October 3rd, 2011
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How do I keep up the fighting spirit? It is my Kerala blood

Mallika Sarabhai and Darpana

Interview/ Mallika Sarabhai

On the terrace of “Anweshi” on a hot and sultry Wednesday afternoon a small group of “Anweshi” members were awaiting the illustrious, fiery woman who has been in the limelight for years. Her long time friends- the social activist and feminist K Ajitha and prominent screenwriter Deedi Damodaran- were also present, to spend some cherished moments with her. Currently, she has been capturing immense media attention for her undying fight against, the Narendra Modi run Gujarat Government. Into this expectant group like a breath of fresh air draped in a flowing lehenga and a dark green short kurthi she glided in, to be welcomed by  a group of people of varying ages who looked like a bunch of excited school girls with twinkling eyes and joyous smiles.

One glance at her and you will realize that even after years of valiant fighting there are no signs of fatigue. The outspoken, expressive, articulate social activist and elegant dancer Mallika Sarabhai talked to Niranjalli Varma, Copy Editor, Doolnews about her struggle, personal experiences, political views, concepts of development, battle for justice and equality and various other gender issues.

What were your personal experiences while fighting Modi’s fascist government?

They have been infringing upon my private life and I have no privacy, safety or security. I am watched all the time. All my phones are tapped. They have been and they continue even to this day, to harass me and fix me in a lot of false cases. My entire family, my children, my relatives are harassed. The lives of my family and children have been threatened.

I didn’t even know whether to send my children to school because it was unsafe. All my dancers would get intimidating, frightening calls in the middle of the night warning them that their children will be abducted if they do not give evidence against me. So every Darpana member in 2002 cut off their telephone lines.

It’s frightening. We are not safe in our own homes or state.

Nareandra Modi They do not leave a single stone unturned in their attempt to harass me. They cut off everything.“Darpana” has had all funds cut for the past 10 years. If any corporate is seen entering “Darpana” a call will go to the CMO’s (Chief Minister’s office) within 15 minutes and they will not only blackmail but also threaten them. In a dangerous threatening tone they will warn the corporate. Just a simple question would be posed, “Do you have any desire to continue in Gujarat? If you do, then you must estrange all ties with Darpana.

They influence our clients in such a way that it affects our funding because our funding comes from our performances. They try to sabotage or cancel our performances. They see to it that no corporate, sponsors us in anyway. We get no advertising. We get absolutely no government support. Even if they do not support us it’s ok, at least leave us alone and don’t harm us!

Defamatory articles are written against me that are untrue. Infact I have just filed a case of libel against a newspaper called Gujarat Samachar for writing libelous articles against me for more than 10 to 11 years. Every time I think of filing a case my lawyers keep discouraging me and insisting that it’s such a waste of time because law courts take such a long time to dispense off the cases.

This time I was with Anna Hazare. I was one of the early signatories of the Hazare campaign. When Annaji came to Ahmadabad there was a photo of him and me taken together and it was captioned as, ‘Anna doesn’t have to look far for a corrupt woman for he is standing next to the most corrupt person in Gujarat.’ So I filed a case against the newspaper, fortunately. The minute I filed the case there was an injunction that prevented them from writing anything about me.

So they targeted my nephew who is an entrepreneur. They planted someone in his company to do some illegal activity and closed down the company. I have told my family that they can disown me if they want to.

My brother is an environmentalist and is on many government committees. Former Law Minister Ashok Bhat turned to him and told him once, tell your sister that, we will fix her. If she fights with us we will fight back. If she files one case against us, we will file a hundred cases against her. This has been going on for 10 years.

Isn’t this frustrating? How did you manage?mallika sarabhai's dance

When people ask me, how I keep up my fighting spirit, I tell them it is my Kerala blood. I come from a “Tharavadu”(family) where the women have fought for atleast four generations for freedom and justice.

When my children are in danger, what should I do? I didn’t send them to school alone. I saw to it that there was always someone with them 24*7. I saw to it that they never crossed the road alone. You have to be on the vigil all the time.

Life has not been easy. It is even continuing to this day. Each year the situation worsens. They will go to any extent. They can do anything. It’s not only painful but also frustrating. But I don’t know any other way of living. I give vent to all my pent up emotions through my dancing and writing. I write. I write exactly what I want. I dance and I sing against them. I communicate and express. I express all the time. This is how I survive.

Yet, I must say there have been times when I have broken down and cried. It’s ok to cry. Then I have wiped my tears to rise and fight again. There were times when it was very depressing. There were times when I wanted to give up. But then there were always good friends who reminded me that if I give up I would be miserable tomorrow. I will fight. That’s the only way I know to live.

What is the media like in Gujarat?

Media sees only what the media wants to see. If the Chief Minister is giving full page advertisement to newspapers every month it is very difficult for them to speak against him. The government spends lot of money on the press. What can one do, if the biased media prefers to see only one side of development and shuts its eyes on the other half.

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10 Responses to “ How do I keep up the fighting spirit? It is my Kerala blood ”

  1. jyothi

    Though I am not in consonance with some of Mallikas views. Its a good indepth article written with elan and a great writing style.

  2. kumaraguruparan R

    Women empowerment is the essence of this article. Communal amity is the need of the hour. Mallika’s unrelenting fighting spirit reminds me of Poet; Freedom fighter Subramania Bharati’s visualization of an ideal woman.The role of cultural activists is much more than the laymen’s…Kudos to Mallika.

  3. Sanoob

    Looks good… well compiled article….must say. I guess using “protest” instead of “fight” would have been more appropriate. Regards.

  4. admin

    Thanks Sanoob…. the words are not mine. It is her own words….. and i didn’t feel it appropriate to tamper with that…..

  5. uma

    Dynamic,powerful,brave,smart and talented.I esp liked her views about feminism not being anti men and role of mothers in molding their children and women politicians getting aggressive.Subramanya Bharadhiyars vision of ‘Pudumai Penn’ Iis definitely ‘Mallika Sarabhai’.You
    have put it all together so nicely.Great job!!!!.

  6. admin

    Thank you so much Uma…. hope we will be able to render more articles that shall capture your interest

  7. Anil Angre

    The 2011 Noble Peace Prize has spoken very loudly in recognition of the importance of women’s role in society and the peace process. There are millions more who also fight alone and silently . Your article will no doubt strike a chord with many as did the Noble prize ( though I do not agree with some of Mallika’s views), Well done editor

  8. Harindranath Ravunny

    Mallika Sarabhai is well-known as a dancer, choreographer, publisher, writer, actor, social activist … … . Your interaction with the this celebrity helped her communicate with us boldly and effectively. Thank you Niranjally Varma for your splendid work!

  9. Kalyani

    The questions are well chosen to get Mallika Sarabhai to speak about the aspects of the subject relevant to Kerala.The women of Kerala need to hear these views which were superbly elicited by Niranjali Varma.

  10. lakshman varma

    what this woman talks about Modi is utter non sense; i have heard quite the opposite about him, from very neutral people.

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