Blog / Blog

Networks & Neighborhood: Phase II

Field Log 26 May 2015


Arifa Khan

Since the majority of migrants in Hauz Rani are Afghans, I thought there surely must be an Afghan beauty parlour where I could find women to talk to about their experience of public space in Khirkee and Hauz Rani. I came out of Khoj and asked some Afghan women who were passing about whether there was such a parlour nearby. They said there was no specific Afghan beauty parlour, but they knew a woman who was running a parlour in her home. The women took me to that woman’s house but she was not at home. From the third-floor balcony her sister told me she had gone to an Afghan beauty parlour in Lajpat Nagar, and gave me a contact number. I asked the sister if she would come down and talk to me. She replied, What can I say…? But she did come down and I told her about my Khoj project, and asked about her experience of Khirkee and Hauz Rani. She said, Because we are migrants and Afghans, people pass remarks about us and try to touch us. Sometimes men say, “Give her fify rupees and she will go with you…! She is studying in Standard X in Don Bosco school. After school she doesn’t go out because of the aggressive anti-migrant attitude of the locals. Her sister is not studying because the family doesn’t have enough money to send all the daughters to school.

I walked on till I found a nearby beauty parlour and there was able to talk to the assistant. She said she doesn’t go out after 7 pm because her family doesn’t allow it as they think the locality is unsafe for women. But she herself thinks that if a girl stands her ground, boys can’t force her to do anything.

Then I returned to Khoj for a meeting with three girls from the tutorial bureau run by Rani, a local resident. Classes are mixed, attended by local and migrant children; boys and girls sit separately. Gulsaba’s parents only allow her to go out if she is accompanied by a male family member, as they think she would not be able to manage any hostility or harassment from the locals by herself. Rubeena said she is self-conscious while walking on the road, but as she has been living here for a long time she know where she can move around safely and which areas to avoid when she is on her own. She feels that the locals don’t behave like a community, and that the society here is generally uncaring.

The girls are from lower-middle-class homes and seem to carry a sense of social inferiority. They have many duties at home and housework. Girls are told they don’t need to study much but they must know how to manage a family and run a house, so they begin to learn cooking at a very young age as this is considered essential for their future. They are under domestic training every minute of their day. They are trained to not talk to males, in some cases not even to their male cousins. They are under-confident as they don’t have the right to speak up either at home or outside. Parents don’t allow daughters to go out freely because of fears for their safety. Girls don’t go for outings with their friends because parents think they will waste money. Girls are self-conscious in public space because many people in the area know them and might report to their parents if the girls are seen to be breaking rules. Parents are very concerned about their daughters’ reputations and so try to marry them off quickly