Saturday, January 28, 2006

Jasai: From Darkness to Light

We reach Jasai when the sun is about to set. We hurriedly begin to click pictures. The children have been waiting for us. They have kept their roles ready. Someone has prepared a poem recital on Mahatma Gandhi. Meena has prepared a song and dance sequence. A little fat boy with chubby cheeks creates a beautiful rythm on his Dholak.

We ask everyone to assemble on the platform created around a Peepal Tree. In Jasai, Gulab is our pointsperson. He has been handling the campaign in his village. His father is the headmaster of the Government school in Haathma. Before we arrive, Gulab and his comrades have set the stage. The walls of the entire village are strewn with comics posters of the campaign. A shopkeeper has decorated the entire wall of his shop with posters. People are curious. They read the posters. Women watch the posters through their veils. Old men gaze at them through their thick glasses.

A number of people have assembled near the tree. Incuding an old man, who says he is a tailor. He also tells us that the American Government has sanctioned 410 crores for Jasai village. We almost believe him till we catch a whiff of his breath. He is high on country liquor.

We also run in various directions and try speaking to people who have not come to witness our gathering. We speak to them about our intention and our message. We give examples of Kalpana Chawla and Sania Mirza. Some give us a blank look. And some nod in agreement.

On the platform, Bittoo Bikewallah talks about his dreams. Children are shouting ‘Bike wala Bittu’. Girls, who have attended comics workshops earlier, talk about their experiences. They talk about how they identified issues pertaining to the Girl child and then prepared comics on them. People listen to them in apt attention.

A few men also address the crowd. They talk about the equality of boys and girls. They say it is equally important for girls to attain education.

It is dark by that time. The torches are ready. Torches made out of cloth shredding, tied on tree branches. They are ready, after being dipped in Kerosene oil. The young men of Jasai hold the burning torches and take out a procession. Children are singing:

Dariya ki kasam/ Maujon ki kasam/ ye taana baana badlega
Swear by the river/ swear by the waves/ this pattern will change

There is a line in the song which reads something like this:

Ye sab mardon ka kissa hai
This is all men’s doing

We can feel that while reciting this line, the girls feel shy. They stammer and stop. A song turns into a murmur. It will take time but surely, the pattern is changing. We celebrate the success at Gulab’s home. With Baajre ki Roti, topped with Desi Ghee and Jaggery.

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