The beginning of that consequential September evening worked like therapy for everyone who witnessed the other side of the story we’ve been hearing for years. This event, collectively organized by MASH Project and The Logical Indian, was a perfect blend of activities, training, and experiential sessions followed by poetry, motivated to create sensitization and awareness of how gender functions in a societal space, effectively utilizing the warm ecosystem of Awfis, CP.
The 3-hour long session was brimming with new perspectives. It started with an explanation of how sex is a biological notion and gender is a societal conception. Following the introduction, Bhani Rachel Bali, conducted a training session with an activity inviting volunteers from the audience. Her attempt was to enunciate the role gestures, expressions, smiles and bodily movements play in our daily lives and what we perceive of them. She also used examples to show how privilege blindness stops us from understanding the roots of unequal opportunities and the treatment of different sexual orientations. She conducted a brainstorming workshop to show how the need of the hour is to UNLEARN, how gender as a concept restricts us in a box-like space, and how often we hear the terms “Act like a Man” and “Act like a Lady”, how, without even realizing, we use a vocabulary on an everyday basis that restricts us to that very box.
She also touched upon how all these boxes restrict an individual and collectively contribute to domestic violence, prevalent in our society, and even accepted by many men and women saying “Woh mujhe maarta nahi, pyaar karta hai.” She also talked about how men are supposed by expressive and women submissive, where “he can, she can’t,” is so entrenched in the social fabric, we don’t pay any heed to it. She touched upon how our upbringing, our education, how dividing humans into specific genders is an attempt by the fragile society to lock us in and maintain the power that it exerts over families and communities-asserting how identities aren’t fluid and there are a set roles defined by our “close-knit” families from the beginning. She ended the session by showing a video which challenged stereotypical gender roles, how a boy who prefers pink over black, a dress over a blazer isn’t unacceptable and stressed the importance of judging people by the work that they’re doing, rather than by their appearances.
Following the training session, the stage was conquered by Taksh, filling the aura of the room with enthusiasm and interactive experience-sharing as she talked with candour and her unmatched sass. She started the session by having a conversation and exhibiting how Cisgender and Transgender are binaries restricting and creating an unnecessary space between human beings with individualized identities. She talked about how Hindu mythology and religion inculcated the whole spectrum of gender, be it a man or a woman, and how the idea of a woman being an objectified, sexualized object of desire, subject to male gaze is a post-colonial westernized concept. She also questioned the idea of designing such workshops just to make sure that human beings are accepted in our society.
She ended the informal conversation by reiterating how educating oneself, being an aware and alert individual in a society that is at loggerheads to make you feel alienated, is imperative at the present time.
The two interactive sessions led to a break, also metaphorically breaking the ice and resulting into an interactive networking session. People had so many questions to ask, so many more experiences to delve deeper into, and many smiles to unfold. This unraveling of the person beneath the strong flesh-and-blood individual led to a hybrid of opinions, identities, and ideas mingling together to form a microcosm of fluidities.
Then, Aastha Singh Raghuvanshi sprinkled us with her beautiful poetry and gave everyone goosebumps, which was accompanied by constant and appreciative clicking noises. She shared how she deals with offensive questioning, and with faces filled with confused teasing on an everyday basis. She told us how she made poetry her resort, how she saved herself with her own words, and also saved us of dredging through this inherited banal life! Her words were a thing of beauty, capable of magic that created powerful spells to charm the audience. The two poems that she performed amazed us with powerful wordplay like- “In a country where we accept the tricolor, but not the different colors…”
In the end, we were left with more than just stories and experiences. We realized they were a part of who we are as human beings. It has affected us so deeply that we can never talk in the same way again, or think along the same lines. The sweetness of the muffins and the bitter reality of the society that is unaccepting and contradictory towards an individual’s right to choose is more than humiliating in the 21st century! We were left with so many questions and provoking thoughts in our minds, it guided us to change our behavioral attitude in our everyday lives!