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Pulling the Strings, of Liberation.

To feel like an artist, is to feel liberated. The sense of freedom that engulfs an artist can never be traded for a few cents more. Which is why, it was so important for us to work with the women of Kathputli Colony in Shadipur, New Delhi. The colony is a resettlement of Rajasthani- artists who practice puppetry, folk dances, and other crafts. Many non-profits / student groups, have worked here, and continue to do so. The colony is very well-known for the puppeteers it is home to, and especially, Puran Bhat, who is a well-travelled, talented puppeteer. The puppet shows emerging from Shadipur have spoken about child-labour, sexual abuse, health and sanitation, gender violence, women’s rights, etc. While we were impressed by the stories and effective plays, somewhere, deep down, we missed the voice of women in these stories.

“If you’re going to do what you think you want to do, women would be entering this space after 400 years”, commented Puran Bhat when we got him on board for the skills-training.

Jyoti

Our group comprises of women young and old. Their stories – they range from rights-based themes to fantasy. In the past couple of months, they have learnt how to make puppets right from scratch. They’ve learnt what used to be the “man’s job” – carving, shaping, and painting. Of course, they always knew how to make clothes for the puppets, but this time around, women dedicated themselves to understanding how a puppeteering group would function as an Enterprise. While they learn how to design and create sets, they simultaneously work on a marketing plan for their play. Who would sponsor them? Where would they conduct the plays? Who is their potential audience? These are just some of the questions they ask in class, but end up answering themselves.

In our journey, which we continue with the women, we have been graciously supported by British Council India, DIAGEO, and most importantly, the MEN of Kathputli Colony.

Often we feel, gender equality is understood as giving women the same space as men. This project on another level, helped us understand that gender equality is creating a space where men and women not only work together, but work with mutual admiration, and in close collaboration.

Jyoti’s story (picture attached), is just one of those glimpses into a marital relationship, where there’s new found meaning to “supporting one another”.

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