How easy is access to ‘safe’ public spaces for women in a city like Guwahati? Is the concept of safety extremely restrictive for women? Few years back, three Mumbai women — Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade in their book “Why Loiter?: Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets” had unleashed a whole new discourse on women’s presence in public, in seemingly unsafe spaces and at odd hours. By celebrating the radical act of ‘loitering’, these women feel that a truly equal, global city can be created.
Inspired by this book, a few women tried to do the same in Guwahati – “onai bonai ghuri phura”, the Assamese for loitering on Guwahati streets. Senior journalist and author Teresa Rehman, senior journalist Priyanka Borpujari, researcher Samhita Barooah, media educator Jennifer Shaheen Hussain, student Tamara Raza and entrepreneur Nasima Parveen Aman walked around the streets, stopping for a cup of tea, meeting and talking to people. Jennifer says, “There are the occasional glares when I walk alone at late hours but besides that I have always felt secure. However, those glares have led me to carry a blade with me whenever I travel alone. The city looks so different and feels peaceful at night. I think everyone should loiter late night in Guwahati, the Paltan Bazar railway station area and GS road stretch is my favourite. Also, you get to bump into interesting strangers.”
The Thumb Print presents a photo essay on the night loitering by these women.