Imagine a room full of hundreds of women… drinking, being jolly, throwing their heads back in raucous laughter. And there’s no one who looks at them incredulously, no one who remarks at their so-called lack of modesty, no one who shushes them when they guffaw their hearts out.
If you’re a woman, this may sound like a scenario from a fictional alternate universe. But if you were in Bengaluru on Saturday at Leddis Night, you’d have known for this to be true.
Leddis Night was organised by The Ladies Finger, an online women’s feminist magazine which just completed five years of existence. With a Sridevi cosplay theme and a headlining performance by Aditi Mittal, this was a gathering of almost 500 women.
The evening kicked off at The Lalit Ashok, with an all women staff handling the bar and serving food; there was even a woman bouncer, Vanessa, the 19-year-old who ultimately wants to be a bouncer at Bengaluru pubs. Read our chat with her here.
If you looked around, you could see many Sridevi cosplay participants – glittering, glamorous, boyish – representing the many avatars Sridevi took in her roles. Amidst chatter and laughter, what was heartening about an event such as this was there were people who ran into friends and former colleagues who they would otherwise not have met.
Leddis Night began with a foot tapping performance by Dhurii, a Bengaluru-based all women’s dance troupe. Opening with the immensely popular ‘Kaate Nahi Kat Te’ from Mr India, the group went on to perform to Bollywood songs like ‘Hawa Hawai’, ‘Mere Haathon Mein’ and and ‘Na Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai’ and ‘Navrahi Majhi’.
There were, of course, small groups of women dancing to these numbers on their own in the aisles and at the back too.
Nisha Susan, editor-in-chief of The Ladies Finger, welcomed the attendees next. Speaking about how the publication came about, and the feedback it has gotten over the years, she said, “Readers have told us that apart from the content, they come to the site to connect with other women, to speak about what matters to them in the tone they want to speak about it.”
Following this was Deepika Arwind’s satire ‘No Rest in the Kingdom’ and a lovely set by Deepika Mhatre, a stand up comic from Mumbai. Hosting and adding humour to the breaks was Shrirupa Sengupta. And finally, there was the headlining set by Aditi Mittal, which we’re sure left tummies tender and jaws throbbing (in a good way) after all the riotous laughter.
What was most interesting about Aditi’s performance was the sheer volume of cheering and resonance at the things she said. Because, for a change, women were not a part of the audience – they were the audience.
Finally, it was time to announce the winners of the Sridevi cosplay. While Mishta Roy won for her Hawa Hawai get up, Prema Viswanathan was awarded for her Khuda Gawah inspired look and Shashwati, for her Lamhe inspired costume.
Leddis night meant different things to different people. But the most overwhelming sentiment was that of feeling safe enough in a space to wear what they wanted, drink however much they wanted, without the worry of being judged, groped or ogled at.
Smriti, a Bengaluru-based gynaecologist, for instance, was surprised at the massive turnout. “Especially with this one being a long weekend, I’m quite surprised at the sheer number of women who turned up… just to laugh and have fun!” she said.
Prema, meanwhile, who won for portraying Benazir from Khuda Gawah, said that while this was heartening, she hoped that more men could witness gatherings and performances like this to understand why they are important.
Prema, dressed as Benazir from Khuda Gawah
Sasha, who works at GiftAbled, an inclusive gift store, said the evening reminded her of her time with her girlfriends back in her hometown, Delhi. “I miss my girls, and this all women gathering reminded me of that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Durga M Sengupta, who works with The Ken, said that spaces like this felt liberating. “You can feel the difference if you just have to walk out of here to the hotel lobby to go to the loo. You feel self-conscious and tug at your clothes, but none of that here. While the performances were fantastic, just the fact that there are so many women who have come together to unwind and have fun made the evening worthwhile,” she said.
Durga M Sengupta
Leddis Night was finally rounded up with DJ Prathana playing some groovy tunes which had everyone dancing their feet off.
It was quite ironic (and somewhat comical), that towards the end when the women were enjoying themselves to music and dance, you could see some men (no idea where they came from) just sitting on the chairs a little farther away. But for once, not one woman seemed to care.
(Note: TNM was the official media partner for Leddis Night.)