ByÂ Saumyata Joshi:
To maintain the decorum of a class the most notorious kids are made the monitors; as the potential students to create a ruckus take up responsibility in their hands, peace prevails. It is an example of ‘role-reversal’ and ‘reverse psychology’ (technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behaviour that is opposite to the one desired). The new age society is not a playground for girls, one mistake on someone else’s part makes her lose the game of life forever. The question remains unanswered as to who is the culprit behind any kind of harassment- the so called ‘modernistic’ girl or the ‘perverted’ psyche of the society?
Black Noise is a completely volunteer run group which works to confront street harassment commonly called “eve teasing”. The group has taken up a unique initiative in Bangalore, to transform an unsafe street into a safe space for women by unlearning fear by conversing with absolute strangers. The action group challenges the notion of “Don’t Talk to Strangers” by setting up tables on a street that is considered unsafe in order to have conversations with absolute strangers over a cup of tea. Jasmeen Patheja the creator of Black Noise said that “the aim was to create a safe space for women through ‘unlearning fear’ by building roads of communication”. The group believes in a ‘No Pepper Spray’ approach by creating a path of dialogue thus fighting fear and biases and making streets more accessible to women.
Forgetting is a natural process as our brain tries to be as efficient as possible and limits the amount of essential information it stores. From this a very grave question arises as to whether anxiety can be unlearned? If one wants the concept of anxiety to be changed then one would have to change his/her view for anxiety. It is a very psychological approach; we learned to fear things, fear strangers so we naturally reject it. Acceptance and confronting your fears can solve anxieties to a great extent. It is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and accepting love in our hearts. We can always choose to perceive things differently. The concept of ‘unlearning fear’ can be very useful for the present times, when every new harassment case seems to mirror our potential fears.
A lane in the Yelahanka town of Bangalore that held the reputation of being unsafe with no street lights and commercial establishments, to change its poor image 5 tables were set with 2 chairs each and invited strangers for an hour long conversation. Anamika one of the volunteers shares her experience and tells about the man who confided in her while having a conversation with her that he stalked girls on his bike walking on that lane in desperate need for a girlfriend but at the end of the conversation Anamika was successful in making him realize his mistake and he promised to mend his ways. Jasmeen admits that one intervention cannot make the city safe but small twisted efforts at times show much greater reaping results.
The experiment has got wide approval and will now be emulated by volunteers in other cities and neighbourhoods this October 26. Women aspire to live in that utopia where safety is not an illusion. Girls grow up in this society only to realize that monsters always do not reside in the wardrobes, they can also be found in people you know and trust. An attempt to change the perverted mentality of the society is unique and challenging in itself. Having a dialogue with the potential victimiser in an attempt to change his psyche is a significant move, which will at least make him think twice before he does anything illegal. We need to respect the integrity of other individuals, treat each other with no discrimination for a mutual co-existence. Coercion, at times is not a good solution to many problems it is the right moral education that needs to be inculcated in a child from his primary years. Always treat one another as ends in themselves, never as means to an end.