Five magenta sari-clad women make their way through an excited crowd hooting for India’s first all-female mission band, Meri Zindagi. Carrying guitars, keyboards, synthesisers, drums and utensils from the kitchen they sing their hearts out. Their songs are not just about their mellifluous voices but also about the powerful message these convey. They’ve led numerous campaigns, specifically for women’s emancipation, and have stood indomitable in the face of challenges.

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It has run around nine campaigns since its start. These include #HumKaaleHain, against the age-old beauty standards, #NoSutta, an anti-smoking drive launched by the Health Minister, Aazadiyaan and #MaaKi that questioned sexist abuses. More recently, the band has started the campaign called #JustBolo to highlight the importance of raising one’s voice and to focus on the education of girls to prepare them for the same. SheThePeople.TV spoke with Jaya Tiwari, the founder, singer and lyricist of Meri Zindagi and the journey that has made them what they are is nothing short of an inspiration.

Started with small shows

She revealed, “I started this band ten years ago with three girls and a very few instruments. We had the desire to end female foeticide in India and the lack of resources couldn’t deter us from our aim. Since the first day, I was clear that the focus of our band would be ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’. We started doing shows and made use of any platform whether big or small to raise our voice.” Jaya has done a doctorate in music and thus has done an in-depth study in its forms, especially bands. She said, “The one thing that attracted me to this specific form of group singing was that people across the world have been using it to convey their messages.”

The story of every girl

She asserted, “The fight for education, against injustice or for equality can be fought only if a girl takes birth. But the rife against the forces that kill a girl even before she is born isn’t in the hands of that girl. The band was thus made for that ‘aane wali zindagi’, hence the name, Meri Zindagi. My goal has been that people should want at least one daughter to be a part of their families. In these ten years, our music has tried to eradicate deeply ingrained evils of society, from child marriage, domestic violence, dowry, lack of education, eve-teasing, body shaming. The band now has released over seventy songs as its self-compositions. The band spells the story of a common girl.”

The reason behind using magenta was also based on this thought, “Although we as women do not need a colour to be identified with, pink still remains a colour with which many feel connected. The sole purpose of using magenta or for using utensils as instruments, for that matter is to make women resonate with us. It’s the relation we establish with the female audience through our attire, personality, gestures that makes them reach out to us with their problem when we’re done with our performance.

The road bumps

Starting a female band was a challenge in itself. Making our songs reach the masses in an ocean of others was a major task. The attributes of our band that were posed as challenges initially have now become our USP. Wearing saris was something that questioned the preconceived notion of a rock band and it was natural since we were breaking an established framework. The audience used to whisper amongst themselves and many even mocked us for using stuff like tongs, rolling pin and mortar-pestle as instruments. But then this was pivotal as our message because for an Indian woman the kitchen is more than just a four-walled room, she never retires from the kitchen. Balancing family, career and the band was something that took time to be overcome by all the members.”

Empowering women

She proudly said, “Every song that we’ve recorded will make a woman feel like it has been written for her, whether she is a housewife, a student, a sixty-year-old or a young adult.” Jaya talked about the song, Chali Road Road, how it describes the journey of a woman walking on the road, which might seem trivial but nobody is aware of the battles she has been fighting. Even though some old members have been replaced by new ones, the latter are always contributing their bit towards the society and Tiwari feels good that they are not just speaking up but are also doing what they preach to bring change on the ground level

Finding the inspiration

For Jaya, her surroundings are the biggest inspiration, she said, “I write when I’m driving, when I cook, when I’m working in the office when I’m cleaning the house. We draw inspiration from everything around us, it’s all about the perspective. Just as in Mahabharata the conch shell meant the start of the war, the whistle of the cooker is what starts the daily battle of an Indian woman. This, per se, is a message from the band, to structure yourself from what you observe.”

Message to women

Jaya Tiwari, on behalf of the band, wants to convey it to women across the globe, “Do not let go of your precious life. Fight for your education, your health, for your existence. Respect yourself because that’s the first step to gain respect from the rest of the world.” She ended by saying, “Meri Zindagi har ek zindagi se judna chahti hai” (The band wants to connect with every life).

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Saavriti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV

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