Our Interim project was with Jasmeen Patheja. Jasmeen was an ex-alumni from our college, she started the blank noise project, which was a project that dealt with street sexual harassment. Our course was called "The city of action heroes". The aim of the course was for us to feel like we belong in the city and that the city is as much as it is ours as it is anyone else's. This project aimed to bridge the gap between us and the locals here, since there were quite a few misunderstandings and preconceived notions that the locals had about us, that had to be changed. 
 
In this course we were pushed a lot of our comfort zone, and we were given tips on how to be aware of our surroundings and not fall victim to a perpetrator. 
 
Our first assignment was an action hero game. Wherein, we studied different parts of our neighbourhood( Yelahanka), and we were each given a place to go to. We got frequent texts from Jasmeen with tasks that we had to carry out there.
Area Explored: In the beginning I decided to explore the 3rd B cross road near the Women's club. However, when I got there, It was a road I had already been to. It was the road that went down from Chandra bakery and Seshadripuram College. So Instead I wandered back to the Women's college area and I found an interesting place outside the Railway Employees Institute.
 
Task: 1
Stand Idle. Make eye contact. Don't fold arms
 
Execution : 
I went right outside the Railway Employees Institute and I carried out this task there. The road had houses on both sides, and the lane was pretty deserted. However, after sometime a man on a bike passed by me. He stared at me from a distance, and I stared back at him.He had a perplexed expression on his face.After sometime, a group of maids passed by me, I stared at them intently, and they whispered among themselves and stared back as they passed me by.
 
Task: 2
Take a picture of the place.
 
Execution :
I took a picture of the building of the Railway Employees Institute as that building was of prime importance in area I was exploring. All the area around developed due to the institute. There were housing quarters and long lanes with benches on the side. No one really gave me any sort of reaction while I clicked the picture. This was probably one of the easiest tasks for me to execute.
 
Task: 3
Walk around swinging arms
 
Execution :
I took this task pretty seriously. I swung my hands in a very exaggerated motion and I definitely caught a lot of eyes. I passed by this local coffee shop and all the men sitting down on the pavement sniggered at me. They seemed very amused.
 
Task: 4
Sit, Stare and  at the clouds.
 
Execution : I went to one of the benches down the road and I left my camera pack on the side and I stretched myself and bent my head backwards. This was actually very peaceful and no one seemed to be curious or mocking by my actions. I don't know if anyone really noticed me as I was looking up most of the times. But I knew for sure that no one was sniggering or talking about me as I heard a few footsteps pass me by with no reaction.
 
Task: 5            
Hum your favorite tune
 
Execution : There was a small school on the next street adjacent from the Railway Employees Institute. I thought it would be fun to execute this task there. All the children were in class, and all the classroom doors were open. The classrooms were situated very close to the road. I hummed 'Titanium' by Sia really loudly, some Children sitting at the back of the classroom heard me and they giggled. I felt really mischievous and ran away before I gave myself a chance to be caught by a teacher!
 
Task: 6            
Go to a local eating place or chai place. Spot a person. Make a conversation with them for the next thirty minutes.
 
Execution : 
There weren't many chai stalls on this road there was just one man pushing a chai cart. There were four people around this cart. At first I was very apprehensive to approach them , as I was definitely the 'outsider'. However after a lot of deliberation I approached them. There was a lady sitting down on the pavement. I bought a cup  of chai from the stall and I sat down next to her. I thought I should talk about myself and tell her about me before I start asking. The woman did not know Hindi, so I struggled quite a bit and did not understand her fully as I knew only broken Kannada. I told her that this was this first time I came to this locality, and I told her that this locality was very beautiful. I was surprised as I did not have to ask her anything back. She went on to say that she loved the serenity of this locality and she went on to say that she didn't live here and she lived near Anantapura road. She said that she was a gardener and that she worked in the railway quarters on both sides of the road. She went on to describe the people in that area. She said that most of them were relatively new to the area as the officials from the railways kept getting transferred. 
 
Task: 7        
End Conversation. Walk smiling slowly. Voice your thoughts in gibberish. Let the gibberish be loud.
 
Execution : As I got this sms to end the conversation. I was pretty surprised as I realized that I had not had a single sip of chai! I quickly downed the cup and I got up. I told the woman that it was nice talking to her. She smiled back. I walked away, and gibbered away quite loudly, there wasn't anyone on the road at that time, except the people around the chai stall. So I took all the liberty to gibber as loud as possible swinging both arms. At one point I couldn't understand what I was saying myself:P!
 
Task: 8        
Identify another stranger. Introduce yourself, but not as an art student. Ask them five questions, ask them to ask you five questions too.
 
Execution : 
At this time the road was really deserted. I guessed it was because everyone went in for their afternoon nap. I kept walking around and I didn't find anyone. I went into by lanes and I found a beggar sitting on the side of the road. He was an old man, wrinkled with glasses. When I went towards him he looked up and gave me a helplessly look. I reflexively gave him some money and then I asked him where he had come from. He said he didn't know and then he turned away. I sort of persisted and asked him why he didn't know. He started laughing and he asked me where I was from. I said I was a student and I studied in Yelahanka .He grunted and he seemed as though he didn't want to talk much as he pulled his shawl over his head and turned to one side and covered himself.
 
Task: 9        
Walk away. Stretch yourself. Yawn.
 
Execution :
I walked away , back towards the Railway Employees Institute and I stretched and yawned. It felt good.
 
Task: 10    
Engage with another stranger to find out a local story or legend about Yelahanka. Share what you like about your locality too.
 
Execution :
As I walked back on the lane towards the Railway Employees Institute, and I saw a door open and a woman sitting on the floor any laying out chilies on a cloth.I went towards the door and I asked her if she knew any stories of the place and she nodded away  and said she had shifted only recently. I couldn't find anyone else on the road at that point and since I had not got another task, I went and sat on a bench and stared into the space around me.
 
Task: 11        
Call women around you. Tell them you heard of a Yelahanka club to deal with street harassment. Have they heard of it? Share stories of dealing with street harassment.
 
Execution : As I got this text I got up from the bench and I felt as though I should explore another area nearby, as I could hardly spot anyone on the street. However, as I was going to exit the street, I saw a door open and a grandma and sitting on a chair inside her house. I introduced myself as a member of a Yelahanka club dealing with street harassment and I asked her for her views on the subject. I also asked her if other women around this area would be interested to join the club.She said that people brought such harassment upon themselves and that it could be easily avoided and there was no need of such clubs. She said if a dignified decent woman passed by a group of men they would do nothing to her. I was pretty take aback by her reaction.She also said that area was pretty safe as it was a closely knit society that compromised of people who worked at the railways. Hence all the people lived around were all colleagues. 
 
Task: 12        
Soak in the smell, sound and textures of where you are.
 
Execution : 
The smell was neutral and there wasn't much sound since no one was around.There were just faint traffic noises from the outer Dodballapur road that passed by this area on the outside. 
 
Our next assignment was to make a self portrait. 
This was my initial sketch
At this point in time, I was confused about people's attitude towards women on the street, this game of role play led me to believe that I was being quite deceitful to people on the streets, and I also learnt the power eye contact posesses in protecting yourself on the street, this is all that I tried to show in my self-portrait
As a group of action heroes, we also started a laughter club in the community. Everyday we would call the women in the neighbourhood to join us for the laughter club. This greatly helped us in bridging the gap between the locals and us. 
In addition to the laughter club another big event that we held in the neighbourhood was an event we named "talk to me". The most unsafe lane in Yelahanka is known as the "rapist lane". there is a girl's hostel at the end of this lane and no one dares to walk alone on this lane alone at night, as there are drunk factory workers who hang out in this lane after dark and harass women. "Talk to me" was a project that we did on the rapist lane in the afternoon. We put out chairs and tables, and we asked people who were walking through this road to talk to us, we talked to them about general topics and then started talking about how they felt about street sexual harassment. Our aim was for them to get to know us so that we are more of friends to them than enemies.
 
We were given an exercise to make a poster on everything we would say to our harasser to get rid of all our frustration and write down everything in our heart. In this poster, my thoughts were written below each flap, the reason I haven't put up another version with the flaps open is because it's too personal. 
We were all asked to design our own Yelahanka action hero badges. This is my badge. I chose Yellow and Red since they are part of the Karnataka flag, and I felt it was appropriate as our ultimate aim was to build a bridge between us and the community. I have used the form of an abstract eye mask to show that we are ambigious action heroes, as we bring about change naturally without people noticing. I chose the third eye as it symbolizes protection from evil.The Y.A.H stands for Yelahanka Action heroes.
Throughout the course, we were all asked to maintain a visual journal and jot down our fears, concerns, insipiration or anything else we wanted to reflect about. These are a few pages from my visual journal:
 
If you want more details, check out our blog :) http://yelahankaactionheroes.wordpress.com
 
Blank Noise
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Blank Noise

Our Interim project was with Jasmeen Patheja. Jasmeen was an ex-alumni from our college, she started the blank noise project, which was a project Read More
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