Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rohini: Empowered to dance

Some days back I was at my friend Mala’s house, watching my friend’s 4 year old daughter Chinni jumping in joy. The reason for her excitement: Chinni was going to participate in a group dance, to be presented at the school’s annual day. Mala was excited too, for it was the first time her child would perform on stage and she was trying to borrow a camera from a neighbor, so she wouldn’t have to miss the precious moment.

This, I am sure is the story of every parent, every child at every home. We celebrate the dancing and the singing moments of our children. Many of us send the children to formally train in dance. The reality dance shows on TV are getting more and more popular and are attracting boys and girls of all ages.

But as they grow up, things change. We see a great divide of morality slowly created by families. While boys, now men, are allowed to dance on, girls are barred from doing so. The same parents who once filmed/photographed their children – boys and girls alike – dancing, now reprimand the girls for doing the same because now it’s an immoral act, a taboo for women from ‘decent’ family background.

Rohini Powar comes from Purandar taluka of Pune district, once famous for its lavani - the famous folk dance form of Maharashtra. For generations, dancers have performed Lavani in courts, impressing kings and their ministers alike with their delicate movements and lilting singing. With time, the courts have vanished, but Lavani is very much a part of Maharashtrian culture and every school student performs Lavani in annual day event.

Born in 1985, Rohini was first forced to leave school by her poverty-stuck family at 17 and married off 2 years later. Post marriage, with increasing burden of financial difficulties, Rohini had to try different ways to contribute a little more to the family’s income. She learnt to stitch dresses, taught women in her villages the same and also worked as a farm labourer to help her family.

Of the many things that she wanted to do but wasn’t allowed, was dance. And so, while working hard eased her financial burden, Rohini still felt like a prisoner who had no way to express herself. She yearned for a way to self expression, to tell her thoughts, her stories. Joining Video Volunteers’ India Unheard program as a Community Correspondent was a result of this yearning.

From 15th of March’2010 to 28th, during the training of all the Community Correspondents in Sanand, Gujarat which she attended with 31 other people,
Rohini was one of the most active and vocal participants. Every evening after dinner Stalin and Mehul, two of our Directors would bring in a drum and start creating a musical wave to infuse some life into the group of trainees, tired from the day’s classes and lessons. As the beats grew louder, a group of watchers would surround the duo, before slowly joining in. And they would be followed by another group with legs ready to start a-shaking!

Evening after evening, the second group would have one steady face – Rohini. She would be the first one to swirl with the drumbeat and the last one to stop! Her energy was infectious, just as was her wide smile.

On 28th of Morning, there was a small event where we said goodbye to each other and what these training meant to each one.

Most of the trainees said the expected thing; that they learnt of videos, news, shooting, issues and new responsibilities. When Rohini’s turn came, she said ‘After 7 years, I danced. I came here, accompanied by 3 people. But I‘m going back alone’.

She didn’t elaborate further. She didn’t have to. The message was clear for all of us: Rohini had found her way to self expression. She had found her courage, suppressed so far. She had found herself. And she was going back, with the new self, to do something that meant the world to her: Get stories of the voices who lived within the margins, just like her.


Steve said...

It must be very sad to be unable to the things that give you some pleasure and relaxation, like dancing. I think we in the West don't know how luck we are to be able to enjoy the freedom we have to just be ourselves.

stellasmusings said...

Yes Steve, its sad and especially so because its only women who are forbidden to dance. So a girl is dying inside to break free, express her joy through dance, but she can't and right in front of her she watches her brother doing it which makes it twice as difficult for her to accept...

Anubhav said...

very nice artile after reading teers come from my eye. its nice process when some one find themself.wow.