SheThePeople.TV recently held its Bombaywaali conference at the Cuckoo Club. A panel discussion moderated by journalist and author Meghna Pant discussed whether Bombay is indeed a city that is safe for women.
Shikha Makhan, maker of film ‘Bachelor Girls‘, said that Bombay is an open city. It is a city where there is flexibility of being who you want to be. But it is also a city which lives in contrary realities, and that is more recent phenomenon, as is the case of the journalist at Shakti mills.
Supriya Nair, said that a lot of the issue is with caste, class and purpose. “I was here to work and study, so in that sense I was given permission,” she said. “I was out because I was allowed to be. But for those who don’t have anywhere to go, I’m not sure. She said that there are no night shelters for adults in the city.”
But she says that the redeeming part of Bombay is that you can count on people coming to your rescue. Women fight for each other.
Sharin Bhatti, co-founder of Cuckoo Club, said that the sense of community in the city is inspiring. But there are horror stories. “Are we silent to protect our identity as a safe city? Are more of these things happening?” she asked.
“I was here to work and study, so in that sense I was given permission,” she said. “I was out because I was allowed to be. But for those who don’t have anywhere to go, I’m not sure.”
The group also spoke about housing for single women. “Patriarchy rules at the seat of power. I thought I was unlucky when I was looking for houses, because of this inclusive image of Bombay.
She thought it was worth probing, and found so many more stories like hers. Bhatti added that she had had to shift houses 5 times, her landlord wouldn’t even look at her.
Surprisingly in India, only 15 per cent of urban workforce are women. And the Census of India has shown it’s falling. So where do you go with your dreams? Where do you stay? asked Meghna Pant
Shikha Makhan said that these kinds of housing problems weren’t so apparent in the 70s. It really was a dream city. “Maybe it is turning more regressive now. We are living in multiple centuries together. We are clannish in our own groups.”
Nair said that the riots in Bombay meant that religious segregation started happening more frequently. There are vegetarian buildings, and people clanning together. Most of her friends who are still single, live with their parents because of the rent being too high, and because of the trouble in finding a place.
So Bombay, which is touted as the safest city in India, may well be safer than its counterparts such as Delhi, but all of the women questioned whether it really is the liberated and inclusive city it claims to be.
“Maybe it is turning more regressive now. We are living in multiple centuries together. We are clannish in our own groups.”
Of course, they all agreed that no matter what, the character and the culture is close to all their hearts. In a way, it is where dreams can come true, said Bhatti.
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