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

Mallika Sarabhai's Dance

Do you have any political leaning?

Yes, I do have a leaning towards good governance and transparency. For the last 5years I have been trying to gather a few people and form a party of people who believe in good governance, who are willing to be completely transparent and who have a vision for India.  I don’t care what their political leaning is as long as they have the fore mentioned qualities.

I have been saying, ‘let’s form a group and fight the elections’. Even if 50 are elected, we can save the country. But unfortunately I stand alone and that is why, I stood as an independent candidate.

Is Anna Hazare’s views regarding corruption deep enough? Is he the next Mahatma?

His views on corruption are deep. He is well informed about corruption. He has simplistic views which are deeply rooted and founded.  But he believes in lot of things that I don’t believe in.

Annaji believes in death penalty, I don’t. He feels that it is perfectly alright to tie a person to a tree and flog him if he was caught drinking, but I don’t believe in capital punishment of any kind.

What are your opinions regarding other prominent women human rights activists for example Arundhathi Roy?

I think she is a very bright woman and a very bright lawyer. She is very courageous and the country needs woarundhathi roymen like her. I don’t agree with everything that she says, though. One of the things that I disagree with is that, she believes all kinds of development are bad and I don’t think all development is  bad.

I have met Arundhathi Roy only once. We were on the same panel at the World Social Forum in Mumbai. She was in fact very rude to me. She pretended that I didn’t exist. However, I went up to her and introduced myself to her.

I have great respect for Medha. What she has done and the courage with which she has done it is respectable. I must say hats off to her! I admire her courage, her commitment even in the face of violence. I have seen people banging her head against a stone wall in the Gandhi Ashram.

I would touch the feet of people like Aung Sang Su Ki and Irom Sharmila. They are women of such absolute commitment to a single cause and they are willing to put up with anything. I have immense respect for them.

I have been sending messages to Irom Sharmila for the past 10 years. There is also wonderful play called Le Mashale which is based on her life.

What made you feel that Kerala needs a gender awareness programme?

I have started coming to Kerala more frequently and since the past few years I realized that women over here were seriously repressed and frightened and this bothered me tremendously. I thought,’ my god!’ What has happened to the women here and wondered why are they so scared. I realized that they are not even willing to do ‘boo’ to a rabbit! And that’s how this project was born. Because I am concerned as to how badly women are repressed and I want to change that. What is the point of economic freedom and education if it doesn’t give you the freedom to live your own life and if you are constantly enslaved either by family or by society.

Why did you choose adolescents for your project?

I have already done  a lot of work using film, theatre and dance on adolescent issues in Gujarat. I realized, in the process, that somehow in India adolescence is one section that bi-passes through the sieve of the NGO network. There are NGO’s working for women and children but not many working for adolescents. Where as adolescence is a very crucial age, when these impressionable children need to be guided. It’s the age when they are confused as to what is right and wrong. They need to understand changes in their body, their mind and thinking. In Gujarat we did a series of chat shows and so I raised a suggestion before KSWDC (Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation) as to starting a similar project here in Kerala.

Finally after many discussions and deliberations we came to the conclusion that we would create a half an hour documentary on the issues faced by adolescents and women based on case studies and newspaper reports related to molestation and peer pressure. Yadava Chandran son of T V Chandran created the script and directed the film with me as his assistant. We taken this documentary called Unarthupattu (the song of awakening) to 40 woman’s colleges all over Kerala. The screening was completed on 26th of this month. We intend to screen the films and then initiate a process of dialogue.

How do you intend to transform this awakening into action?

We have convinced the girls to start a gender group, because the constant complaint is, ‘how do we stand alone?’ Any girl who has a problem can approach the core group. We have selected a girl each from every college who will be the gender representative & the representatives will undergo a training course under KSWDC. Their issue will be discussed on www.gender.kswdc.org. The discussions will be filmed and will be made available to the public on the internet. We don’t want any girl to feel isolated. She should know that if she goes to this forum, she would get immediate help and solace.

We realized that we need to address even the teachers many of whom are more regressive than the parents. So we have to work with the parents, teachers and certainly with young men. None of this will work out unless the men understand that they will be most free only when the women are free. We are hoping that this is the 1st of many such projects in Kerala.

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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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