‘THE OTHER’ at the Vayanashala was conceived at the two-month long Pepper House Residency, Kochi in 2018. It questions the invisibility of women in public spaces with a performative exercise by reading a newspaper at the reading rooms in and around Kochi.
The history of Vayanashala (Reading Rooms) in Kerala dates back to pre–independence of India. Largely associated with the Communist Movement, these reading rooms have been instrumental in presenting a broader world view to the local people (especially the then youth) challenging stereotypes dispensed by the family or the village headmen /clergymen. Thus, they have a strong bearing on the community around them. Now many of these spaces have lost their past glory. However, the idea of collective reading and the community space has thrived on in the form of a reading room, sometimes with an extended library & an art & sports club along with it. One more idea that has thrived on with the vayanashalas is that women or girls don’t visit them.
Every day, at different times I have visited the reading rooms, cohabited the space with fellow readers (men of distinct age group) for thirty-forty minutes & read my newspaper. The site was usually photographed after the reading of the newspaper. These photographs have been put together into an accordion book.