There are many parks in Khirkee, Malviya nagar area. One of those parks I visited with Haiyya ( www.haiyya.in) representative, where most of the women from this area, of all ages come to spend their evenings after a long mundane day work.
I reached the park around 5pm, the summer sun was still glowing brightly and the park was more or less empty and the chairs stood alone. Slowly as the brightness of the sun was in a descending mode and melting down, women started approaching the park one by one. They brought the iron chairs closer to each other to chat more intimately. In a while all sat relaxed and enjoy chatting as the young ones play. Some mothers bring their children to play in the park and many come to spend time in the evening. There are teenagers girls who gather and loiter very comfortably in the park with their friends while their mothers keep an eye on them.
Slowly in an hour’s time the empty park fills up with laughter and gleeful shouts of the women and the children.
From the past experiences in Dakshinpuri and in other resettlement colonies and also in other parts of Delhi, parks are always seen occupied by males, there are fewer space for the women and children. Compared to those spaces, particularly this park in Khirkee gaon, Malviya Nagar seems to be majorly dominated by the women and the children which is barely witnessed in Delhi.
Most of these women stay around park in DDA Flats and also in urban village in Pachsheel Vihar , moved either from small towns/villages of Delhi or from different neighbouring states not more than 10 years ago. There are also women who have migrated 40 years back during partition and settled in Khirkee gaon, Malviya Nagar. They are all home makers. There are some who works in Kothi/ houses or other places are seen very rarely to spend leisure time in the park. I have met very few of the second category women.
I introduced myself to them . They spontaneously with a greeting asked me to join them. It took very short time to be part of their conversation. Then I slowly started discussing about my ideas and how I am keen to know whether they would be interested in engaging in this project. They get very less time through out the day doing their household work and struggle to find time out from their busy schedule to spend time in the park in the evening . This is the most precious time for them.
I started visiting them everyday and discuss on their everyday schedule and mobility through out the day. While talking on this how they dress when they go out or what is compulsory to wear being a married woman, one of the ladies told why she has got big tattoo of a peacock on her right arm. She said that it is a custom in Bihar for the married women . She giggled and narrated her story on how she was reluctant to do such painful job on her body. To avoid such event she did a tiny spot on the upper part of her right palm. However this was not accepted by her in laws, so they forced her to do a big motive of a peacock on her right arm. This was a painful job and she fell ill after this. There was also another lady from Bihar who narrated her story but said that out of fear of being not accepted and not being allowed to cook food in the kitchen, she did this big tattoo according to her in-laws wish. This conversation gave an intense insight into how and why the tattoo is made on married women’s body in different culture in India. The women from Bengal, UP and Punjab shared that there is no such custom in their states. It was very unexpected that they met everyday and talked about intimate moments of their lives but have missed out on motifs which are so prominently incised on their bodies.
I kept on meeting them for couple of week in the park and engaged them in many activities such as making paper tic-tac-toe and discussion. Through these activities they engaged and discussed different ideas on their mobility through out the day. For example where do they travel within the house and also in the neighbourhood and beyond. Most of these women are stuck at home all day, only few go out to pick and drop their children in the school and also to the hospital and to buy vegetables in the market and also sometimes buy vegetables and household stuff from the door step. In the evening they go to the park for an hour to spend time of their own.
Sreejata Roy July 2014