This "Barabari" Thing

Deepa Krishnan

Author: Deepa Krishnan

Date: Thu, 2017-12-21 13:39

Last week at Abhyudaya we invited Stri Mukti Sanghatana to stage their iconic play, Mulgi Zhali Ho (A girl is born). Mulgi Zhali Ho raises awareness about gender issues, using music, gentle humour and sometimes sarcastic wit. Originally written in 1983, it has been staged more than 3000 times, all over Maharashtra, and also in other parts of India. And yet, after all these years, the issues facing the Indian girl child still remain intensely problematic. 

Our audience for the play included men and women from low income neighbourhoods in the K-West ward (the parents of our Abhyudaya Sitaras). When the play was over I asked them for feedback. One of the women said with a smile, "Mardon ko kadvi lagi hogi!" (The men must have found it bitter!). There was much laughter among the women. The men in the audience looked discomfited. Indeed, the play does sting, especially if you are male, and the womens' laughter perhaps added to the sting. 

I looked at the faces of the men, and thought I should speak up. You see, when it comes to "barabari" (gender equality), setting up men and women in opposing camps doesn't really help the cause. I spoke about the need to understand barabari in more nuanced ways, particularly in the context of marriage. 

Barabari between husband and wife doesn't mean that at all times, everything is perfectly balanced, a nice 50-50. Sometimes the seesaw goes up one way and sometimes the other way. For a successful marriage it is better to take a long term view, rather than focusing on barabari here-and-now. Also, for barabari in a marriage, it is important to speak and establish loving connections. Strident voices are not often successful inside partnerships and neither is it wise to remain silent in the face of injustice. 

Of course, all this wisdom has come when I am nearly 50! If I had known this when I was younger, it would have saved me a lot of domestic squabbles! 

If you haven't watched Mugli Zhali Ho yet, I strongly recommend you do. Originally written by Jyoti Mhapsekar, it is part of the many plays performed by the cultural wing of Stri Mukti Sanghatana. The performers are volunteers, not professionals, but that only adds to the charm. You can find it on youtube, in the original Marathi as well as in Hindi (it's called Beti aayi hai in Hindi). If you have a venue/audience who you think would benefit from listening to this play, do let me know. The Abhyudaya team can help arrange a performance.


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Thank you very much for the info again convey and hopefully useful to my friend who read it. and for a friend who needs it. He also needs an essay regarding this subject and he thinks to contact for the paper.

The problems that a woman or a girl child faces in our country, have been intense for a very long time now. There has been a change over the times but that’s simply not enough. ‘Women empowerment’ and ‘feminism’ have made their way into the social culture quite aggressively and rightly so. But in all this chaos, we forget the mere essence of equality. What we do not understand is that, equality is not just about uplifting women but making space for both the genders to exist together at the same level. Most of us have been downgrading men to uplift women. The fact that Prof Deepa Krishnan has decided to break out of this norm and taken a stand for what is right is commendable. She understands and wants others to understand too that, what it takes to attain peace is mutual understanding and balance. Unless we learn to see both of them as equals, it will not work. Mend need to respect women for their contribution to the society and women, too, need to understand the importance of men in the society. The moment we realize they are complementary to each other, half the problems will be solved. Given the fact that most of India’s population belongs to the middle class or lower middle class, it is very important to explain this, to them, in a way that they will be able to relate to, to be able to understand better. Keeping the background of the audience in mind, she has tried to explain this concept in a way that they would best relate to, in the context of marriage. She has beautifully explained how it takes two hands to clap. Compromises have to be made by both the parties to earn each other’s respect and to give birth to mutual understanding. Standing up for women is an absolute necessity in times like these, there’s no doubt about it but standing up for men who are being wronged in this process is equally necessary. And she’s done just that. I have immense respect for her opinions in this context.

I could not agree with you more on the point about the general notion of “barabari”. I often see women targeting men in the name of feminism, but I think they have gotten the idea of feminism wrong. To get equal rights we do not essentially have to target men and prove that how they are responsible for our condition, but the focus should be on propagating the thinking in women that they deserve to have the same opportunities as any other PERSON and mind you not MEN! Imagine LGBT community asking for equal rights by saying male, female, straight people are responsible for discrimination against us. Doesn’t that sound cringeworthy? The same sentence when replaced by men and women seems legit. The reason for this is that this wrong notion has been engraved into our thinking so deeply that we don’t even understand what is wrong with it. We as a woman hate being stereotyped yet we don’t hesitate to do that to the male community. On the other hand, we never think of the discrimination women do against women. There has been considerable number of brothels run by women in India, but do we talk about them and say women are responsible for human trafficking? This needs to be addressed as the “barabari” notion has a very intoxicating effect in a marriage too. Imagine your partner trying to compete with you all the time. As the blog rightly says it doesn’t have to a 50-50 deal every time it is very essential to find the right balance. Otherwise this concept can brainwash many women whose marriage could have been much better without the concept. Therefore, the whole point of this discussion is when we talk about gender bias we should keep a check on ourselves too that are we also doing some kind of gender bias?

It was 0805 hours on my watch as I frantically climbed the stairs of SPIT building. I was told by Abhyudaya team that the class starts at 0800. My subject was English. I have always loved teaching. From 6-year olds to 50-year olds, I have stood in front of them all. As I finally reached the class, I saw the board that said "6E". A parent was frantically signalling his son. The good old hustle and bustle of school life in front of me soothed my nerves. As I pressed these 12-year olds for class participation, the shyness and the genuine smile that I was rewarded with as I applauded their sharp answers melted my heart. There were equal mix of boys and girls. I never realised their gender. As I watched the play prescribed here with my friend, I too was smiling, but never could relate. Biologically speaking, gender-based behaviour pattern diverges only during teenage. All kids are the same. Therefore, scientifically gender discrimination of young girls makes no sense. Being very close to a lot of women who made me who I am today, I can say with authority that women are better species than men. Their laughter can spread happiness the farthest, or even cause Mahabharatha. Their tears can clean up our hearts or burn down cities (Madurai/Kannagi reference). I am no authority on women or relationships. But I was trained by my parents to see the best in people, to be the first to apologise and that gratitude is the only salvation of human mind. These lessons have helped me a lot to make and sustain any kind of relationship. I believe that gender discrimination is declining as more and more of the current generation people are getting educated and womens’ lives are getting better. Therefore, though I can understand the context and the content of this write-up, the fact that I couldn’t relate to any of it makes me proud of my parents and teachers. Thank you for the time.

Hello Ma’am, It wonderful to see such a realistic issue being discussed, mainly because in the realm of being “civil" or to have “societal acceptance” we often forget the need to discuss out the invariable behaviour pattern that we start to exhibit. It necessary because at the end of the day - it’s all about the “barabari". Be it friendships, group work or intimate relationships it all comes down to how much work are you putting in. Sometimes we complain that we are the only ones who is putting in all the hard work, sometimes we are on the receiving end of this speech, listening dumbfounded. In context to the main reference of this blog article on marriage, I feel blessed to have witnessed certain stages of marriage between my parents - how my father would stay back and tend to the daily chores if my mother was sick or in need to be giving her 100% at work, or how any decision requires both their inputs (financial and otherwise). But it also consisted of days when one would give more than the other and still, they would balance it out equally. For instance, days when one of them is down, the other would put in an extra effort to feel special but at the same time, it was the sense of knowing when to let the other person deal with their own thing at their own pace. This “barabari” also came into the picture when they would team up to clean up the house, every time the in-laws visited - “You fix the living room, i’ll handle the laundry”. It was even there in everyday life - the extrovert in need of the introvert, the feeler in need of the thinker and vice versa. This “barabari” was in knowing what was needed and when. It never mattered who was the one on the giving end and receiving end. If I am being honest to myself, I feel pretty thankful for this very “barabari" because it made things so much more unique, so much more equated. Imagine it like an elastic band, no matter which direction you pull it from - the force exhibited from it shall remain the same. This balance has made benchmarks - certain standards - that makes me second your statement that yes, it is important to speak out and make connections because it’s better to find the Yin to the Yang than Bruce or Chang.

I really felt connected while reading this post maám. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences regarding the same. Being a citizen of India, we all know that this “barabari” thing is quite acclaimed but inequality is still prominent in the rural areas. You mentioned about the screening of a play based on this and the audience being low income neighbourhoods. An exactly similar situation was faced by me, when I was performing a street-play along with my teammates on “girl child” in one of the remote areas near Pune. This play was performed in a circle, on the streets, with people standing all around us. I was doing my engineering, when I was a part of the street-play team which performed on various social issues. Among these was the issue of what difficulties do girls face right from their birth, for some may not be fortunate enough to be even born, till the time they grow up to becoming mothers. This street-play started off with funny elements, sarcasm and then gradually ended on a serious note. One of the monologues in the play was (in hindi) – “Paida hone se pehele hi dete ho ladki ko maar, fir kahaa se paaoge maa, behen, beti ka pyaar”. Such elements kept them engrossed and grabbed the attention of those who were not watching the play earlier. When the play came to an end, all females standing in the crowd gave a huge round of applause, where as the men stood quietly. For girls and women in the crowd, something like this was unexpected and at the same time heart-warming. Since it was performed in the rural areas, where female foeticide is still prevalent, it was relatable for them. After the play, it was important for the people to understand the main motive or true essence of it. It wasn’t to show supremacy of women over men, or to show that men in our society are culpable for female foeticide. Instead, it was just to convey across the masses, that female foeticide should be desisted. The women retorted as if it were the men who were responsible for it. At that moment it was necessary for us to convey that women and men are “barabar” in this. If there is something wrong happening to women around, it is not that always men are guilty of it. Or if something in favour of women occurs, not necessarily women will be the reason behind it. As mentioned in the blog, it doesn’t always have to be perfect balance of 50-50. What is important is to find the right balance. Being a dramatics enthusiast, I would definitely like to watch “Mulgi Zhali Ho”.

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