My experience of yesterday’s activity and today’s discussion has led to many a thoughts and realisations. First of all I have come to realise how differently each one of us approached the exercise- some as a game, some as a challenge and some as mere instructions for an activity this lead to a different response to each exercise within the larger exercise. While some were challenging themselves and pushing themselves to interact and get over their inhibitions there were others who were playing the game as an instruction-response kind of thing which led to feelings like ‘being forced’ (apart from many other reasons).
What interests me most is how our games took different paths (irrespective of the basic differences of location and timing) because of the choices we made at that moment which also speaks about who we are, our fears, how we look at ourselves in the public. My approach to a public space is always wary, I fear for my safety; hence I go into a space guarded. But through this exercise I started questioning this big generalisation that I always seemed to make that men are lecherous. On the other hand there is Neha who is aware of these actions and fears but puts them aside to feel safe.
ble An added realisation was a sense of reconfirmation of the status of being a woman in the public. This guided a lot of our decisions and brought about many ‘gender specific-activities’ (a product of conditioning) like sleeping at the back of a truck, conversing with more women or men, or simply the timings we chose or even choosing activities, I as a woman (alone) would never involve myself in an activity that would draw a lot of attention to myself or one that involves a lot of people.
Another fascinating observation is how we sketched people’s characters based on stereotypes and pre-conditioned notions/connections about certain kinds of behaviour and physical form. This observation is quite specific to me because I was constantly trying to think of these strangers’ lives in a realistic way because there was something very real about the character that prevented me from going into the realms of fantasy.
One very important question that Piyush came back with was the ethics of an exercise like this, for example the interaction exercise was for an hour with each person, now is it possible to just stop a conversation abruptly because we have been asked to. I feel that a conversation with anyone is a building of a relationship, it is dynamic and by no means can it be monitored by time, it is the connection that 2 people establish, hence arriving at the nature of the conversation- fluid or purely question-answer oriented. One can make the decision to terminate the conversation on the basis of the nature of it.
At the end of it all we all realised what it was like to see ourselves in a public space as independent individuals.
I think what i took away most from the two activities was the idea that we hedge ourselves with the choices we make. The idea that most of the activity was based on the absence of communication between any of us and that were were not forewarned about the nature of the instructions in the activity made these choices we normally make blindly stand out. These choice, due o the lack of thought n discussion, were totally instinctive and natural – unadulterated by forethought. This ‘learning form impulses’ is an idea we have explored before in the course, but not practically. We have talked about how our ‘of course’ responses are the ones we must look out for as they are those stereotyped ideas we may be carrying that often need to be re-evaluated.
Making every person share their experiences along with the chart, made everybody’s experience seem personal- which it was. It was unique to a place and the person. This was an important point to drive home. Personally, this experience was a coalesce of all my past en devours to ‘flex my muscle in public.’ It sort of gave me direction as well as left the nature of the actual activity quite open ended.
I guess making those sketches also helped reinforce a lot of what we went through and experienced. I was able to see what about the place i was able to recall best. This is unique to each person. I seem to notice activities a lot.
I found the exercise of taking to strangers and telling a random stranger a life truth very interesting probably because i never do it. I found various pretenses to start conversing with people on the road one successful the other not. Finally i just went and approched a random man and spoke to him for the longest time.
Many of the questions we ended with were very interesting – ‘what is creepy/shady?” These i think will help us to get to the fundamental cores of these issues – attacking our stereotypes.
Althoughether a very productive 2 days that i personally took a lot away from.
The day-long exercise was a roller coaster ride.
I had strange tales, to tell. Like I always do. The long talk with a possible prostitute, the lonely breakfast at an idle men’s park, the analysis of how one can catch the traffic’s attention and the tables turning in the case of a ‘creepy’ looking, young man who turned out to be not as testosterone-charged as I’d imagined.
Was it my fault that I evoked attention? Is fair-skin and curly hair to be blamed? Do I make too much eye-contact with strangers?
These questions had formed sediments in my day and I carried them over to today’s discussion, which I believe was quite revealing.
I realized, from others experiences that there is a general sense of protection that the society around us seems to offer. People are always warding girls off from sites of ‘danger’, but it is relevant to ask, who these ‘dangerous people’ are? Does one rape in a park make the park dangerous?
I got more from the discussion about myself than a general analytical consensus.
I, as a person, am more conversational than others. My peers often tell me to be ‘in control’ of a conversation with a stranger, but the discussion offered a lot of material to ponder over this in detail. I realized that I, unlike Tanvee do not need a reason to start a conversation, to take on another identity or share a very personal incident. I trust, I trust soon. But at the bottom of it all, I’m probably more closed than the others.
I understood that trust was probably a tactic I was using for my defense. Deep down, there is a general fear of the public, of what people might do or say if I act in certain ways. But I use the shield of trust and friendliness to fight that fear.
The discussion also threw light on the fact that so many of our responses to society are based on what we hear from others’ from incidents in the newspapers; or films. They are hardly, what we experience ourselves. Pooja and I both had incidents of ‘creepy’ men actually turning out to be very helpful people. While I was serving water, I was approaching every man with equal apprehension, because we are conditioned to think of the negative consequences of such a situation first. However, the discussion later lead on to the point that questioned this attitude. What if a male stranger is just trying to help you out? Haven’t we generalized all male gazes in public as bad?
It was also very clear that a male member is offered much more lineage in our society than a female. Piyush spending a night in a truck, Shrikar idling in park alone, Saumitra not being shooed away from a station, like Prerna; all of these instances strengthen the notion.
What was really nice was that each of us were in completely different
places and since for some of the exercises we had to make up stories,
each of us came up with really different excuses. This leading to each
of having a very different experience. Amongst the class it also
mattered at what time of the day each of did the activities as it lead
to different reactions from public.
I think being idle is not really appreciated in public as it makes one
wonder what the real motive of the idle person is. It would be looked
upon in a negative sense. I think this is because all of us to some
extent do a particular thing only with reason. So when you tell
someone i am here sitting idle for “time pass” they usually would not
want to believe it because one usually expects reason for any doing.
It was nice to see how we came up with different activities and how we
were trying to challenge ourselves by doing things differently in
terms of starting a conversation. Also, another thing i noticed for
myself is that its easy to talk to strangers when you are forced to
and not otherwise in general. When we take the step to talk its more
about us being confident and the stranger being taken aback whereas
when a person approaches us we would think of a million things before
agreeing to have a conversation. How is it that these people trust us,
maybe because of the language i spoke in but is that enough reason for
one to trust us in is what i can still think about ?
Another question that remains in my head to figure out would be what
is it that makes a place unsafe to us? when do we start getting
uncomfortable ? Am i afraid of the darkness of an unknown place due to
fear of the unseen or unknown ?
Saumitra chandratreya :
Piyush kumar Kashyap: