Coffee with Kamala Das: Right to pleasure for Indian women?

Soulful conversation

One of my friend recommended me to be a part of a discussion which was about the exploring of sexuality, by reading of Kamala Das’s poem ‘An introduction’. She told me that it was to be held in Atta Gallata, Koramangala. I really didn’t know if I should go or not. I mean I was too confused but later on I made up my mind to go and be part of the discussion.

In case you are wondering, why did I go there or what made me go there . To be honest I didn’t go there because I am a feminist. I went there for poetry. I mean poetry is said to be something that moves our souls beyond this world and helps us to connect overselves with the cosmos. I am a huge fan of poetry. I love reading and writing poetry. I often sit in my balcony, sipping coffee and I write or rather I should say I spill  the ink. Poetry, for me its magic. It’s a living, breathing presence in my life. People often tell me that I write well. To be precise I write a lot of Urdu poetry. It carries huge amount of value . It’s deep, sheer and perfect. And rightly so.   But I panic a lot . I have social an anxiety so I don’t have the nerves to face the stage or be a part of any discussion.

 

When I came to know about the fact that Hidden pockets is organising a program about poetry, and its about Kamala Das. I was really happy to hear about it  but as soon as I came to know that it is not just a session but a discussion and each one of us have to speak and talk, I was really anxious. I mean I wanted to go but then the fear of facing the audience made me worried.

Somehow I made my mind and went there. To be frank enough to say, I was little shivering as I sat under the spotlight. I didn’t know what to do though I was familiar with the poem ‘An introduction’. I mean it’s one of my favourite poems. After a while people came and one by one all the empty chairs were filled. People who were unknown to me, totally strangers. I became nervous, yet again. I told the organizers beforehand that ‘i am going to talk less ‘ and they were approachable enough .

 

Kamala Das : An Introduction 

“Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit..”

 

So here it started. We all introduced ourselves. Some of them sang, which was an ice breaker for the discussion. Everyone had that broad smile on their faces. And once we started of with the poem, I was the one who started to put give opinions and  interpretation on the opening stanza or lines. I was actually moved by the lines she has mentioned in her poem. It’s so good. Shamelessly she is talking about sexuality and things which are a taboo in our society. My opinion was that why not? Why not to be fearless enough to love someone we want to. Why not to have sex or feel the pleasure even before marriage. Why not to wear crop tops and walk in the deserted or even the crowded streets. Why?

  One by one everyone read the different stanzas of the same poem. Many different interpretations came, there was no right and wrong. Everyone was putting their words and pouring out their thoughts without any fear.

I was surprised, not only I was speaking but I was fully indulged in the discussion. I mean i spoke a lot. Gradually my fear became my strength. I no longer was a weak or other sex but felt equal to other gender too or maybe same gender but with lot of energy and enthusiasm. I  was full of zest and full of energy too The session turned out to be a “Soulful Conversation” for me.

Kamala Das and her poetry was a living breathing presence for me at that time . We all spoke about exposing our sexualities, we discussed orgasm, what is it to be a woman and what not. It was so great to be part of such discussion. I don’t think I have ever had such good time with people whom I don’t even know. And I’m glad that they didn’t judge me were listening to what I was saying . I feel that talking about anything or everything in front of unknown crowd or strangers is better. I mean I don’t know about others much, but I  comfortable enough to open up before strangers other than the people I know.

Some people who were familiar with Malayalam language, read out the original text by Kamala Das. As the discussion ended. We all just like a new family, spoke to each other. One on one . Shook hands, laughed, smiled. To keep up with the funky trend we also took a selfie.

I’m sure I ain’t going to forget this discussion ever in my life. I am looking forward for such discussions more and more .

Hidden pockets gave me a gift ‘ To Face My Fear’ and I will always cherish this gift ! Thanks Jasmine, Aisha, Sekulu and Aren.

-Nashafa Firdous Mir : I am a very moody and choosy kind of person. I am a weirdo and hardly I am comfortable enough to indulge into a discussion but this discussion was so good that I didn’t even feel uncomfortable for once.

 

Photo and video courtesy : Kiran Sopanam and Shikhil.

#OpenPockets : Conversations with young people on sexual well being

In 2018 , Hidden Pockets is conducting events in Bangalore with service providers with an aim to bring an audience of young people to the service providers and have open conversations around issue of health and young people. We call it the #OpenPockets.

A place where we come and talk about our sexual well-being and at the same time get a chance to talk about some of the myths and fears we have around sexual health.

a purse with things spilling over.

It is a great chance to meet counsellors and doctor and have some conversations with them to demystify some of the doubtswe have around sexual well-being.

#OpenPockets Cafe and Health in Jaipur?

I attended the event organized by Hidden pockets on September 28, 2018. I have never attended a meeting like this; and I have attended a lot of meetings as a part of my job. This was hands down one of the best meetings I have ever attended.

Kshitiz sharing his experience 🙂

The way this meeting was held, it is a great format, and everyone felt free to share without having any reservations. I work in the field of health; hence I am aware about abortion and have some understanding around the issues related to it.

I had an idea that people have a lot of confusions around abortion and its issues. But after the event I came to know that how little (even lesser than I had imagined) people know about it. People who live in an urban setting and came across as well-educated people also had many confusions about the issues around abortion.

This goes to show that how little we talk about these issues in our daily lives. It is great to hold such events in such a setting where talking about these issues is fun. It was very participative, and everyone felt free to speak. I also liked the vibe of the meeting as everyone was speaking without having the fear of being judged. A light-hearted conversation around an issue as stigmatized as abortion is really a breath of fresh air.

As a health professional, it made me realize that we do not have to be serious all the time. Just relax and talk about the complex issues that are less talked about. I strongly feel that there should be more such events in future. I congratulate the organizers to pull off such an event in a city like Jaipur where we rarely seen such events in cafés.

Article by : Kshitiz Sisodia, a development professional from Jaipur.

Can you talk about sexuality freely? Friday Conversations

On Thursday last week I was randomly browsing through my Instagram feed when I came across a story posted by Hidden Pockets. In the story they invited people to join their Friday conversation on art and sexuality. I had been searching for a place where people meet to discuss such topics, but I was a little nervous to reach out. I faced my fear and sent a message to hidden pockets Instagram account. I immediately felt welcomed by their kind response sharing the address where the conversation would take place the following day.

As I entered the room I immediately felt my previous worries go away. On the floor among carpets and pillows sat a small group of people in a circle, each with a cup of tea. Altogether we were eleven people, ten women and one man. While each person presented themselves and shared a little bit about their feminist beliefs it was so clear to me that this is a safe space where we can have a safe conversation without the worries of someone shaming or interrupting us for talking about our experiences surrounding art and sexuality.

Before I continue with how this Friday conversation carried on I just want to get clear about the concept of sexuality. For what exactly does sexuality means? Well, the short and very general answer is that sexuality can mean different things to different people. And how we experience and express our own sexuality is very individual. That means that there is no wrong or right answer. A variety of different sexual orientations, which basically refers to who you are attracted to, exist. You might identify as being gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, queer or a lesbian, the spectrum is broad. Or perhaps you choose to not identify with a label at all. What your preferences are might even change over time. And that is perfectly ok.

As sexuality can be such a vast matter we touched by a diverse range of topics during the conversation. All from; how totalk about sexuality, art and how we experience it in our personal life, to body image and the right to wear the clothes one want. We also shared thoughts about how to communicate with people that disagree with our feminist beliefs. Since the overall topic of the conversation that Friday was on art and sexuality I would further like to focus on that part.

Because sexuality is so closely linked with our feelings and senses art can be a powerful tool to express, experience and get in touch with our sexuality. One example is how dance and music can give us an arena where we can learn to know our bodies. Different forms of art can give us the opportunity to have conversations on sexuality without the need for words. We can communicate with music just by listening, we can connect with our bodies by moving, and we can interact with our eyes by painting.

I realised during the conversation how important and powerful these small groups of people can be. Sharing experiences in a safe and comfortable space with strangers made me feel more empowered than I could imagine. I believe that to create change in someone’s life it must happen from within. Listening to other women talk about their beliefs and being able to express yourself without judgement might give you that extra confidence you need to take the conversation further. My mind has been wandering ever since and the things we talked about have made me think. That’s the beauty about conversations it doesn’t end when the talking stops.

Sexuality can be such an important part of who you are. Learning to accept yourself and coming to terms with your sexuality has the possibility to provide a very liberating experience.  As one of the ladies in the group so precisely put it; “our bodies can be art”, and I couldn’t agree more, so let’s explore them.

Author : One of our participants from from Friday Conversation.