Catch the documentary that captures Srishti Bakshi’s walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, to create awareness about violence on women

The journey and the compelling tales of women she met along the way, are now captured in a documentary titled WOMB - Women Of My Billion

Published - July 21, 2021 06:15 pm IST

When Srishti Bakshi trained for her arduous walk from Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) to Srinagar (Kashmir) she knew about the physical challenges it would entail. “But I did not anticipate how difficult it would be as an emotional journey,” says Srishti. Everyday she met women from different parts of the country and they broke down as they spoke, narrating tales of abuse and violence inflicted upon them. “And I had to be collected in my response,” she adds.

The 230-day walk, spanning 3,800 kilometres was Shristi’s way of creating awareness about violence — acid attacks, dowry, rapes, assaults... — on women, and finding a possible solution. The walk and compelling interactions that took place during the on-foot event, are now part of a 90-minute-long documentary titled WOMB - Women Of My Billion .

“It captures the authentic voice of the Indian woman; what she feels, how she has tackled violence, how she has emerged victorious or even succumbed to it. All her different interactions with the world of violence is what the documentary puts out there,” says Sristhi. The documentary was showcased at the New York Indian Film Festival last month, followed by the London Indian Film Festival and its sister festivals in Birmingham and Manchester.

Next month, it will be screened at the opening night of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IIFM) in Australia. The film is directed by Ajitesh Sharma (who also had the challenging task of condensing 1,000 hours of footage into 90 minutes), produced by Apoorva Bakshi, Emmy-winning producer for Delhi Crime, and Juliet Blake also known for The Hundred Foot Journey.

A marketing professional with stints across India and Hong Kong, Srishti has always been vocal about women’s rights. Every time she read an article about attacks on women, it would anger her enough to post about it on social media.“It was like a coping mechanism,” says Srishti over a call from Edinburgh, United Kingdom, where she now lives. But it was when Srishti read about the Highway 91 rape case in India that she was really shaken and decided to do something about it.

She spoke to friends and acquaintances and realised that it is a me-centric society. “Unless it happens to my family or within my society, we don’t wake up and think about the whole race,” says Srishti, who is also the founder of Cross Bow Miles, an organisation that empowers women.

“I wanted to energise this conversation and wanted people not to feel hopeless but have hope about change. Media is doing their job but it is not reaching the ears it should,” she says. That is when she set out on this journey in 2017, with the hope of reaching an audience that might be far removed from the reaches of the mainstream media.

The journey

“I prepared for the walk for a year,” says Srishti recalling her physical strenuous routine at the gym, where she dived into muscle training and was lifting 100 kilograms. There were days when the training got so intense that she fell ill, but that did not deter her goal. “I was laser focussed on the walk. This did not even compare to the logistical nightmares. I engaged dad (a retired Lieutenant General from the Indian Army) as Operations Head of the movement. He charted out the route, and together we wrote to over 100 officials including District Collectors, women development boards, IAS and IFS officers.

Srishti walked 30 to 40 kilometres everyday and realised that one can do only 20% of planning on paper, the remaining 80% happens on ground. She organised workshops, which were attended by 200-300 people everyday, including men and women. People even walked with her a part of the stretch in their villages, towns or districts.

“When we were crossing Madhya Pradesh, in Deval, I heard a 13-year-old girl had recently been gangraped and burnt alive. I visited the house where it happened. I felt demotivated and my team was sad,” she says. At that point, she started questioning herself and wondered why she was doing this; what will it change?

The next day, she was joined by the ASHA and Anganwadi workers. One of the women looked like she had been beaten black and blue. It was a case of domestic violence. The woman walked in silence. At the end of that day’s walk, she turned to Srishti and narrated what had happened to her. Srishti asked her to join them at the workshop. The woman replied, ‘Just by looking at you doing what you are doing, I feel energised. I will push back and put a stop to what is happening with me.”

This incident, Srishti says, made her stop second guessing herself. “I came across horrific stories but also stories of courage. These made me continue my journey.”

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