New show probes the politics of loitering

Who loiters at sunny parks, goes to cheap bars, or sips tea under flyovers? A new theatrical-poetry show in town investigates the gendered nature of public spaces.

‘Live. Love. Loaf.’ by theatrical poet-writer Nupur Saraswat is a commentary on the unspoken, unwritten contracts that govern when women go out, where and why to ensure their safety. “Put on a jacket when you are in the cab,” the Indian-Singaporean artiste, currently based in Bengaluru, gives an example.

Some tacitly enter into a “surveillance contract”, sharing GPS coordinates with family or finding comfort in CCTV cameras, she adds.

As a result, women unknowingly give up their right “to have fun”, “explore” and “live a full life”. Their outings are purpose-driven, to go to work, meet somebody, or travel, she says. “I am 27 and I have contained (so many desires) because I was looking out for my safety,” admits Nupur.

The show, which makes use of theatrical performance, spoken word poetry, movement, recorded interviews and her experiences as a solo traveler, was five years in the making.

In 2017, Nupur was denied entry into a hotel she had booked online allegedly because their policy barred “single women”. Her call for help went viral. She started an online petition against sexist policies, which, she claims, caused hotels and ticketing platforms to admit solo travelers without discrimination.

The show is not as much an attempt to reclaim the public spaces for communities cutting across gender and class as it is about acknowledging the problem. “I want the audience to observe the demography of people who get to loiter,” she signs off.

* At multiple venues on August 5, 6, 7 and 17. Details on @nupur_speaks on Instagram.


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