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Meet Mallika Sarabhai’s Draupadi!!
We all have grown up either reading or listening to the tales of the greatest epic of time – The Mahabaharata. Have you ever wondered that all the versions resonates the idea of Dharma and justice from male’s point of view? Here, Mallika Sarabhai – the “Multifaceted” personality – a dancer, an actor, a choreographer, a politician, a social activist and also a writer brings to the Women Planeters her own version of gallant Draupadi who questions the basis of Dharma?
Along with it, Mallika Sarabhai shares with Women Planeters her views on women politicians, the unpopularity of Gujarati movies and theatre, her idea of absolute beauty, women empowerment, the upcoming campaign of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts and much more.
Feminism to me is humanism. In feminism, I demand equality of opportunity, dignity and justice for all women. In fact, I want it for everyone. Feminism talks of half the world that is deprived, exploited, insecure, brutalized. I fight for them. Feminists fight for them. It is not about cutting men down. It is about demanding justice and equality for women as human beings.
Draupadi was a woman who lived with awful circumstances, kept her intelligence, her dignity, her strength, her voice and her femininity. She was courageous and truthful. She could tell her husband Yudhishthira that while she loved him, she also knew he was weak and hid behind half truths. Please click here to read the poem, written by my brother when he saw me perform The Mahabharata, and that I perform all the time. That might give you a feeling for ‘MY’ Draupadi.
Papa used to say, when asked a similar question, ‘Stretch your working hours’! I guess, I learned that, as did my brother. And I think we need to learn new things constantly to escape staleness. I am also learning to play the dhol and to cartoon! Luckily, I love my work most of the time so it is fun and work at the same time. Energy comes from expanding energy. Laziness is like quicksand.
Gujarati literature, poetry, serious theatre, films, all languish. Even if we watch Gujarati TV, we will pretend we do not. It is considered unsophisticated. Unless, we love our language and then are fed interesting things, the situation will not improve.
Beauty and ideas of beauty are a social construct, change from time to time, and none of us are immune to them. However, health and comfort within are more important. When do you feel beautiful? Genuinely, So? It is never when you are wearing what the magazines tell you to wear, or teetering on stiletto heels while your back is killing you. We also need to be aware of what suits us. So many Indian women go on pulling down their tight and short t-shirts all the time. Then, that is not right for you. If you can’t breathe in your tight jeans, they are making you ill. Forget that kind of beauty. If you are happy, if you are doing things that help others, there is an inner glow that makes each of us beautiful. We need to feel beautiful. That is the most important thing.
Unfortunately, women who make it to the top in most fields take on patriarchy as their model to stay afloat. That is both dangerous and unfortunate. The BJP and RSS seem to believe in the secondary role of women. What role does the Durga Vahini play in policy making or anything? It is worrying.
We, the educated city women ourselves are not truly empowered. We have not redefined ourselves in another language, other than patriarchy. How many of us treat our daughters and daughters in law the same? Daughters and Sons? How many of us think our husbands should change the tire or bulb when broken? How many of us take the time and trouble to be able to do all we require by ourselves? And, how many of us can do without the male pat on the back? No, there is a little insidious switch in the heads of all but a few hundred women in India that still seeks male approval. That is not being liberated. Village women in fact are less shackled by conservative convention than city women. Once they are economically empowered, once they get justice for male abuse, and rape and marital rape, they will lead the way.
In spite of all the talk of Gujarat ni Asmita, Gujaratis have a deep seated inferiority complex about language. Gujarati literature, poetry, serious theatre, films, all languish. We would rather see things in Hindi. Even if we watch Gujarati TV we will pretend we do not. It is considered unsophisticated. Unless, we love our language and then are fed interesting things, the situation will not improve.
We are planning to work extensively in schools and colleges trying to redefine manhood for boys and men, to define it not as brutality but as being able to own up to the gentleness and love within them. The project’s pilot should start in a couple of months. And we are working with schools to change curricula and teacher’s mindsets so that little children are treated gender bias free.
A poem by Kartikeya V. Sarabhai after seeing Mallika in ‘The Mahabharata’
The swayamvara was mine,
The decision my father’s.
No garland was worn, the garland was me.
The prize myself, for the winner of the tournament.
Not mine the decision whom to marry.
My heart was pledged to a bow and arrow…..
My life an offering to the shooter of the fish.
All rights belong to husbands, so say society,
But to be shared by five, a commodity in the market place?
Unknowingly Ma Kunti spoke: husband became husbands
In this the Pandava’s kingdom of Dharma.
All this I accepted, became the wife of five,
To each gave a son
Yet was the only wife of none.
Gambling they went, invited by Duryodhana,
Lost all they had, losing even themselves.
I, unspared, was dragged into that court of men.
Which were these bounds of Dharma
That tied my husbands?
What kind of husbands these, that are tied by the Dharma of lies?
I asked, “What of me?”
Bhishma said, “Power is Truth, Dharma darkness.”
Robed limitlessly, I was saved by God.
The Kauravas stopped, exhausted, still not understanding.
Yes, Krishna gave me cloth, but where was the Gita’s truth?
Was Arjuna not already in need of that counsel then?
Years went by; our lives we lived together,
Started on our journey’s end towards the snow-clad Himalaya.
I fell first; no Pandava stretched a hand.
Towards paradise they walked, not one stayed by my side,
Then I realised heaven too must be only for men…
Better then, to rest in the warm embrace of this snow.
Poem Source: Kartikeya Sarabhai, published in Mainstream, Vol XXVII, No.34 dated May 20, 1989, edited by Nikhil Chakravarthy.
Image Source: filmsdivision.org , cinema.de, wonderwoman