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Episode 01: streets
Episode 02: women at home
Episode 03: a lane
Episode 04: factories
Episode 05: doctor's advice
Episode 06: village girls
Episode 07: a lane again
Episode 00: studio demo
Khirkeeyan Team

Episode 6: village women

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Khirkee Masjid. AD 1380.


Patch bay in galli.


Shyama beauty Parlour.


Indu's STD booth


Panch Bahuraniyan.


Sudha and her makan malkin.


Anita at the parlour.


Bhuntu listens in, to get a feel of Hindi.

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Khirkee Village is a sleepy feudal small world whose center of attraction is the stark and stunning Khirkee Masjid. Surrounding the Masjid are curving warrens that lead right into homes with inner courtyards; most belong to Chauhans and Sainis, who still live in large joint families. Crossing over from Khirkee Extn, past the monument, and into these tiny lanes is like entering a time warp; the lanes are cloistered, on the steps and in the courtyard sit women with their Ghungats poised on their foreheads…

On the main road side of village was Shyama Beauty Parlour, whose owner Renu readily agreed to participate. We found an STD (phone) booth run by a lady, Indu. She agreed in principal and said she would inform her husband and confirm the following evening. We already had our third participant, Suddha, a KaamWali (maid) who had been introduced to us by Anusha Lal, a dancer who had her studio near Khoj. “Suddha is a firebrand and a muh phat, smart mouth.” Suddha was all that, and beautiful too. The 3rd TV was to be in her rented room, near the Masjid.

The search for the feudal family took some knocking on doors. Most women welcomed us, but said that we would have to seek permission from their husbands or the patriarch. When we entered Seema’s house, it immediately felt like a different place. The 5 Bahuraniyan (daughters- in-law), welcomed us instantly. Seema said they have been trying to bring some sort of awakening in the village. “We would love to participate and we will also bring other women to watch and talk.”

The idea was to ‘stage’ an event. To bring into this cloistered community, an element from the outside. Next morning, we were set up by 11:30. And into the parlour walked artist Anita Dube for a much-needed wax. 

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Seema, the most vocal of the 5 Bahuraniyan, wanted to get all the people on the screen together, to use this gathering as a starting point for more conversation. She systematically asked each woman on the screen…(as news spread of the event, Indu’s std booth became a confession box and women from the neigbhouring shops and homes dropped in to share their stories) …whether they were willing to meet again and if they had each others consent and ‘saath’ in starting a women’s support group. With Anita, they discussed issues and the damage to psyche and self-worth that comes with the Saas-Bahu serials…

A particularly telling moment was when Anita asked why it was that - often Women Were Women’s Worst Enemies.

Seema said it was because, in feudal societies like ours, the only time a woman can assert her views is when she becomes a mother-in-law. She can then make another go through the hurt, abuse and bondage she had to bear with. “If that’s the way if was for me, that’s how it will be for her…”No wonder then, that women too long for a son, the shackled bride that he will bring home will be awaited for as delicious prey by the mother, it’s the one reversal of power that our society allows her.

But of course, even these discussions and pre-occupations are the domain of the petite bourgeoisie…

When Suddha finally began speaking the tone and tenor of the conversation became confrontational. Suddha had looked bored for alteast 30 minutes while the Ladies at the Parlour and the Women of the Feudal House discussed morality and the subjugated woman. She blurted out her story, “yes yes, I kicked my man out because he obviously had someone else too. I work, clean peoples homes; I support myself and my kids and am so damn happy alone.”

Manju, one of the sister-in-laws had invited another women into frame. “Her husband also left her, and poor thing, she has to work in peoples homes in the village to support herself and her kids. We tell her to leave her husband but she wont. She comes from a really high caste family, Rajput from Benaras, it’s just that her destiny is tainted…

Suddha advised her to beat him with sticks when he did return. “And when he wants your bed, deny it”, she said. The conversations got very interactive when the women began discussing cures for alcoholism, how they surreptitiously mixed medicines in their food and drinks. Again ladies showed up at the STD booth and shared case histories and testimonies. All this while, Suddha had become the talk show host…At one point, the lady from a small Parlour opposite the STD booth came in and waited patiently to share her testimonial…I too am single, and I love living on my own with my kids. I work hard and run a Parlour. Im a Christian so I wont judge you on caste. I like people. And my Parlour has the cheapest rate. So please come to me. I will treat you well.

 
~We asked for a song to be sung together before the TV’s went off…
What sort of song, they asked…
Bhajan said someone,.
No. No. Not after all this, please, I said. A Feminist song!
No. A love song piped in Anita

After a long pause…Indu began….and everyone joined…

Yashomati maiya se bole nanda lala,
radha kyun gori, main kyun kala
Boli muskaati maiya sun mere pyaare,
gori gori raadhika ke nain kajarare
kaale nainon waali nain aisa jaadu daala,
is liye kaala"

To Yashodha maa, asks young Krishna,
Why is Radha so fair, while im so black…
Smiling, mother says, listen dear
Fair radha has dark kohl laden eyes
The black-eyed girl has cast such a magical spell
That is why you are black

Bhajan? Feminist? Lovesong?....:)

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