Our early interventions in the park had aroused reactions ranging from hostile to apathetic to aggressive. Obstacle after obstacle came up when we began our dialogues with the residents. It is difficult even now. However, the pens of some local youngsters freely offered insightful perspectives. The excerpts below illustrate the blurring of private / public spatial boundaries, as well as the activity and modes of resistance in both public and domestic spheres:
Eventually when Amma could see that we were ignoring her presence, she with the help of her son attempted to cut the tree down at midnight. She started weeping and shouting while her son managed to cut one of the branches. She started calling everybody in the neighbourhood to save the tree from the hand of her son; she acted as if she could not tolerate this brutality, whereas she herself was behind his action. The neighbours called the police. Her son was taken to the police station and the MCD fined him Rs 4000. This was a really exorbitant sum for a poor woman.
One day the open space by our lane drew our attention. We had heard that a park would be coming up there. A few yards away, a house was under construction. We brought a spade and dug up a section in the open space to turn it into a akhada, the arena where kabaddi is played. And then, stealing sand from a loaded truck, we filled in the dug-up space and really turned it into an akhada.
The municipal tap in Talkatora Garden gave yellowish water, but it was used because it allowed women to socialise there. Women who came to get water enjoyed the moment of freedom, to sit around the tap and talk while waiting for the water to come. Some talked about their kitchens and cooking duties and kinds of food, others vented anger at family pressures or in-laws. Sometimes someone would be showing off new clothes; at other times, amidst giggling and laughter, the serious fact of a domestic problem would suddenly come up. We young girls, not able to empathise with such issues, would start playing while waiting for the water.
Today I have a chabutra, the raised platform attached to my house, but it is not even big enough for me to cut vegetables on. The big chabutra of my childhood enabled women to do some of their household work sitting on it. That chabutra has been transformed into a beautiful house. But people still gather there to talk to each other, even though there is no actual platform to accommodate them. It is a habit, though they can’t use the space for any kind of collective work since that space is someone’s house now.
Even today, I feel like playing that game, though my age and circumstances do not allow me to do so. When I have time, I sit on the chabutra by the bus stop of lane 17 because there I get the opportunity to recollect that game of ours --. I feel I am chasing the old cycle tyres of my childhood when I look at the buses, scooters or cycles and the persons riding them. Even today, I am fond of the circular movements of tyres. Sitting on the chabutra by the bus stop of lane 17, I watch these tyres as well as spend time with my friends.