Monday, 22 December 2014

Why loiter? group in Jaipur kicks off in style!- Neha Singh

I was in Jaipur last week and met Mita Kapur,an extremely talented and respected literary consultant. This was my first meeting with her, organised by a common friend, to discuss a project that we are working on. When I reached her palatial house (understatement) I was intimidated. I had already visited her website 'Siyahi', the literary consultancy that she spearheads. But when I met her, all my apprehensions flew away. Her warm and cozy office was filled with young women, all busy working on various important projects. We began chatting over coffee and that's when my friend, Dhruv Lohumi, suggested I tell this young and bright bunch of women about 'Why loiter? Mumbai'. It often takes me about twenty minutes to explain the concept and the movement to people but Mita and her colleagues understood the value of it within a couple of minutes and told me that it was a wonderful idea. A few minutes later, Mita announced that she would love to start a similar movement in Jaipur. The other women in the room agreed unanimously and before my very eyes, they began brainstorming and were ready with the plan for their first loitering session that Saturday.
I met Mita only for a half hour, but I still knew that she would bring the idea alive, with complete conviction.
Today I received a mail from her with this little story explaining how their experience was, complete with little anecdotes and heartwarming moments. When I saw the photos, my heart danced with joy. So many women, all vibrantly dressed, looking beautiful and armed with guitars, goodies and what have you! This is their story, as told by Mita.

So 20th January evening at statue circle - its cold and windy, a start up NGO to teach kids from economically challenged stratas is holding a candle light vigil to share the tragedy in Peshawar and we reach to just hang….
just walking around the circle, Nandita pointed at Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh's statue to tell us that the scroll it was holding was cut off because it looked like his phallus jutting out...*giggles*

We grow from two to eight to thirteen and finally to about twenty five women - all ages, a school girl from Welhams, bridge players from Chennai, post graduate students from Raj university strumming on her guitar and singing old songs (my generation pop), some more walk in…Ritu and Neeru try to teach us all how to whistle like men do when we walk past…we talk, giggle and in all the bonhomie, anuja comes with freshly baked date bars, ritu (number 2) with roasted peanuts - just what we need to keep it going - we walk around, talk to people just generally who are also there to walk. in true spirit, Megha and Kanika decided to scale the statue which prompted a few shrill whistles from the guard asking them to get down...
some more walk in who are visiting from Bombay…

We are there for a about an hour and a half….Radhika Jagwani says "in truly believing in what we are doing here, I am going walk back home and not call my car." off she goes. Fifteen minutes later she messages, "a guy on a bike started chasing me, I had to call my husband to pick me up" - her home was barely half a km away. Devyani, who couldn't come but is heavily into cross country running and cycling also messaged on the group saying "I was chased this morning while I was cycling"
Jaipur as a city is just another small town where men think its their birth right to tease women
our next loiter should mostly be on Christmas.

We maybe in different cities, but we are all of the same sisterhood, a similar desire. The desire that one day all roads, parks, bus depots, railway stations, movie theatres, road side tapris, highways, hotels and homes will be safe and free and inviting for women to roam and loiter peacefully.  Now hoping more such groups start in other cities as well. 

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