‘Afflatus’, ‘The Vinyl Records’ and who would not know about ‘The Void’ — the very existence of these bands are proofs that today’s women can easily be the face of a grandeur gig. But in a remote village in Bihar, is the picture different? Do women get the same privileges there?
To our surprise, yes. Here is presenting an all-women drumming band from outskirts of Bihar, which is shattering stereotypes of societal definition of gender and caste.
Bihar is one of the most backwards states in the country. In such a scenario, the women squad – called the Sargam Mahila (woman) Band — in Dhibra village near state capital Patna, is setting up a route to empowerment.
The band was put together about two years ago by Sudha Varghese, a charity-run organization for women. For six months, they practiced hard and succeeded.
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It consists of 10 members and no, the road to creating an all-women band was not always smooth. These women struggled with support from families and other villagers, but they refused to be deterred, said Sabita Devi, a member.
“People used to laugh at us, but why should women sit at home?” she asked. “These days, women are flying planes – why can’t we be in a band?”
“These women are Mahadalits, the most marginalized among the Dalits. For them to receive bookings for weddings and company functions, and to perform in front of people is a very big deal,” Varghese, who heads the charity Nari Gunjan, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation adding that their passion and bold intention caught the ears of the community.
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Before joining the band, the women laboured in the fields for daily wages. But since they have joined the musical band, life has provided them with “independence and dignity”, said Varghese, a Catholic nun who has worked with lower-caste Dalit women for several decades.
“The villagers would taunt us initially and we also felt shy. But today, not only our husbands, but also our children, feel proud of our achievement,” said Pancham Devi, one of the youngest members of the band. “They told us this is a man’s job. But we didn’t succumb to pressure,” said Chitrakhi Devi, a band member to Hindustan Times.
While Bihar could be tagged as particularly unfriendly to women, the Sargam Mahila Band is breaking the mould by earning around 1,500 rupees each for every performance, said Varghese, a recipient of the Padma Shri, among India’s highest civilian awards.
“Now this is their primary livelihood, and they are economically empowered and confident,” Varghese said.
“With the money we earn, we are sending our children to school, and buying things for ourselves – like the sarees we wear for performances,” said Devi, the band member.
Three cheers for the ladies for smashing patriarchy in the face!
Feature Image Credit: Hindustan Times
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