daughters of fire, vimochana from dowry

A couple of adults and all the erdkinder from NammaShaale were fortunate enough to participate in the ‘India Court of Women on dowry and related forms of violence against women’ organized by the activist & doer folks from Vimochana in association with other organizations on 28th July, 2009.

Lumps in throat. Feeling of helplessness.  Misery that, while I enjoy my daily morning coffee, at least 5 women in & around my Bangalore are preparing to kill themselves for no reason other than harassment for dowry/money by their husbands, in-laws. Or some in-laws and/or husband are planning the execution.  Guilt of being a participant male in an essentially inequitable patriarchal, patrilineal & patrilocal society.

On the contrary…

Stunning courage shown by marginalized folks against impossible odds. The fact of so many folks from all walks of life rallying against gross injustices. The pleasure of being amidst real activists and not mere armed-chair intellectuals. Incredible stories from the battlefields. Redemption. Hope. We shall overcome. There are other worlds. Yes.

If one cares to use google, one can get a significant amount of information on what went on – but I am going to merely record my experiences rather than give a true reportage.

To begin with,  Mallika Sarabhai the danseuse par excellence, enthralled the audience with her innovative and sensitive  portrayal of  the four kerala sisters who committed suicide as a protest and not as cop-outs as Mallika put it. This 15 min performance of Mallika and the one that preceded it  – about the Ethiopian woman who rebelled against the illtreatment meted out to her by her husband and who finally succeeds in preserving her dignity and self-esteem, using the Sike as a metapbor  (Sike is a Oromo term for the staff that is given by the mother of the bride to the latter, as a symbol affirming her power over her life, should she be troubled in her marital life) – set the tone for the court.

The whole day was full of first person narratives (mostly harrowing, many liberating) but all of them outstandingly couragious, from the many affected individuals from many regions and communities of India.

The whole day was reverberating unrelentingly with one ghastly story after the other, with the dramatis personae being real people. I frequently felt that  I could’t take it anymore – but I was also full of admiration for the testifiers who 1) braved all odds to emerge from their (our?) dark dungeons, continuing to fight & 2) the courage of conviction that made them narrate their very personal stories in front of a numbed audience.

The good folks on the jury & compere leads, included such accomplished individuals as Kamala Bhasin,  Shiv Viswanathan, Mallika (again), Veena Talwar, Nivedita Menon and many others including good ol’ V R Krishna Iyer. They all had something significant or the other to say, apart from being very time conscious. Much appreciated.

One statistically significant thing (with respect to the Indian demographics) was that, I was surprised not to find any story of struggle and redemption from any Christian testifier, but then, I don’t think it is anything significant from the point of view of the Court. The story of women is the same all over the world.

And, I sincerely hope, within our lifetimes, we could see some positive things emerge…

A lot of positive things unite India (Bharath ki Chaap) – but among the negative things that we should be rightly ashamed of are, three prominent things that we citizens can definitely do something about. They are so common and each a major unifying farce for all jaatis, classes, regions, religions, languages, levels of education(!), you see…

  1. Dowry harassment, as a symptom of the status of women and its myriad forms.
  2. Insipid films (dished out in the name of entertainment) and the TV channels that are hell bent on making us all into drooling & insensitive idiots and lazy bozos.
  3. Cricket – that game of laziness personified and glorified that has gotten reduced to a monster tamasha, lately

Surely, we can all do something… about these blasphemies, something?

Now, our erdkinder are all from second generation urban families, with little or no exposure to the realities of life and ruralia;  and so,  it was a great opportunity for them to know first hand about the other worlds and realities. I am sure, their brains are full of question marks, fears, apprehensions and mostly hope. It must have been a great experience for them to be amidst such a large and beautiful gathering of activists and changemakers.

We plan to conduct a seminar / workshop around the ‘learnings from daughters of fire‘ – so that ideas get consolidated and coherence emerges in the impressionable minds of NammaShaale children.

A few words need to be said about the organization of the event. I never realized that the Christ College (now university) had such a nice auditorium – pleasing colours, comfortable seats (no need for arms-rest wars), the effective multichannel sound system. A good infrastructure for hosting quality events. Of course, this was put to an effective use by Vimochana.

I must say that the conducting of the event, the professionalism of compering, handling glitches, the warmth, the friendliness – put many of the cash rich corporate events and roadshows (HP, SUN, IBM, Microsoft etc etc techshows) to shame at many levels – Content, Framework, Visuals, Music, Effect, Audience, Food, the surcharged ambience, the Soul

I am really and truly proud of the fact that some of the good folks behind the event (Vimochana group) – a good many of them, to be precise Madhu, Kalpana and Chalam Bannurakar are all NammaShaale parents.

I salute & thank thee.

(second part / take2 on the event here)

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