Saturday, March 9, 2013

A ROCKING International WOMEN's Day

As Women's day approached, around 8th march, I was mighty pleased to see that Indiblogger had arranged for a meet. Only this time, the venue was not a commercial  upmarket hotel, but the hallowed British Council in new Delhi, giving the meet a truly International flavor.

Add to this appearances by actor Rahul Bose, Entrepreneur Priya  Paul, Sitarist Anoushka Shankar made me drop my other plans of celebrating women' Day. What i did not know was the surprise package in the form of Mahabanoo Modi Kotwal and the Musical band SWARATHMA.

Perhaps some sixth sense made me aware that his event would turn out to be a most spectacular event - celebrating womanhood.  so I decided to wear  a saree and adorn my favorite peal string with it.

The evening was supposed to take off  at 5.30.  Despite my best efforts to be on time, I was caught in  the traffic jam but still managed to reach by 5.45 p.m.

As i walked towards the open courtyard of the British Council, i was fazed to see a vibrant jam packed gathering with a high tech stage erected for stellar performances.

INDIBLOGGER and BREAKTHROUGH , a unique Global Human Rights Organization which

" Believes that:

'Human rights begin  in our own hearts, homes and action".
Who work to make human rights real and relevant to everyone no matter where or how they live.

Who Create innovative, relevant Multimedia and pop culture that bring  human right issues and values to the mainstream.

Who Inspire people to take bold action for social change - among their own peers and in their own spheres.

Who Envision a world where all individuals and communities live with dignity, equality and justice.

had decided to launch 'RING THE BELL' campaign.

Breakthrough's BELL BAJAO , launched in India in 2008, is a cultural and media campaign that calls on men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence.  The campaign seeks to reduce domestic violence and to highlight the role tha tmen and boys can play in reducing violence.

For the year 2013, Bell Bajao's slogan is :

"When Men Gather it is not always Trouble"

"Treat Women with Respect".  " Make a Promise".

Ring the Bell calss on men and boys around the world to take a stand and make a promise to act to end violence against women.

From 8th march 2013 to 8th march 2014 , we are going to get a Million Men to make a MILLION promises to ACT  to end Violence against women. 

Anoushka Shankar performing

Priya Paul and Rahul Bose

Anukriti ringing the Bell

Electrifying performance by Swarathama band

Say NO to violence 

The goodies we got

The symbolic bell

Panel discussion on Advertisement and Masculinity

After  the introductions by Sonali Khan of breakthrough, the kicked off to a mind boggling start.

The British High Commisioner Sir James Bevan  addressed the audience with a heart warming speech, spoken not forma written paper but from the heart.

he ended by saying two famous quotes on women:

"Well behaved women seldom make history"

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings".

The special guests Sir James Bevan, Rajan Anand CEO Google, actor Rahul Bose, Ms Indrani Jaisingh, Additional Solicitor Governor of India, Priya Paul then rang the symbolic bell.

Incidentally the roof of the stage was totally covered with Bells hanging.  On both sides of the stage were two symbolic ceremonial bells.

The first Panel discussion wads about the social  legal and leadership tasks by women.  Priya paul acknowledged the support and encouragement of male members in her family who helped her carve her destiny as an entrepreneur.

Rajan Anandan took the pledge that he would only fund those start ups in IT which have women in their team.

Next it was time for a revelation for me.  Forgive my ignorance, but i had not heard of Mahabanoo Modi Kotwal as my theater  activities have been near zilch.  I had planned to Google her before going for the event but couldn't.

So, as i saw a middle aged lady, dressed immaculately in white, walking with utmost dignity to the stage , there was a fervor of anticipation in me.  The white attire seemed to have some secret message.

As she sat down, she talked about a chance meeting with Eve Ensler, the author of Vagina Monologues and how the meeting changed her life.,

She started reading from a bunch of flashcards about "Yoni" or the Vagina. Her  diverse  narration about the yoni held me spellbound. I had never heard anything like this before.  It was almost like being set free, to have her talk about the yoni in such an eloquent manner.

a while later she read out a heart warming poem by Eve Ensler titled 'Burqa'.

I listened to this poem too in rapt attention   The reason being , as a child living in Allahabad, i was fascinated by the Burqa.  I would watch in awe Muslin women from nearby village stop by at our garden fence to pluck henna leaves. As a child i had wondered what life was like to be ensconced in a flowing black robe that covered you  from head to toe.

Forty years later nothing as changed.  time has stood still.

I watched women from Middle East, wearing Burqas,  get their Comprehensive health Check up done at Appolo Hopsital, thanks to medical tourism.

It is indeed strange that it took a western women to explore the plight of a Burqa clad woman.  Just proves that East or West, women are alike and so are their aspirations and sentiments.

Nest Mahabanoo recited a poem on 'Mini skirt'.  She declared that the mini skirt was a symbol of Azaadi.  her means to ' add masti in my chaal '.  and NOT an invitation to RAPE.

Needless to say the Vagina Monologues rendition in Hindi by Mahabanoo was the spectacular surprise of the evening for me, and you can forgive me for patting myself to make it to the British council.

The evening was slated to rise to a crescendo with two scheduled Musical program mes.

SWARATHMA, a musical band from Bangalore rocked the audience.

The first song they performed was 'Door Kinara"  which had been composed in collaboration with Shubha Mudgil.  The song ws about the quest for a mystical land.

The seconf song had the members of the band sporting  Nehru cap.  The song was  a satire about the failed promise of every political party in the country.

The third song was the most attention grabbing and poignant.  For it was based on Child Sexual Abuse.  

Titled 'Gum' meaning 'lost', it had powerful lyrics:

परदे मेरे गवा  हैं 

उनको ही मेरी परवाह है .......

The fourth song was in Kannada about Bhumi becoming swarag ( Paradise)

The fifth song was again in Kannada  a high voltage youth targeted one, where the lead singer not only did break dance but had the entire audience standing and clapping and dancing in a frenzy.

The sixth and the last song was about LOVE....

जन्नत है प्यार के द्वार ........

As they took their bow, the band took a pledge to help Stop violence through their Music.

You can rightly imagine, the smile never left our faces!!!

This concert was followed by  the launch of INDI CHANGE , an initiative by Indiblogger .
to bring in change in society via blogging.

Next to this was a Panel discussion about  'Portrayal of women in Film, TV and Advertisement followed by another talk on 'Masculinity  -  drawing the lines'.

Rahul Bose, Advaita Kala, Rajan Mendonca, Advertising professional from Ogilvy and Mather, Anoop Jhonson, Co founder Indiblogger, took to stage.

Rahul Bose came up with two interesting view points.

First he cited the example of a Cooking oil advertisement.  A worried wife changes the cooking oil that is more friendly to her husband;s ailing heart. Rahul said that the advertisement was totally patriarchal  emphasizing  that the  father was the important , irreplaceable head of the family. Rahul said that the family should have been equally concerned about he health of the mother as she was the care taker of the entire family.  He ended by saying that in the 30 sec ad, 'You have taken the country backward by a 100 years".

The second point he made was about masculinity.  He said that for every abused woman, there is a traumatized/ashamed  father, a traumatized husband and a traumatized  brother.  He felt that it was important to counsel these men and then bring them in the fold of making a pledge for stopping domestic violence against women.

It was strange but this aspect of masculinity had never entered my thoughts before.  Thank you Rahul :).

And with this we came to the grand finale.

Anoushka Shankar took to the stage with Tanmay Bose on the table and two more artists , one each on the flute and a tanpoora.

She played three pieces in all, each based on a raaga.

The first one had been composed by her late father Pandit Ravi Shankar and was based on the moods of a woman.
As the performance progressed, the entire audience listened in rapt attention to the LIVE musical jugalbandi and the soul stirring strains of the Sitar.

the only thing missing were the stars in the night sky.  But the energy, vibration and hypnotic musical extravaganza more than made up for it.

It was worth waiting for four hours to hear Anoushka perform.

Indiblogger and all other organizers, thank you for  such an amazing Women's Day.

AS i end the post, another happy snippet.

Each one of us was gifted a Bag containing  a  Mug and a jotting pad and a pen.

I have placed the mug on my newly created workstation at home.  And among the little nick knacks i bought for my desk from the local Archies shop and Dilli Haat, the mug with its strong message 'RING THE BELL' is the most precious piece on my desk.

Happy Women's Day :)

[Pics courtesy Anukriti Sharma]