Monday, November 26, 2007

Blank Noise

I do intend to post on Blank Noise and how it works, but am, at present too occupied with my semesters.

In short, Blank Noise is a community art project that tries to address the issue of Street Sexual Violence/Harassment by creating a dialog, tries to break the social acceptance that 'Eve-teasing' has got over time. I mean, most girls take it as one of those facts of life!

Try reading the blog. It's rather massive. But I can assure you it's very much worth the effort.

The Calcutta chapter is relatively new(about 6 months) and this was out first street intervention that involved not only the people who walked, but, more importantly, the locals... the hawkers, the shopkeepers, the shoppers.

The basic ground work included extensive conversations within the group, with our parents, relatives, friends, with absolute strangers on the streets and in colleges. A questionnaire was circulated both in paper and through email. We went out with the questionnaire to the streets and talked to people of all kinds. The answers were used to form a survey which also presented to us a picture of how similar or different the work for Blank Noise in Calcutta would be compared to the other cities.

The preparation for the walk included going up to all the shopkeepers and hawkers in the stretch between Gariahaat and Dhakuria and getting their views on the issue of Street Sexual Harassment. These dialogs are, in fact, the most important part of this project. We met really angry people, very supportive people, and the last and the most challenging kind- What-Can-I-Have-to-Say-on-This people. We met mothers and fathers who said their daughter had never been harassed on the streets because they wore 'decent' clothes. We met shopkeepers who said they had never heard of eve-teasing since they were too occupied with their business. We poked them, prodded them and managed to get them to talk. And there in lies the first aim of Blank Noise.

Another very impressive aspect of this project that amazes me, is the way it uses art and the element of surprise. Art is one medium where all the defenses that social conditioning grinds into us drop. And at that moment as person becomes open to ideas, to connections, to empathy with an absolute stranger. However, how Blank Noise uses art, will take a separate post to describe.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Four Walks and a Funeral

A lot has been happening for the past couple of weeks. The Blank Noise intervention was a wonderful experience and all the running around really paid off. Jasmeen is leaving tomorrow morning. A brilliant woman. You just have to see how focussed she is about her work! I must say, although I have been working for Blank Noise for some time now, this is the first time things are really clearing up inside my head. I love the way we worked. I loved the way the intervention opened me up to so many things about Calcutta and its people that I had never noticed before.

For the last few days, I have had random and long conversations with hawkers, shopkeepers, autowallahs, rickshawallahs, littlekids, wearyaunties, gigglinggirls. And suddenly I know everyone in the entire stretch of the Gariahat market. Well, most of them. Like, I really know who the kid selling pirated CDs is. And what he loves best. I have his phone number. He has mine too. I know I won't be calling him up when I am blue anytime soon, but I know that I can, if I wish. That feels great. I know. I am mad. It's impossible to emphasize enough on the importance of these conversations. I give up trying to explain.

The walk condemning the Nandigram killings was, also, a reason for hope for more reasons than one. I have been to the walks when Singur happened. I distinctly remember feeling a little out of place among the theater workers, actors, intellectuals( although I was sure I wanted to be there). But this time it was very different. I met the common man at the walk this time. The doping student. The old man with a hurting knee. The teacher with his students. The housewife after the day's chores. The cute girl in glasses. Everyone of them.

I am surprised how addicted I have lately become to walking alone. Going on limbs to absolute nowheres. I walked to Subhayu's place the day before but lost my way- which is insane, considering I go to his place more frequently than anywhere else.

Mark Knopfler is really great. Yes. I know what you are thinking. I just felt like mentioning. Just that I am listening to Walk of Life right now.

On a slightly gloomier note, my semesters start the 3rd of December and I am having to study. Not that I am complaining. I don't mind, really.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can we go with buckets(large red ones) collecting spit for our dear comrades?

No matter how tempted you are, you may contribute only once.

Each one, spit once.

P.S. Be at the walk on 14th November.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hwang Ho


And one day the blue floss emptied itself
Into a yellow river that flowed mighty and proud.

The blue will live only in the blues
Of the mighty Hwang and the tramp
Who stood watching on the bank the day the blue died.

The river of sorrow has its booty of blues.
But the tramp won't tell no one.