A group of women in Bengaluru recently took to the streets for an all-women night walk in the bustling neighbourhood of Chickpet, one of the city’s oldest areas famous for its wholesale and retail clothing shops. The guided tour organised by Gully Tours, called ‘Pete by Night Walk’, took participants through the narrow lanes of Chickpet, highlighting its unique nightlife and historical significance.
The walk was conceived to encourage more women to feel comfortable and safe in public spaces at night, says Vinay Parameswarappa, founder, Gully Tours. “We narrowed it down to Chickpet as a team because we had only one question in mind — which spaces would women visit if they didn’t have to worry about a thing,” he adds. The walk began at 6pm and ended at 9pm.
On the ground
At the walk, stepping into the locality felt like entering a whole new world where chaos reigned supreme. The cacophony of the bustling crowds was overwhelming, with no sense of personal space or boundaries. If you happen to visit Chickpet, you will find yourself caught up in the frenzy of the crowd making their way through the narrow streets with reckless abandon.
If you are not careful, you might even get nudged by a passing cycle at every other turn. It is a scene that can be intimidating for many, causing them to avoid the area at night altogether. However, it is a shame to miss out on the vibrant energy of Chickpet, which houses some of the city’s most famous silk sari shops, hole-in-the-wall eateries, and piping hot badam milk sold on carts.
However, the two tour leads Raksha Shenoy and Mradula Hegde were like knights in shining armour, carefully guiding the group of women through each shop, eatery, and historical building, with the occasional pit stop for hot jalebis and badam milk.
Tulica Bhattacharya, a 24-year-old consultant in the city who participated in the walk, says, “I have always yearned to explore this part of the city, but I never wanted to be here alone.” She attributes the success of the tour to the leadership of Mradula and Raksha, stating the walk was not daunting despite the commotion. “However, if it was a man directing us to go left, right, straight, it wouldn’t have worked here…You need women sensitive about personal boundaries, understanding of creating a safe space to helm such walks,” she adds.
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“This is the first time we have done an all-women night walk in the city,” says Mradula. “If you walk by yourself in these lanes you may not feel comfortable, but when we work together as a group of women, we create a safe space for other women to come here and reclaim these lanes,” adds Raksha.
The night walk was more than a mere historical tour or culinary adventure. As the group of women strolled through the lanes, making their way through the crowd of men, savouring the sweet taste of nukkad jalebis in the dark, they were also sending a powerful message to the men around them: that every woman has the right to feel safe and free in her own city.
Gully Tours is looking to return to Chickpet for another all-women night walk on March 25 and one on Commercial Street on March 18. For details, visit gully.tours/ or call +91 9632044188.