around us, wondering what we were doing and why we were talking to the women.
The crowd around us was growing and we kept talking to the women. And they were kind enough to entertain our questions and attempts at small talk.
Some of us bought some more chocolates and gave them to other women that thronged the streets.
To some of the women I said , "Aapko pata hai aaj antarrashtriya mahila divas hai?', they were clueless and laughed when one of us said, 'Aaj humara din hai, aapka bhi aur mera bhi'. They told us how demonetisation had hit their business severely. They told us, 'jab aadmi kaam karega tabhi toh yahaan aayega, jab aadmi kaam hi nahi karega, paisa nahi kamaayega toh yahaan kaise aayega?'.
As the crowd of men and women around us grew bigger, we decided to begin walking to the end of the street. It was around 10.00 p.m.




The crowd dissipated. We spotted a small casino. A tiny space with some screens and numbers that you needed to press to try your luck. I was curious. I entered the casino and saw a lot of men inside, playing. But they werent scary. They were just playing. The man at the counter asked me to give him some money for the entry charge and try my luck, but I didnt go ahead. I just saw for a while and then came out.
We walked some more. We spotted a video parlour that was playing films. We saw posters of old Bollywood films but some of us thought that that was probably a guise for the pornographic films that actually play inside. There were also some bars and eateries on the way that looked inviting, but we decided to walk to the end of the street. No untoward incident happened and we all felt very safe. We spotted a small restaurant at the end of the lane and decided to eat a small dinner, sitting on the small plastic stools outside the restaurant. We ordered nalli niharis, noodles, chicken tikka, caramel custard and some cold drinks. We sat and chatted and laughed and had a good time. And then slowly, one by one, we called it a night and went home.
Overall, it seemed like a good session. We had clicked photos which I shared on the Why loiter? group. We had met new people. Visited a new area.
But something didnt feel right. After I reached home, I began to question myself.

Why did we go to Kamathipura to loiter?
Why did I have a notion in my head about a red light area?
Why did I stop and talk to the women when I was clearly disrupting their work?
Why did I click a photo of the board that said 'Kamathipura Lane 3'?
Why did I ask those women if they knew today was International Women's Day?
Why did I subconsciously judge the men that told us the exact directions to Kamathipura?
Why do I remember what colour saris the women wore, or the fact that a lot of them were from Bangladesh, that they wore big nosepins and had put on bright lipstick?
What purpose did it serve us or them for us to loiter there?
Why did it not feel satisfying, joyous or good as it does after every loitering session?

Why do I feel that I am never going to choose Kamathipura as a space to loiter in again?

I realise now that I was loitering in Kamathipura with an extreme (although covered under layers of articulation) sense of middle-class-good-girl-entitlement. That reflected in all my actions and interactions in that space.
I realise that what for us was a 'unique experience' was maybe nothing more than a hindrance in someone's daily work.

I realise that we need to have discussions and rethink about what these loitering sessions mean to us.

The critics of Why loiter? often dismiss our movement as a 'frivolous', 'elitist' exercise and uptill now I have felt that none of our sessions fit the bill of being frivolous or elitist. But for last night's session, I have no defence. It did feel a bit 'frivolous' and 'elitist' simply because I dont think it managed to do what other sessions do. That is, bring about a change in the women loitering and in those that watch us walking. Last night, we were more like a bunch of tourists without any deeper engagement or reflections of the space we were in.

I am happy that this happened. It will help us rethink and revisit our reasons for loitering with a greater fervor than ever before.