An Indian woman's mind is so conditioned to fear that it struggles to believe a safer environment can even exist, says artist Shweta Bhattad, who has used a wax attire and hot water for her upcoming performance that highlights women's safety dilemmas.
What safety means is something that this Nagpur-based artist understood in Taiwan where walking alone during late night didn't mean "inviting" danger - unlike in her own country. But fear had sabotaged her mind.
"Like many girls in India, I have grown up and lived all my life with fear which conditioned me to feel that nights are not for girls, nor are empty roads. Our mind is so much used to this 'fear' factor that it (the mind) refuses to believe a safe place for women even exists," Bhattad told IANS over the phone.
She went to Taiwan for a month-old residency programme where she performed "Bharat Mata in Taiwan" that was based on her struggle in conquering her fears as a woman in India.
Describing this mind battle through a performance "Melting Attire" at the India Art Fair that will begin in the capital Jan 30, 2014, the 28-year-old will be wearing a self-designed wax attire, a Yukata, which is a Japanese-kimono-like dress.
She would then pour hot water over it till the wax melts away - it is symbolic of the victory over her fear for accepting freedom.
"Every day I could see women there (in Taiwan) living their lives with freedom and dignity. On the contrary, I used to feel unsafe and afraid when walking alone on empty and dark roads (there). I would turn back 100 times to check if I was being followed," she recollected.
"As this attire will melt away (during the performance), this will symbolise how my fear vanished slowly," she added.
Bewildered and surprised, Bhattad took time to get used to this newly-found freedom where there was no lurking danger on empty streets or predators eyeing on vulnerable women.
"This fear, which I have nurtured inside me, was rooted so deep that I carried it with me miles and miles away. It was very difficult for me to accept the freedom I received in Taiwan," she said, adding while she was fortunate to experience this freedom, many women in India won't perhaps ever know the real meaning of freedom.