Over the last eight days Sujatro Ghosh has managed to find women — IT professionals, teachers and journalists among others — who think wearing cow masks would give them safety on the street. In a social experiment to highlight that cows are respected more than women in India, these women wear a cow mask and pose at key spots in Delhi and Kolkata.
In handpicked public spaces where women are spotted regularly, Ghosh’s protagonists can be seen posing in front of India Gate and the President’s Estate in Delhi. They also sit in a first class compartment of Rajdhani Express train at Howrah railway station in Kolkata, in the compound of a school and in a classroom of Jadavpur University. They also look into the mirror while smoking in their personal space.
The message behind Ghosh’s latest photo series, which has taken social media by storm, is fairly simple — the need to make our cities safer for women, not merely cows. “The reason I decided to shoot this series was because I had a liberal upbringing and never saw extremism like I see now. The Dadri lynching and other similar incidents really affected me. When I shifted to Delhi from Kolkata, I wanted to voice my concerns and realised the only way I could do so was through art,” says 23-year-old Ghosh, an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. He began his journey at India Gate, a monument integral to Delhi and a must-see “visual delight for tourists”, as he armed his actors with a cow mask that he picked from a village party store in Manhattan, New York, for $40.
Nicole Urvi, a Jadavpur University student who is seen sitting alone in a classroom in one photograph, says, “If I walk down the streets in a cow mask, at least my chances of being harassed will be slim. No one wants to harass anyone who looks like a deity or is representative of one.”
He, however, wasn’t surprised when a majority of his female friends didn’t agree to pose. “I was told ‘how can you expect me to, when on a normal day I do not feel safe.’” says Ghosh.But the response Ghosh has received post this project has been overwhelming for him. “I’m receiving messages not only from my own.”
But the response Ghosh has received post this project has been overwhelming for him. “I’m receiving messages not only from my own country, but even abroad. People from Russia have messaged me saying they would like to be photographed when they visit the country in December,” says Ghosh, who hopes to turn his photo series into a collaborative movement through art, fashion, street play, theatre, a multimedia project and probably a film.