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Updated: March 7, 2012 20:08 IST

A place under the sun

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Get together of women. Photo: Meera Mariam Yesudasan
The Hindu Get together of women. Photo: Meera Mariam Yesudasan

‘Idam' is an informal gathering of women that meets at Kanakakkunnu Palace grounds on the second Friday of every month

It was a quest for a space of their own that led to them to ‘Idam,' an informal monthly gathering of women at Kanakakkunnu Palace. “For long, some of us like Aleyamma Vijayan, Mercy Alexander and Shobana had been trying to think of a public space where some of us could get together and spend some time,” says R. Parvathi Devi, activist and former mediaperson.

Instead of meeting at a restaurant or at someone's house, all of them wanted it to be at a public space. “A few years ago, some of us had tried to make a space for women under the shade of a tree in front of the Malayalam Department in University College,” recalls Parvathi. Posters and other material related to women's issues were displayed there, at the ‘Women's Corner.'

But now their search was for a space where an informal gathering of women could chat, discuss and share their experiences. In the beginning they gathered at a little space on the premises of Sakhi, a non-governmental organisation. But when that became a little inconvenient, they thought of meeting at a public space or park. “So, some of us went to Gandhi Park at East Fort and starting spending time there in the evening. It was not a large group of women. In fact, once, I was the only woman there. A couple of times, there were just two or three of us but we persisted in this endeavour. However, the crowds and the noise there proved to be a deterrent and that was when we decided to move to the premises of Kanakkunnu Palace. It is spacious and more aesthetic than Gandhi Park,” explains Parvathi.

Rules and regulations are set aside and so are speeches. Laughter, discussions, and plenty of banter mark the gatherings. Word of mouth publicity brought more women to their own stamping ground in front of the palace. “The discussions can be on anything under the sun. For instance, one topic was on bringing up husbands!” laughs Parvathi. She continues: “We chatted about how we made our marriages work while the divorcees in our group spoke about what it was that made them walk out of their marriages. Whatever is topical might be of interest. It could be the difficulties that women passengers face during train journeys, it could be about safety in public places…If some one has written a poem or a story that is read. There are no hard and fast rules. All women are welcome.

We meet on the second Friday of every month at 5 p.m.”

Parvathi says that they are now debating whether some of the gatherings could include men as well. She feels that although a space of their own is essential for women, the idea is not for a place that segregates.

Till a decision on that is taken, Idam promises to provide that much needed space for women to get together and communicate with each other.

Space to enjoy

“Calling our own place in the sun ‘Idam' (meaning space in Malayalam) was easy. It symbolised our search for a little breathing space in a city that has hardly any places in public venues where women could gather to spend some time. As high-rises multiply and many women, especially the elderly, experience intense social isolation, such places are going to be vital in our society,” says Parvathi.

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