Dec 21, 2017

This “Barabari” Thing

Deepa Krishnan

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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