The streets of Delhi are quite an experience to behold: incessant hooting, endless congestion and the constant negotiations of the auto-rickshaws, cars, lorrys and pedestrians trying to make the traffic madness work. But I find the pedestrians on the streets are where the really interesting stories are. For instance, a pattern we observed is that the majority of the public spaces are occupied by men. We see men standing about together having a chat and watching the street, or congregating around a teashop or a Paan stand. We see women too, but they appear to always be en-route to somewhere else. Seldom do we see women gathering together or gathering with men outside in social, public spaces like on a bench outside of a neighbourhood market where they can read a newspaper, have a chat and a tea. We see men doing this.
In response to this, Nupur and I decided to place women in traditionally male occupied spaces, like the teashop. In doing so, we hoped to comment on as well as stimulate dialogue and introspection about complicity in perpetuating this kind of segregation in public spaces in Delhi.
What we did was we photographed groups of women in the middle of seemingly innocuous gestures like drinking tea, reading the newspaper or talking on a mobile phone. We then pasted these images on the walls of these male occupied spaces in CR Park, a neighbourhood in Delhi.
The response to the project in the areas where we pasted as well as at the art exhibition ‘where we showed the documentation of the project, has been interesting. The project did provoke some thought and a lot of dialogue. Many said that we were commenting on something that they hadn’t really noticed before. One comment however was that occupation of the public spaces was more of a segregation of class than of gender.
We named the project Adda Baazi. Adda Baazi is a Hindi slang word that refers to ‘hanging-out’ as a habit.