The lack of public and community spaces in Mumbai, documented for decades in text and on film, seems to have led to certain patterns of privacy and the relationship of privacy with personal and public spaces. While 35% of the respondents, in the survey conducted by Pukar for the Mumbai Lab, interpreted privacy as “solitude”, as many as 53.5% of respondents said they found privacy in their homes. And, surprisingly half the respondents said they wanted privacy from “neighbours” and “family”.
“These findings surprised us because people listed home as their preferred choice of privacy, but we know that homes in Mumbai hardly offer any at all. This is a comment on the fact that there are so few public and community spaces, and those that exist are not always available to or not usable by citizens,” said Dr Anita Patil Deshmukh, executive director of Pukar.
Mumbaiites said they felt their privacy was most affected when they had guests over to stay; their “sleeping space”, “bathroom patterns” and “eating patterns” were affected by the presence of guests in their homes.
The survey covered respondents in ten locations across housing categories: 36 per cent were from chawls, 32 per cent from middle-income flats, 17 per cent from cooperative housing societies and housing complexes.
Thirty per cent said they needed privacy when they were “upset”, 19% were looking for privacy because they wanted “solitude”, 11% wanted it to be able “to take decision” and 10% wanted it for “private talk”.
Citizens should be able to demand and get public spaces from their local governments, because the existence of public and community spaces impacts on people’s privacy, said Deshmukh. “We see 82 per cent respondents spending time with their partners, which points to something important: the couple space. Rural India doesn’t have the concept of a couple space, but as Mumbai becomes more global and aspirational, we see this concept coming in. That’s the transition.”