Experiences: International Women’s Day in Anupshahr

Women's Dayby Melanie Closs

Saturday March 8th was International Women’s Day. In India, it’s a national holiday, and here at PPES, we celebrate it with a bang! Everyone comes to school without their uniforms and dressed up. All of us American volunteers wore Saris, a fancy Indian style dress. I had at least 3 different people fuss over me and redo my sari to their liking. Everyone loved seeing us in our Saris! The girls and teachers also were looking really beautiful, and we all spent about 2 hours walking around and looking at everyone all dressed up. Saris are very beautiful, but difficult to walk around in.

At 10am, PPES started their Women’s Day program. It included songs, dances, and speeches made by girls and teachers. It also included the Call Centre play described in an earlier email. The auditorium where the event takes place (which is also the lunchroom) has a really bad echo. I don’t believe in doing theatre with microphones, and I was hoping the girls would project their voices enough to be heard, as they did last year. It was hard to hear them, and they were speaking in English- and so all the kids in the audience slowly stopped paying attention and started to talk amongst themselves. I was perplexed as this problem didn’t happen last year. I was also hoping to get a good video of their play to share with student in NYC on Women’s Day. Nevertheless, the girls did an excellent job and felt excited at the end of the performance.

After thinking of a solution to the video/audio problem, I decided to have the Call Centre girls do it again later, when all the kids went home, for the volunteers and english speakers, outside on the field, so Samantha could film it. But first, I gathered my 7th graders to do a similar play in Hindi on the field, street theatre style (like that group we saw in Delhi.) It was a play about a family that sends their two boys to school, but insists that the two girls stay home to do housework. A neighbor tries to convince them to send the girls as well, but the mother and father refuse. After the boys come home with terrible grades, they finally send the girls to school. We filmed that, and a bunch of kids hanging around came over to watch. That was really fun and awesome spontaneous theatre that I love. Sapna (my translator from the Call Centre) summarized the play in English for Samantha’s film.

Then after lunch, the Call Centre girls came together to do their play. This performance was excellent and clear and everyone watching was impressed. The only problem was that Sam’s camera battery died halfway through. We stopped the action and replaced the camera with a new one, and continued. They girls kept going nicely and weren’t distracted by the disruption.

So then finally the day was over and we were all exhausted.

It’s been a nice and relaxing Sunday after yesterday’s craziness. I spent the morning doing laundry- by hand- reading, writing, chatting with other volunteers. We took a walk around the fields and played on the swings. At one point some people were playing Cricket (a game like baseball) and I played Ukulele off to the side. Then tonight me and my two American friends that are here making a movie (Samantha and Ariana) made dinner! We made pasta primavera, which was a whole crazy adventure trying to make it in an Indian kitchen. It was a big hit though!

Tomorrow starts a new week. My 4th and 7th grade classes continue to work on their plays and translate them to English. The Call Centre girls will start working except for 3 (who are 18 and can’t officially start until they are 19) and those 3 will be working with me, Samantha and Ariana on making their stories from drama class into mini-movies. I’ll also be training Reena the English teacher this week to do drama exchange workshops with The Other Side, and teaching “Roar” by Katy Perry to the 4th graders!

Next Monday is Holi, a fun holiday where everyone throws paint colors at each other. So much to look forward to!

Until next time-
Fir Milengay