It excited me to think that we would be engaging with people with a very different approach, on a much bruited topic. Our approach focused on giving importance to every story, every experience and which replaced the blame, criticism or accusations with listening, understanding and empathizing through conversations and stories.
And so, we started by making our first appearance at a public space -the select city walk mall where we got two full days to be around and interact with people. I was quite excited because this was going to be our first interaction with people at a public space. But it did not go how I had imagined it. Although quite a lot of people stopped by, looking curiously at the colorful expression walls and trying to read what the posters said, a very few really seemed open to engaging in a conversation and sharing their views. And so, the first day I stood there feeling a little disappointed and wondering why did we not have hordes of people wanting to talk about it as I had imagined. “May be people did not want to talk about it so much, or they had set agendas to visit that place and did not want to give their time to anything else, or they were not comfortable talking to strangers about it” these were the possible reasons that came to my mind.
But the second day had a lot of stuff changed, not in terms of how the day went but how I looked at it. The expression walls were full of post its, with comments, opinions, desires and thoughts written on them by people. I realized a lot of conversations were going on around us. One such conversation that caught my attention was between a mother and a daughter, near the expression wall, which started when the mother wrote her answer for one of the questions on the wall...
Mother: (to the question, “when do you feel proud to be a woman) “All the time.”
Daughter: “Do you really want to write that?” “I think you should read the question again.”
Mother: “why?’’ “What’s wrong with that?” “I do feel proud to be a woman all the time.”
Daughter: “I think the question requires you to tell that one time that you felt proud to be a woman.”
Mother: “Ummmm....but why one incident when I actually do feel proud being a woman all the time........”
....and the conversation continued even after they left.
This, and many more such instances, made me realize that we managed to spark a lot of conversations between people, and so I realized the importance of holding that space and many more such different spaces after that.
What also made my heart swell was, that someone, who like us, believed in the power of conversations, expressed his admiration and elation by calling us ‘Conversation Starters’
In addition to long discussions on ‘Gender’ otherwise, to prepare for the sessions, all of us would sit together and reflect on our lives and personal experiences related to ‘gender’. This was followed by articulation and sharing of our stories with each other and later with the invited group of people for the session, at the venue. Doing this, I realized we all had so much to talk about. And, once again, I realized the magic of telling and listening to stories. I have always felt that there is something very fulfilling and heart warming about sharing stories, and I experienced that yet again.
It amazes me how all of us, when provided with a few listening ears and a seemingly safe space can really make ourselves vulnerable and share stuff that we do not know we hold inside. And how only by feeling listened to, we feel like the world has changed for us.
All of this was a part of our storytelling sessions. By talking about our honest feelings through stories, we could together create a space which brought out feelings of trust, love and support in all of us.
These two months took me through some very powerful and profound experiences. It also brought us all closer and together (the Purple Mangoes), and these experiences were quite transformative for me in many ways.