Sunday, 16 October 2016

'Any room available for single ladies?'- memoirs of Neetole (loiterer) Mitra


I’ve been loitering my entire life. Just loafing in some corner, ambling away time in road side tea stalls and taking indefinite long walks to nowhere in particular. Now, I’ve qualified to solo travelling, drifting from place to place without purpose. That’s me.
I travel unplanned, without a set route or list of destinations that must be covered. I don’t journey for beautiful sights alone, neither for historical monuments. Instead, I reach and go where the place takes me. No prior planning and very little budget.
But this isn’t really the Indian way of life. And it’s definitely not our way of travel either. Most destinations don’t expect a solo traveller to appear with a backpack and an uncertainty about the number of days they’ll stay and about what they are going to do in the given destination. Even more so when this unplanned traveller is a woman.

AT THE TIP OF INDIA, LOOKING OUT AT THE INDIAN OCEAN IN KANYAKUMARI

A DINNER OF BEEF CHILLY AND PORONTA AT EDAVA, KERALA

The first thing I heard even when I was standing on the station stairs at Kanyakumari, is – “Yahan single ladies ko room rent nahi deta hai.” Almost a proud utterance. As though it was the decidedly moral thing to do. What was I to do now? The solo traveller looking for a very cheap room, standing there with an increasingly heavy backpack and two days of craving for a shower? Welcome to solo female travel in India.
Our country expects its travellers to be planned. What to do, where to stay, where to eat and when to leave. These details must be at the tip of your fingers. Else, you are a probable source of nuisance and are bound to make people around you suspicious. Here, we reserve the right to loitering primarily for local males. Prowling their territory I guess.

INDULGING IN SOME SELF LOVE

AT THE NIZAMMUDDIN RAILWAY STATION, NEW DELHI, EARLY IN THE MORNING
Of course all voyages start at home. Mine started when I was in the last year of school. It was sort of a late realization that the ‘safety of the daughter’ was an alibi that stopped me from venturing beyond my gully or beyond the premises of my school, alone. It was like the fear of shakchunni (Bengali version of chudail). Don’t go out at night, the shakchunni will get you. 
Somewhere during the last year of school, I had a tiff with my mother. I told her I will take the public bus back home instead of the school bus. I should get a hang of how the roads work. College starts soon, right? She didn’t speak to me for a couple of months after that. This made me really curious, like the road was a horror story and I needed to get to the bottom of this.
Since then I’ve been going vagabond a few extra hours every year and now I’m proud to say, I full time at it. Over the last one decade of loitering in Delhi and elsewhere, I’ve walked many indiscreet roads and have loitered at both godly and ungodly hours and almost always I have come across friendly help in case I have lost my way.

OUTSIDE THE CHENNAI CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION, GRABBING SOMETHING TO EAT, HOPING THE TRAIN WON'T LEAVE

A TWENTY RUPEE DINNER

But it sure is a lonely affair because the only possible source of exchange stays limited to men as they are more easily available. It’s mighty difficult to find unaccompanied women on the streets that you can stop and talk to for a couple of minutes.
In Calicut, I see men standing about cigarette shops having a post lunch cigarette, some simply picking out with a toothpick. I see there’s always a walk in section to most restaurants where working men come in to eat at noon or maybe just stop for a cup of tea in the midst of the day’s errands. When I enter, I’m politely pointed to the family section – a more closed set up on the first floor, with waiting time, because it’s proper. There you get a table all to yourself. No one else comes and joins. The ways we limit casual interactions for the fairer sex.
I’m an outsider in this walk in section at Paragon restaurant as I’m hogging on a plate of very flavorful biriyani. Almost everyone turns to look at me. Some continue to stare. I feel relieved when I see one more girl as I go to wash my hand. But she’s with a male friend.
Yet, it’s not such a problem if a woman goes exploring. Mostly people are just shocked at the odds of a woman walking down the road. But beyond that mostly they want to help out. I took a walk from Varkala’s north cliff and found myself somewhere near Kollam at about 10.30 pm. Half an hour’s failed attempt later, I find myself resting my legs as an old man hails down an auto for me.
However, there is a clear lack of understanding and sympathy towards the need to ‘travel’, and a woman making a firsthand claim to public spaces is almost unheard of in India.
While staying in a Thallassery PWD rest house, I have to deal with the chetta who is watch man there. I have to pay him the rent, and make an entry in the register. He’s visibly annoyed with me. He’s caught that I don’t understand Malayalam. In fact all the Malayalam I know is Malayalam illa. So he puts on a frown on his face and starts mumbling. Angry mumblings; which gives me the impression that he is insulting me. Asking me questions and then getting even more annoyed when he has to translate to Hindi or English. He calms down only after I ask looking him squarely in the eyes – What chetta? You are not happy that I’ve come to stay here? You are angry that I’m travelling alone?

THIRUVALLUVAR STATUE


Then he gets over friendly, and spends some part of the evening reeking of alcohol and whistling in the corridors. I am the only occupant of the rest house. He’s my guard.
Overlooking these slight set-backs that crop up once in a while, I have to say that I will do this a thousand times over. This is what I want to do. This is the only thing that makes me feel happy and alive.  To land in a random station and then get lost in random lanes, and enjoy the rhythm of life somewhere I’ve never been before.
In Kerala I made many friends, wonderful people I would have never known had I not loitered. I ate at their tables, they tried to teach me Malayalam while I earnestly tried to learn. I helped myself paint a real picture of a place that was so far only a vague pop –culture and book accumulated hotchpoch. I explored its cities, beaches and hills and eventually realized that mostly the roads are welcoming. It can give you a hard time yes, but if you can keep a straight face and hold your own, then happy loitering to you my friend. I shall look out for you.
A GLIMPSE OF PULIKALI ON THE STREETS OF COCHIN, THE PERFECT PLACE TO CATCH ONAM CELEBRATIONS.

PRETTY SIGHTS ARE COMMONPLACE IN KERALA. DURING A WALK IN BEKAL

BRUISED FEET, HAPPY SOUL

Neetole Mitra is a solo budget backpacker, writer and ardent instagramer. You can visit her at neetolemitra.com.




Sunday, 26 June 2016

Let's start a revolution...but how?- Neha Singh

Last Saturday we had a special show of our play 'Loitering' directed by Satchit Puranik, which is based on the ideas of the book 'Why loiter?' and the movement 'Why loiter?' for a group of 35 odd seventeen year old students from an international school.
This bright and articulate group is attending a workshop on 'Gender and photography' and as part of that their teacher has exposed them to the book, the movement and the play. I personally think its a brilliant idea and wish I had teachers when I was growing up who would do the same. Expose me to ideas so real and so idealistic, without having to sit in a dreary classroom and read from boring books. Hats off to such projects and such endeavours by young teachers.
After the show we had a question and answer session with the students which was supposed to last half an hour but lasted for almost two hours. They had several questions about the movement, particularly.

Most of these questions were something like this

'How do we extend this to poor women?'

'Poor women don't have time to loiter, so what about them?'

'How do you plan to expand this movement?'

'Do you think your movement will have any impact on the billions of women of India?'

'How do you plan to reach out to the masses?'

'How does a few upper class women loitering change anything?'

'How does loitering make any difference in the statistics on crime against women in India?'

'What about our house maids?'

'You think what you have achieved in 2 years is good enough?'

'Do you have a plan in place to expand your movement?'

'How does you loitering make any difference in the mindsets of people on the roads?'

'Why is a play about why loiter? directed by a man?'

'Don't you think limiting the movement to you and people you know is selfish?'

'Don't you think loitering is a privilege restricted to the middle and upper middle and the rich?'

'How is your movement going to bring about a positive change in the country?'

'You think what you do changes the mindset of men?'

At first I was defensive and felt they were attacking what I do so passionately, and being insensitive. But as the questions kept coming and I realised they were all basically asking the same thing, 'how is what you do important if it cannot change the world/the society/the country?'

I tried to quickly go back to when I was seventeen years old and how did I think then. And my own seventeen year old self told me that I should be more tolerant and accepting of the questions because even my seventeen year old self thought that something that doesn't change the world or at least a few billion people isn't worth it, something that seems small and slow is to be dismissed and an individual, internal change is so blase that it is not even worth a mention, not even to myself! My seventeen year old self also had vague and absurd notions about the 'poor' people, that they only work work work, their lives are so miserable, they don't have a concept of 'fun', they never crack a joke, they never laugh or smile or tease or flirt, or sing or lie down on soft grass and stare at the stars and dream. Oh, foolish, ignorant, stupid seventeen year old me!

Then I imagined this group, that is seventeen year old NOW, when their lives probably are enriched by social media, google and Wikipedia and most of them lead much more protected lives than I ever did. I also realized that as a seventeen year old I did not have to think about changing the world, if I could just iron my school uniform and polish my shoes and take out the dog for a walk once a day, my parents were happy with me. But these children face the pressures of being so much more than that. They have to be entrepreneurs, leaders, debaters, thinkers, activists, and what not. They know everything about the whole world, the problems the world faces, the problems India faces, the bleak future ahead of us, global warming, crime against women, terrorism, nuclear deals, Donald Trump, ISIS, Boko Haram, blah blah blah blah blah!

Then it struck me, that they found the idea of 'pleasure', 'fun', 'doing something for oneself', 'changing things one person at a time', 'changing something internally, for yourself', so alien, so foreign, so distant, because they have forgotten what simple joys are, or atleast find the idea of simple, personal joys 'not worth it'.


'Because the problems are so huge, the solutions have to be huge too'

Maybe, but maybe, just maybe, because the problems are so huge and complex, the solutions could be small and simple. 

Satchit and I kept reiterating that loitering is simple fun, and would become an oxymoron if I had a loitering 'Head office' in Mumbai from where I was in touch via skype with all the loitering 'branch offices' where my loitering 'workers' made people loiter, and then send me the attendance sheets that I then filled into my main excel sheet and mailed to the CEO of the multi national company that was funding our loitering!

It sounded just as absurd to them as it did to us. 

I also confessed to them that if I had asked myself all the questions that they were asking me, I would have felt so hopeless, small and depressed that I would have scrapped the idea of loitering even before doing it. They all laughed!

I told them that when I read the book, it spoke to me, not to make a large scale movement, but to just, get out of my own house, and loiter. It just so happened that others found the idea interesting and joined me. Loitering cannot be forced, it cannot be asked of someone, it has to come from the individual, it has to be fun and joyful and simple, otherwise it is not loitering, it is work.

We told them that this idea of 'expansion' and 'what about them' and 'how do you plan to change the world' may not be quick and straightforward, but may take years and decades and may never happen, but its important to keep doing it to change yourself, your friends, your family, your neighbourhood and ideas spread, ideas are replicated, borrowed, are sources of inspiration. I told them that similar movements have started in Jaipur. Aligarh, Pakistan and it is not a coincidence, its a collective. The only way something like a why loiter movement can be sustained is if it is locally pioneered, is fun, is personal.

I told them about the blog and that we have readers from across the world that often share stories of their own individual loiterings and how sometimes what they read here inspires them to loiter. I told them that I conducted a workshop with tribal women in Jharkhand about the ideas of loitering. That seemed to impress them a little. By the end of the two hours we did manage to erode some of their ideas of what a movement means and what it CAN mean. Some of them also said that they would love to start loitering with their friends in their own neighbourhoods. I said, 'of course, there is no copyright on loitering, in fact, there is a copy left on it!' They laughed, but it is true. Loitering is a phenomenon as old as life itself, its just that we have now forgotten its simple pleasures.

The idea that a movement, a revolution has to be for OTHERS and not for MYSELF is something that is propogated, but is so not correct. How are you going to change others when you arent sure of what you think, practice and advocate? How are you going to 'make' others loiter and have fun when you have forgotten what loitering and having simple joys means? How are you going to sustain something that you, in your head, have made so serious and joyless?

'Be the change you want to see in the world'- M.K. Gandhi.

Simple words, but so true. Lets revisit these words by the man who did change the world by changing just  himself.




Sunday, 29 May 2016

Antakshari in the metro: new ways of bridging gaps- by Manasi Rachh





I remember getting added into a whatsapp group long time back by Neha. The group said Why loiter? And she mentioned on the group that it was an informal group she had made and all she wanted to do is loiter every Sunday at public places. I went through the other participants that were added and realised all of them were women. Hmm. Interesting I thought. Women loitering around in public places. Very different. Rebellious. Maybe a little attention seeking being women but courageous nonetheless. I couldn’t make it that Sunday. And I couldn’t make it for lot more Sundays after that. 

This morning I read on Neha's facebook wall that she was loitering in the Metro train today and that if you are interested you could meet her at the Versova metro station at 5pm. 








So 4.50 I reach the Versova metro station. A little earlier than the time given. But I didn’t want to be late for my first loitering session. Honestly those 10 minutes I was just pacing up and down. I had seen pictures on Nehas Facebook page about people loitering every Sunday. But I didn’t know what to expect. And also loitering in a metro train was something I couldn’t really imagine. Anyways before I knew there were so many of loiterers assembled at the metro station. It was a mix group of men and women. We took a return ticket from Versova to Ghatkopar and back and boarded the metro train. There were a few who had loitered before, a few who were first timers like me. 




 The loitering session started with a gentleman playing the flute and before we knew we had started playing antakshari. Boys vs girls. Just that it wasn’t limited to our small group. But it was played between the entire metro train ladies compartment vs a section of the gent’s bogie. It was a simple game of Antakshari and every time it was the girls turn, the loiterers would urge the other women in the compartment to prompt a song. As they would come up with a song, the loiterers would then encourage the women in the bogie to sing along. The guys from the group were doing the same thing in the gents section. 








Initially people were quite hesitant. Slowly they started to open up, especially the women. From just prompting the songs to singing loudly, the transition happened so smoothly between on the 25 minute ride from versova to ghatkopar. It just took 25 minutes for people to open up and play Antakshari with complete strangers. What started as a normal boring metro ride for most of them, who were minding their own businesses either listening to music on their headphones, or surfing the internet or just interacting with their small groups moved on to become a playful, happy, healthy but competitive game of Antakshari. All of this while they were in transit from destination A to destination B or a regular Sunday evening. 






What did I get? 

To begin with immense joy. I haven’t played Antakshari so freely and fiercely since school picnic days. Honestly waiting at the Versova Metro station, I would have never imagined this was possible in a metro train. What else? I also witnessed this little act putting smiles on so many people’s faces. It spread like forest fire across an entire metro train bogie. 


What did I learn? 


That it’s very easy to connect with a complete stranger if you go with complete openness and trust. I saw women staring at us, some of them were just looking at us from our head to toes and observing each and every movement of ours. I think they were just curious to know as to where did we come from, how did we behave so freely. 


In some ways I think the first few songs that the girls from the loiterers group sang were almost setting examples for the other women that you can sing loudly in public places without being judged. It’s ok. They slowly started picking up on that and then found their own spaces and voices to play the game. I think also what helped was we were quite a few of us. We were an intimidating number of influencers. I wonder if we were lesser of us, or like Neha said if it was only her urging people to play antakshari would people open up the way they did?










What about my nervousness? 

It was completely gone. I felt so comfortable in my own skin. There was no one to restrict me, no one to judge me. It was quite liberating. And it comes from someone who feels she’s quite independent anyway. What made it different though was that I didn’t have to rebel or fight for my freedom or justify my independence. It was just given to me. Naturally. Without having to ask for it or fight for it. Effortlessly. It felt nice. I felt respected. And I think a lot of credit also goes to the guys who loitered with us today. Yes women can fight for their rights and for their freedom. They may even get what they want. But it depends on how you get that freedom. Do you have to fight for it? Do you have to ask for it? Or you just get it. Because you are a part of the same universe like any other person existing. I experienced the latter today. And it was beautiful. So ya, thank you guys. 

I wish one day women wouldn’t have to loiter to change perceptions of the society. I wish one day women will loiter, just, because they want to, because they can without drawing any attention. And I wish that this day comes soon. More power to Neha and all the other Loiterers on completing two years of this beautiful movement. 

Why loiter? Because you should, you must, you can. And above all its lot of fun!!


In awe
Manasi smile emoticon





Manasi Rachh is a theatre and film actor from Mumbai. She is also a writer, film maker, thinker and supporter of alternative ways of living.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

NOT a typical day in the metro! by Sreemoyee Bhattacharya




 ‘Why loiter’ is turning two this Sunday. For those who don’t know what ‘Why loiter’ is, let me give you a brief description. It is a movement for women (not necessarily only by women) to gain back the rights to reclaim public space. Neha Singh, a short filmmaker, author and actor started this movement based on the book ‘Why Loiter’ written by Shilpa Phadke. As part of ‘Why Loiter’, a group of people (mostly women) usually loiters around the city during night. But last Sunday was special! It was basically a demo version of the second birthday celebration of ‘Why Loiter’ on next Sunday.

So eight of us met at Versova Metro station at 5 PM on 22nd of May. Four girls and four boys. Few of us knew each other already. The others too mingled well in just a couple of minutes, like how revolutionaries connect very quickly! We all bought return tickets for Versova-Ghatkopar. The idea was to entertain the metro passengers by reading, singing and reciting or playing games and let them reconsider whether they want to have a journey with real friendly people around or in the virtual world created by their Smartphones. We discussed a little about our plans before boarding the train, but lets not give out spoilers here.



Once we entered the train, we discovered a rope tied between two metro seats (facing each other) designated for women. One of us almost tripped over it, not knowing what exactly it does. A middle-aged woman smiled at us, saying it is ‘The Lakshman Rekha’. We were excited to see the smile on our first fellow passenger’s face, which is rare nowadays. We realized that the rope actually divides the general and ladies compartments. Well, it is ‘Lakshman Rekha’ then!



Satchit, an FTII passout, got pretty excited now. He asked the woman if she has read Ramayana by Valmiki, as the concept of Lakshman Rekha was not even there in that version. He informed that it was later added in Tulsidas’ Ramcharitamanas. The woman smiled again explaining that she had only seen Ramayana in television or movies. Satchit took out a book from his bag now and started reading a short story that had five letters written by Sita to her parents. By then the train was half full and it began its journey towards Ghatkopar. The passengers were not quite sure what exactly was going on there. But they looked curious. Many of them listened to the story carefully and there was a round of applause once it was over.


But we realized that not everyone could relate to the story. So Ajitesh Gupta, an UP-born actor and singer, started singing a Marathi song. People, who were busy with cellphones, turned now. Ajitesh, with his amazing voice, pulled more crowds towards our small group. There was a bigger round of applause once he finished the song. Then we sang Tagore, ‘Aakash Bhora Shurjo Tara’. Glimpses of ‘Komal Gandhar’ played hide and seek within me. Next was a Gujrati song by Satchit. It was a hilarious song about ‘Garam Chaye’. By then the entire crowd got interested in us. Some started asking if Sonu Nigam had disguised himself again. We laughed. Everyone laughed.





So it was time. The interaction began. And in a country like India, especially in a city like Mumbai, what can be more interactive than music? Decision was taken immediately. Antakshari it was. And the proud ‘Lakshman Rekha’ divided us in two teams. Girls vs Boys.

‘Baithe baithe kya karenge, karna hai kuchh kaam,
Toh shuru karo antakshari lekar Prabhu ka naam’

I always wondered who this ‘Prabhu’ is. But whoever he is, he created a brilliant game indeed! The girls’ team had to sing a song with ‘Ma’. Someone from the far end of our compartment started singing ‘Mere khwabon me jo aaye’. And most of the girls joined her with sheer joy. Then the guys’ team had to sing with ‘ey’. And it went on.







Interestingly, the girls were much more spontaneous than the boys. So none of us, the four girls from our group, me, Neha, Devina and Rashmi, had to start a single song with the letters given to us. All other girls did it. Rather we were just one large group of girls playing the game against the boys! There were few men though, who participated and sang songs of Big B, with a lot of excitement in their voices. We danced along with them. It was so much fun!
Stations came and went, the game continued. One of the girls came in front and declared that she had to get off at the next stop, but she would want to join us in this venture. Neha shared numbers with her. We heard another girl, who was about to get down, telling her friend how she wished to continue the journey with us.

And like that, to our astonishment, we almost reached the last station, not even realizing the time it took. It was time for the last song. And the girls’ team had to sing with ‘Ha’.  Someone started ‘Hum honge kamyaab’. It was co-incidental though. But the entire compartment sang along. The girls from all age groups had sparkle in their eyes while uttering every single word of the song. For a moment we felt, there is no discrimination in this world between different religions, castes, races or class! The spirit of equality resonated all over the public transport! Who says the world has lost all hope?



Once we reached Ghatkopar, lot of people came and thanked us for making their journey so entertaining. But it should have been other way around. So we thanked them more. Some of them said that they would do something like this on their own, if they have a group. Others showed lot of enthusiasm to join us.

The return journey also went like that. We sang and danced along with our wonderful fellow passengers. When we reached Versova, we saw a burqa-clad woman dancing happily on her own, inside the empty train. Her happiness was our tribute to ‘Why Loiter’ movement indeed.





We came home with hearts full of hope and promises! This was just a demo. So this Sunday, 29th of May, at 5PM we will again embark on a similar journey. And we believe that some of them and many of you, who are reading this right now, will join us! Let’s make the world more beautiful and peaceful together!

P.S. Co-incidentally, the only book I have published till date, a collection of Bengali poems, was named as ‘Life in a Metro’. I had a series of poems on the journeys I had in a Metro rail in Kolkata. Well.. the writing bug bites me again!

Sreemoyee Bhattacharya is a filmmaker, writer, singer, champion of Bengali literature and an engineer. She is originally from Kolkata, but she is loving loitering in Bombay too.


video









Monday, 14 March 2016

'Loitering' the play! - Neha Singh



I am sure when the authors of the book 'Why loiter?' were writing it they hadnt thought the ideas they were penning were going to turn into a movement. And when I started the movement 'Why loiter?' in Mumbai I had no idea people in other cities would make their own loitering groups. And I definitely did not think that after almost two years of loitering, someone would propose to make a play about it. A play purely celebrating the joy of loitering, by people of all shapes, ages and sizes.




Satchit Puranik, a theatre colleague and co loiterer proposed the idea of making a play around the themes mentioned in the 'Why loiter?' book, the experiences of the women that are part of the 'Why loiter?' movement, and his own personal learning journey associated with years of travel in and outside the country. Satchit also participated in the Why loiter? walks whenever he was allowed. When we invited men to come dressed in women's clothes and walk with us, Satchit dressed up in a shimmery long skirt and a low cut blouse and came.



But I had no idea what was in store when Satchit began working on the play. The first day when I went to see the rehearsals, I was refreshed to see lots of people that are essentially non actors. This eclectic cast included a ,Gujarati world class tabla player, Maharashtrian couple in their mid sixties, a Malayali single mom of two young daughters, a young storyteller who is also a mother of two, an eighteen year old kathak dancer, a 30 year old Muslim rapid sketch artist from Aligarh, a young office going girl from Nagaland, and a kallari payattu martial artist from Uttar Pradesh and two young Mumbai girls, one a gujarati and the other a Sindhi, to help with the direction and the production. two young men helping us with music, sound and art, again from diverse backgrounds. I was awestruck with this wonderful and experimental cast, and I knew instantly that this was going to be a fun roller coaster ride.






This was going to be a DOCUMENTARY THEATRE piece, where people come on stage as themselves and share their own personal stories, of course, with artistic and dramatic embellishments, but essentially its non-acting.
The stories that emerged were priceless. The rehearsal space turned into a safe space to share our most intimate stories of being in public spaces, over the years. We shared experiences of being on roads, in buses, in trains, in different cities of India, during the day and the night, with people or without, as men and women, as young adults and children and grown ups.
Patterns emerged, of societal norms of being 'safe', 'protected', being feminine and masculine, what it means to be a woman in our country and what it means to be a man. Both equally stifling.
Our own mini rebellions and transgressions of rules and feeling of being heroic when all you had done was cross the road to drink chai at a chai stall on the pavement.






We discovered what is called the 'Ganika Gat' or the walk of the courtesan, at one point an integral part of Kathak but not a single teacher teaches this to his/her students anymore. There is no mention of the Ganika Gat online and no research material. Satchit tracked down one of the few remaining Kathak dancers who knows the form and had long discussions with her about the seduction attached to the walk of the courtesan and how a woman's walk in a public space can never be removed from what it means to the male observer.
We shared what it means to be a woman cycling down a Mumbai road, with men leering, honking, pointing and behaving in extremely juvenile ways.
There were a few disturbing stories too. Like a girl getting harrassed in the most disgusting way on Holi, which is a major Hindu festival, especially celebrated with enthusiasm in the North of India. Stories of women being burnt for stepping outdoors and women taking inspiration from buffaloes, that loiter uninhibitedly on the roads, of what it means to finally have two free hands because you are no longer mobilizing your dysfunctional knee with your hand, the pressures on a boy to turn into a 'man' by his own male family members, the sign board outside an 'Art of living' center that banned menstruating from entering the prayer hall because when you pray your energy is 'going up' and when you are menstruating your energy is 'going down' etc etc.
It was a difficult task to weave all these stories together in a play and Satchit made good use of poem, one of them by our lovely young supporter from Pakistan, Hira Yousuf's 'You are not allowed' and others by well known poets like Vinod Kumar Shukl and Paash.



The cast wore their own personal clothes, clothes they liked best or those colours that represented the nature of their stories and personalities. In fact, the stories all fell under the nine moods, or the navrasas that is spoken of in the Natyashastra. Stories of courage, of romance, of horror, of happiness, of motherhood, anger, sadness, peace etc.
The rapid sketch artist, Satchit decided would keep making sketches of people in the audience or people on stage as and when he felt like, onstage, of course. Satchit himself decided to dress in women's clothes for the show. We were taking several unique risks, like making panipuri on stage, offering and drinking chai on stage and all inviting the audience on stage to loiter with us.
Finally the show day arrived. 8th March, Women's Day. We were lucky to have two great producers, Amrita Dodani and NCPA Edge.
Hearts were aflutter, considering the form 'documentary theatre', and all the other risks involved. But as soon as the play started, all the nervousness disappeared. The audience was with us from the word go and connected with all the real stories of women and men loitering in cities and towns of India. The authors of the book 'Why Loiter?' had come to watch as well. At the end when the audience was invited to come on stage and loiter with us, almost everyone came on stage, tasting the panipuri and the chai (the official food and beverage of loitering) and mingling freely with the artists and other audience members.


That is when we realized that we had successfully made the point we had in mind. Here we were, the lines between audience and artists blurred, everyone connecting with one another on the experiences we have all had loitering or at least trying to loiter, and the joy it brings to each one of us. We surely planted the seeds of unapologetic, aimless, joyous loitering firmly into the minds of the audience.