One for the road

One for the road

The spotlight was firmly trained on women at a panel discussion in the 'Bangalore Literature Festival '17' on Sunday afternoon which spoke about women travelling alone and what this entails. The panel comprised of  Sri Lankan humourist Chhimi Tenduf-La,  German poet and rapper Jessy James LaFleur,  editor Meenal Baghel and author  Pilar Maria Guerrieri.  

Draped in a bright orange sari, Jessy stole the show with her humorous anecdotes and witty observations about how India is perceived across the globe. The spoken word artiste talked about her mother's first reaction when she announced her decision to study in India, specifically Coimbatore. "My mother told me 'Please don't get raped'. I went 'Wow, is that what you have to say to me?' But I understand. What we read in newspapers about India is really bad even though the situation in  the West is not particularly safe for women either," said Jessy.  

She went on to add, "I come from Germany and a high percentage of women there are subject to sexual assault. But India has been portrayed in a very bad light by the media. I personally have felt very safe walking on the roads in Coimbatore. Men have been pleasant while women have come forward to take selfies with me."

Meenal addressed the problem with the mindsets of the women nowadays and opined that there was a prevalent sense of victimhood engrained in females that needed to change. She added that  the crimes being committed against women should not stop them from stepping out, rather they should make an effort to engage more. She also added that parents should trust their daughters to find their own path.

Jessy agreed strongly with this and recounted a personal experience of how her parents didn't talk to her for ten years  because of her  decision to move out. When she finally asked her mother about the reason behind this, her mother  said that they didn't think she could do it. The audience were all ears as she went on to talk about how this thinking needs to be changed.  

Pilar Maria Guerrieri, author of 'Maps of Delhi', recounted her personal experience of moving to India seven years ago to learn about the culture and way of life.  After the initial struggles to convince her parents, Pilar wrote to an Indian architect, requesting him to take her under his wing as she didn't know anyone here. There was no looking back after that.  

One thing all ladies agreed upon were the benefits of travelling alone. Pilar talked about how travelling solo lets one move away from their comfort zone while Meenal said that it was an opportunity to make new friends and allow things to happen to you. Jessy highlighted the need to usher in a change and implored the male community to step forward and speak up if they saw a woman being harassed.

Next was a poetry reading by Jessy after which the audience was given a chance to ask questions or share their observations. From talking about the need for a cultural  revolution to talking about the do's and don'ts of travel writing, the audience interaction was just as engrossing as the main event.

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