In the middle of somewhere: Shadab’s journey with Festival of Voices

I am going to narrate my journey being part of the beautiful project, Festival of Voices.

I was in my own self, in my cocoon, in my life. Then I came to know about this project. I found the project interesting and finally got the opportunity to be part of it. But I never thought that it is going to impact me so deeply, that I might be in a sense of loss, confusion, and finding the reasons why the society is the way it is.

Thinking about the people around me who are smiling while also knowing that there are many untouched, unheard parts behind the smile, which we can’t see because people hide their tears behind the veil of a smile. In my journey through the project, I went to collect a story near Shadipur metro station. The moment I got in the e-rickshaw I expected the whole infrastructure, ambience, scenario to change with every single minute – and it did. The dual face of Delhi finally came up. I asked my self is it ugly, this Delhi? Which is Delhi? The malls, bungalow, parks, gated colonies and cafeteria at Connaught Place? Or this scanty place with the government transit houses? I asked myself – are these people are not people?

I was walking and talking to the rickshawalla but inside there were thousands of questions popping and clicking in my mind. Finally I entered in the room where five girls were sewing and doing embroidery work. While I was talking, I was shocked to know that there are 4 washrooms for 100 pe0ple. When I was there I compared myself to where I was and the image of the people were coming in my mind when they complain about silly things. The whole journey so far in the project has disturbed me so much so that, all the time my mind is full of anger on everyone being as part of the larger society. Sitting at Janpath metro station gate no. three, I was observing the women who sell the cushions and other embroidered textiles they had made by themselves. At the same time I was also observing the people who were their potential customers. The way the women negotiate with the people, run behind them for a bargain was totally abstract. What is the use of thinking all of this? What should I do to show empathy or sympathy to them or anger to the larger system? I find myself nowhere. No answers to these questions come to my mind.

When I stood up for the national anthem few days back in a multiplex, I was able to see all the stories on the moving flag. While I was looking the flag and the people around me, I was thinking, Does this city, this public and private space, the community, the society provide equal opportunity to all of them and treat them equally? I find myself empty-handed. Today I am in the middle of somewhere. But the task is to find out what this somewhere is and why I am there?