-By Mehak and Sukhmani
On the day of International Women’s day, I along with my team Abhivyakti, the theatre group of IP College, were keen on performing our annual production of street play ‘Mooch Neech ka Paapda’. The play essentially portrays gender bias and questions the system of Patriarchy with a focused approach towards an equal and a humanitarian society, in different city neighbourhoods. Haiyya being an active organisation around building strong neighbourhoods in Khirki, Delhi which works towards equal and safer access to women in public spaces was an instant click with us! I have a long array of words to describe the power packed day but none that even closely fits to my experience. To describe it in the simplest possible manner, it was a full of beautiful experiences and positivity, where my team and I got a chance to portray that equality between all genders is what we seek for which is crucial as a first step to get rid of the violence faced by women. Theatre has always been a medium of change, learning and growth in my life and a source of energy. It is an experience which takes makes you grow from inside, you are crushed and you are recreated; you always have more within you after these realisations. It amazes me how few things in life cannot be articulated in words. It has helped me transcend my inhibitions and delve into the depths of creativity and enabled me to cultivate that inner eye which helps me explore each and every element that lies hidden inside me. And I feel, when you fully embrace theatre, it gives you more than you would ever imagine.
One of the beautiful incidents from the day that flashes in front of my eyes, when a resident of Khirki area, a girl in mid twenties appreciated our performance and was extremely overwhelmed by the spirit of the cause. She further shared with us how she has always aspired to be a dancer and after her father’s death she started keeping unwell. The people around also kept asking her “ab kya kaam karegi, shaadi kaise hogi teri aur mummy ka kya karegi? (What would you do now? How will your mother get you married?)” To which she pointed, “Mujhe farak nahin padhta koi shaadi kare na kare, main toh apni mummy ko hee dahej mein leke jaungi, jise yeh manzoor hoga use shaadi karungi (I don’t care if someone wishes to marry me in the future or not. My mother would come with me as my dowry. I will marry someone who agrees to this condition)”. This is where I had a realization that this is the kind of spirit and belief in oneself every woman should have.
Our performance led to a focused group discussion in the community around the same issue. This was one of the best experiences I have had of interacting with community at a platform where we heard their actual voices. While getting into intense conversations with people from the community, I felt so grounded and confident. The confidence gained, the real time experiences have been learning in abundance, this personal journey of mine to understand and take theater as a tool for social change.
I feel it is important for the community to understand their issues and work around them together. In the beginning, I felt the interest of the people being low in our performance and we had those fears that very soon we’ll be asked to leave as we are questioning something that has been there and accepted for ages. In complete contrast to what I had assumed, there were young girls and some married women who were willing to share their experiences and narrate their stories around the kind of violence they’ve faced all this while and how strongly they felt to change this. I think with time and with more and more women coming out to speak up and rebel, other women will definitely get the strength.
Another incident was with an old man who came up to us and was excited to tell us about how he allows his daughter to work and do whatever she wants to do, and said “tu kaam kar aur naam kama, humne toh tujhe humesha se hee apne bete jaisi beti maana hai”. This is where my problem begins, the fact that why does a ‘beti’ has to be a ‘bete jaisi beti’ to live the way she wants to and work for her dreams. Why do we tend to compare two different genders on the basis of some gender roles that have been forced ever since we were born? I think it’s high time that we try to see beyond the system blinded by patriarchy, the fact that men and women are equal but not the same. So there can’t be any comparison, both deserve a chance to decide the kind of life they wish to live without fearing the societal pressures.
I wish to quote a few inspiring lines from our play-
Ek awaaz hai tujh mein,
Jo goonjti hai har pal
Kehti hai, tere liye yahi sahi.
Par shaayad, woh sahi nahi.
Na gyaani, na sant, na tark anant.
Chunn sake tere liye
Thheher, abb sunn zara.
Jo ek awaaz hai tujh mein.
We may not be there yet, but definitely closer to where we were yesterday.
Mehak Aneja is a student of Mass Media and Mass Communication at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She is a budding theater artist, loves to immerse herself in the world of art & aesthetics. She strongly believes in equality for all genders.
Sukhmani Grover is partnership and communications associate on Haiyya’s campaign to reclaim women’s safer and equal access to public spaces. She strongly believes in collective power and action as a step to achieve gender equity. She is driven by theater being a tool for social change