On Monday, August 5th, a group of Google volunteers with Breakthrough joined the “Faith in Theatre” actors for a street play in Ganaur, a local Haryana village in the Sonipat district, to engage the community around the topic of gender discrimination.
Below is an account of their experience, written by Costanza Giagnoni, Emanuela Neagu, and Grace Dolan.
When we arrived in the village, the theatre group started off by making an announcement in the village center (video) followed by a mobilization effort, whereby we skipped through the streets, banging drums and inviting the village to join us in the park, chanting “Ao AAo Natak Dekho, Natak Bahut Purana Hai, Badla Nahin Zamana Hai”, which translates to ”Come and see the play. The play is very old but it is still relevant”.
It was amazing to see the response of the village, as more than 350 townspeople of all ages created a semi-circle in the park, their curiosity piqued as to what would happen next.
Once the crowd settled in, the street play began with a short introduction of Breakthrough and then a story about the life of a young girl named Rani.
As a small child Rani struggles with discrimination from her own parents as she is forced to stay home and work while her brothers go to school and play. Her brothers are even given more nutritious meals and more money.
The play adapts to each community based on their customs and in this case of Ganaur, the play tells a story of a young girl who is killed and at her funeral her father and grandfather tie a silk thread around her hand with a note, “send a brother next time.”
The play progresses and now the girl is 18. Her father is trying to marry her off, but struggling financially to pay the dowry demanded by the boy’s family. At this point, Rani says “What will happen if this scenario does not change?”.
She says “Why should I marry? What will happen if this scenario does not change?” Then the play flashes to the future, where the men are alone. They have to do all of the housework themselves, even anointing married couples with oil (this was a very funny scene which resulted in light laughs). The men realize that they are helpless without the women and they sing a song about what they would do for a woman. They promise to feed her and treat her well.
In the end, the men say “We have understood. Now it is your turn to think.”
Even without a good understanding of Hindi, we got goose bumps. We understood that it was very intentional that the actors did not preach or lecture the audience, but rather, they shared some realities and let the people think for themselves.
We were impressed by the actors ability to touch on very serious issues while also not being too direct. They know their audience well and understood that some light comedy throughout would help keep the audience at ease and open to hearing more.
We are very proud to have been a part of this amazing day and to be working with such a passionate group of people at Breakthrough!
For those who speak Hindi, here is a short clip of the play, so you can witness it yourself: