Friday 4 March 2022

Loitering in the times of Corona - Neha Singh

 Ever since we first started loitering in the year 2014, every year we have walked past midnight on 16th December in memory of Jyoti Singh, the victim of the Delhi gang rape. 

In the year 2020 and 2021 we couldn't loiter at all due to Covid restrictions and lockdowns, so when the lockdown lifted, the first session we decided to do was our yearly 16th December Midnight walk, in memory of Jyoti Singh. 

It is strange, but also not strange at all, that women walking together doing nothing is always so much fun, so filled with laughter, stories, craziness and poignancy. Women who join us the first time for a session always ask me what it is that we are going to do in the session. And I always tell them that we are just going to walk, nothing else is ever planned. This usually causes a bit of anxiety, understandably so. We are all so conditioned to have everything planned. We are always taught to 'make use of time efficiently' and never just be wasting time.

Archana wondering why this advertisement for public cycles has an image of a man on it?

So obviously, when a campaign that is, in fact, based on 'wasting time' in a mainstream way, it can lead to anxiety. But us, who have been loitering for eight years now, know how vital this waste of time is! How vital it is for women to be seen 'wasting time' in public spaces at ungodly hours, with absolutely no guilt or inhibition. 

What do women want? Good street lights (to click good selfies under)

And of course, like I said earlier, there is a certain magic that happens whenever women come together to loiter. Even without any agenda or plan, we end up discussing things that are most important to us. Our experiences in public spaces, of trauma and triumphs and adventures and small acts of transgression. We feed off each others' wisdoms and experiences to feel like we are not alone in this struggle to reclaim our life, our time and our bodies in public spaces. 

Walking the untrodden path!

So, thats exactly what happened this time as well. There were some of us who have been loitering for eight years now, some who have been with us for a couple of years and for some, it was their first time. 

We met at 11.30 p.m and began walking. The meeting point was decided but where would we end up after walking, and also how long we would walk for, was undecided. We ended up walking for three hours straight and had the most adventurous night. 

What do women want? An autorikshaw with colourful balloons!

We stood under street lamps and clicked selfies, got into long conversations with autorikshaw drivers and walked on lanes that we had never walked on before. We stared at the beautiful moon, talked about how satisfying it is to meet other women and just talk, and how good it feels to be outdoors especially after the lockdowns. 

We walked on deserted lanes, something we otherwise wouldnt do. No incidents of harassments happened, unlike many other times when we have found ourselves in such situations. It was a beautiful night of 'non-incident', if you could call it that.

Its magical how quickly women befriend women. 

And thats what women want, for all those who are forever wondering 'what do women want?'

Women want uneventful nights of exercising their agencies that have non-agendas and non-fear and non-anger. 

At the end of three hours of doing practically nothing, most of us sighed about 'how wonderful and beautiful and empowering' it was. 

Loitering women are happy women.

It just reinforced in me, the politics of the 'Why loiter?' campaign. Women having fun, without any other agenda, is extremely powerful and political. 

Here's to many, many more nights of doing absolutely nothing!

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