You meet people all the time; you meet them at work, college and other social situations. You make plans to meet people; to eat, to watch a movie or just to hang out. But have you ever heard of meeting to sleep? I was titillated and alarmed at the same time the first time it was introduced to me.
After an initial burst of excitement, I did not really think about Meet to Sleep. The whole idea of Meet to Sleep was thought of by Jasmeen Patheja, an artist who is also the founder of Blank Noise. Women across the country meet at a scheduled time, ideally in a park and fall asleep.
Now do you see why this was so scary?
Falling asleep in a public place, especially in a park is an unthinkable act. The concept of safety is rather alien to me; public spaces are always battle grounds. There is always the unwanted gaze; even the simple act of walking down the street is a hassle on most days. There is always the paranoia of being followed, harassed. Public spaces are uncomfortable. So how was I going to fall asleep in a park?
But I decided to give a try any way. So on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I joined three of my friends at Deer Park in Delhi for a Meet to Sleep. Out of the four of us, only one of my friends had slept in a park before. Thankfully or not, we had chosen a day when the park was crowded. Now, Deer Park is large sprawling green area in the middle of south Delhi with medieval era tombs and structures, a large lake and multiple animal enclosures. The area is not known to be very safe either. But there we were, we had a blanket, the sunniest, grassiest spot in the park.
I leaned up against a tree, with a magazine attempting to calm my mind to a slumber. I could hear the birds, the random dance students practicing nearby and the hustle bustle of the families that were using the various facilities of the park.
For years, I have been vary of letting my guard down. I can’t sleep on public buses, trains and especially taxi’s unless I know someone I trust is with me. It is almost inherent, because when have these public places ever been safe for women?
Here I was trying to let my guard down and that fear kept manifesting in different ways. Would I get bitten by ants? Would the birds shit on me? Would my glasses and bag get stolen? Would I wake up to find myself being stared at by random people? Also, when did it get so cold?
Miraculously, my wandering brain and overactive imagination were quiet and I slept for all of five minutes. The tension did not leave my body though; my hands were wrapped tightly around me, my knees stuck to each other and my legs stiff.
The vulnerability of the experience did shake me, but I would definitely do it again and again.
The whole concept of Meet to Sleep according to the about page on Facebook, “We Meet to Sleep to shift the fear based relationship we have been taught to have with our cities. We do this question fear, and to initiate a dialogue on trust.”
And this trust is difficult to come by, especially when we are confronted daily by the atrocities of gender equality. But if the world were to be made a safer place one nap at a time, sign me up for more naps in the park.