The KHOL PITARA stall was set up in the city centre forum, on the 10th of December, 2011 with the belief that narratives can bind us together opening up moments of communion in our silent lives. Peace Works put up the stall at an event organized by SWAYAM, an NGO working for the rights of women to celebrate Human Rights Day and to mark the end of the International Fortnight for Violence Against Women. The PEACEWORKS story tellers and patchitra singer (commissioned by PW) tried to bring the joy of story telling onto the platform of SWAYAM. The project of un-silencing the woman is close to both these organizations. The busy forum of city centre became the theatre for this unique experiment. The Pitara of stories and vivid melody of Karuna Di, the patchitra artist reverberated as busy shopaholics, casual visitors and budding lovers thronged the forum in the city centre. Some among them lent their ear and what they heard did not disappoint them.
What We Did and How We Did It
• Three little children trailing behind their mothers, entered the stall not sure of what to expect. Women’s rights being too strong an issue for the young ones, the volunteers gladly entertained them with a retelling of Alice in the Wonderland. The story of Alice is not simply a fairy-tale for children it is also an adventure of a young girl, who breaks away from the set norms of English society. Listening to the stories, the children got really enthusiastic and then started narrating stories themselves. The tellers transformed themselves into interested listeners. This gave the children the courage to speak. After all a good story teller is also an indulgent listener! Their mothers became intrigued with PeaceWork’s story telling initiative and registered their names as potential volunteers.
• Karuna Di’s song caught the attention of some of the volunteers from SWAYAM and other visitors who came strolling by our stall. The persuasive vivacity of the songs that protested against dowry resonated with the concern of the activists and the conscientious spectators. The patchitra form evoked images in a language that not only intrigued but opened the heart of the listeners to an issue that they might have thought to be “ordinary” or at worse “quotidian”. Yet in the language of images, it evocatively spoke of the protest which was at the heart of the PEACEWORKS and SWAYAM initiative. The narrators too opened the ‘Pitara’ of stories that they had specially prepared for this event. Struggle and persistence of women against the hurdles formed the central thrust of most of theses stories.
• Karuna Di went on stage and performed for the spectators that had assembled that day.
• At the close of the day, the volunteers warmed the city-centre crowd with humorous stories from the ‘Pitara’ of timeless Indian tales.
Our endeavor has been to work towards a constructive future. The violence in the lives of women and children form the nucleus of some of our initiatives. In fact, the objective behind our participation with SWAYAM was that we wanted to spread awareness of women’s rights. We wanted to begin with young listeners and then go all the way up. Moreover, we have learnt with practice that stories are a powerful vehicle that can persuade the nonchalance of the listener and evoke the silence of the teller!