[Reader-list] Bcckground of Research
coolzanny at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 25 13:44:59 IST 2004
Physical Space is a very crucial component of human and animal life. We
often refer to crowds and space constraints, particularly on moments when
we are most irritable and just wanting the entire world to get off our
heads. What tends to get overlooked in the issue of physical space is its
absolute necessity, its criticality, because ultimately, physical space
affects and shapes a lot of our behaviours. Mob violence and rioting is also
an outburst and expression of shrinking physical space. As populations are
increasing, the need for physical space is becoming even more acute and
intense because the number of spaces is shrinking in order to make way for
housing and development.
Crowds are a lived experience in Mumbai City. The most commonly cited
example of crowds in Mumbai is trains, the lifeline of this great city.
Perhaps most visitors to Mumbai have experienced trains at least once. The
amount of research, data and films on trains is currently storming into and
gaining ground in the intellectual, academic and discussion spaces!
My research fellowship is about watching Women in trains and looking at the
ladies compartment in the trains as one of the spaces in Mumbai City. There
is a definite reason why I chose the two subjects i.e. women and space. I
will get into a little bit of history here to explain my purpose (and also
Space is a subject close to my heart. For me, mental space emanates from
physical space and mental space changes perceptions about physical space.
Both live off each other. I live in a small home in Mumbai City. The
smallness of my home became very apparent and stark to me when I was 20
years of age. Each day, I realized how my family members i.e. my father,
mother and younger sister, were constantly in my face and that I needed some
space to breathe and be myself. I wanted to emerge as an individual and
there were occasions when I felt, Heck, here is my mother who intervenes in
my choice of style of dressing! Heck, here is my dad who wants to say to
me what I am supposed to do in life! While to a lot of us these conflicts
will be viewed as a part of the growing-up process, my experience was that
the conflicts became all the more compounded because I was heavily involved
in them as a party myself and secondly and most importantly, because I did
not have the luxury of distance from the family in the form of a separate
room to myself.
At the age of 23, I went to Kashmir. My visit to Kashmir occurred at a time
when my conflicts with my family were at a height. I felt it was important
for me to simply leave home because leaving home would make life much easier
for me! The first experience of entering the Valley was that of shock and
disturbance. As the vehicle moved from Jawahar Tunnel into the Valley, the
sights of the mountains awed me. But as I moved further and further, I got a
feeling of being watched. Finally, upon reaching my hosts home, I collapsed
into a corner and said to him, Even though the dense army cover is not
doing anything to me, no soldier is coming and questioning me, I am feeling
like an establishment is sitting on my head, almost like my own father sits
on my head at home!
Further experiences in Kashmir began to make it evident to me that while
there is tremendous physical space in the Valley, there is no mental space
for people. The houses in Kashmir were huge and I am sure that most
individuals in Srinagar at least have rooms to themselves, but inspite of
this, the youth there are not allowed the space to express themselves and
develop their individuality. In sum, they were, and are, almost assembly
Each experience in Kashmir made me all the more sensitive towards the little
conflicts in my own house. Each experience taught me that the larger
conflicts that we see in the world today are mostly magnified replays of the
problems that occur inside our own little houses. The family is a system a
micro-system. Our parents are a product of their parents and we take on some
of the habits and behaviours of our parents. The system continues. The
opportunity for us, when we distance ourselves from the family, is to see
where some changes can be made within this little system, because at times,
the very change in the system produces the automatic big change among human
beings themselves. (I am not so sure whether I am expressing myself well
To move further, Kashmir gave me the thought and the germ of the idea about
spaces. My return from each visit to Kashmir made me view Mumbai City
differently issues of identity, anonymity and community, human
interactions, communication and miscommunication, etc. became better
understood as I began to debate and discuss in my own head and with the
heads of others!
The current research fellowship is titled Women in Trains: An Examination
of a Shade of Physical Space in City Life. The idea in this study is to
check out and analyze the ladies compartment in the trains and see how
crowds affect women. Space is a crucial component of conflict and violence,
however small or big the conflict and violence maybe. I am particularly
interested in women because women bring a special value to society and to
the world at large. My belief is that in todays times, the way to conflict
and to peace is through women. Women can both, perpetuate violence, and pave
the way towards peace. There is a certain sensitivity among women which is
difficult to numb. I am not so sure about this in males. Addressing this
sensitivity and potential in women which will enable to bring in peace.
Women need more space (not that men dont). There is a need to be able to
breathe and think in quiet, have a space for reflection. All of this is
dying slowly. I am looking at this research as an opportunity to understand
space and its impact and also to develop a larger vision of the kind of
spaces we need for both men and women and for people in general (which
includes children and animals as well). The need thereafter would be to work
in a more integrated manner and with a larger vision towards what kind of
cities and spaces do we want for ourselves in the future.
What would be rewarding and interesting is if the readers can post their
experiences in trains across the world. I will soon create a blog which will
enable us to have more lively discussions!
To conclude, for me, Space and Women are two crucial aspects of the way
towards democratic peace! And democratic peace means existence of diversity
and differences, but with a greater ability to work through these!
- Zainab Bawa
- For communication, email zainabbawa at yahoo.com
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