“Are there any vaginas in the house?!” shouted Eve Ensler, famous playwright, and founder of the ‘One Billion Rising’ Campaign and Vday, to an enthralled audience at the FICCI auditorium.
Ensler’s arrival in India “was not by accident,” and coincides with one of the “most powerful movements fighting Violence Against Women in the world”, she says. Emma Goldman once said “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” ‘One Billion Rising’ will now witness over a billion women, men and children from over 182 countries, rise and dance against violence against women, on the 14 February.
Campaigners and activists like Eve Ensler, Aruna Roy, founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, playwright and actor, Kamala Bhasin, Mallika Sarabhai, dancer and women’s rights advocate, Sudha Sunderaman, National Secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association Dr Ruth Manaorama, President National Alliance of Women and leader of the Dalit women’s movement and numerous others came together under the flag of ‘One Billion rising’ to stop violence against women.
Aruna Roy, who emphasises that this struggle is not only a ‘middle class’ campaign, said “Go back a few years and think of Bhawari Devi in 1992, who was raped by a group of upper caste men. Her case snowballed into the first major protest in a small village in Jaipur. The biggest misfortune is that the media does not reach the thousands in the small towns were we stage the protests.”
Amid the heated discussion over gender politics, struggle and oppression, the idea of dancing on the streets to express solidarity, stands out like the silver lining. Sarabhai plans to bring together 20,000 Garba dancers for a mammoth performance on V day. “The arts are a wonderful tool of reaching out and we have decided to perform Garba on the 14th. Unlike most other couple dances, Garba is the most egalitarian dance in which nobody leads.”
Ensler explains why the idea of dancing is the best way to realise freedom. “People don’t seem to take dance seriously. A dear friend of mine, Gabriell Roth told me, ‘Dancing is the most direct path to truth,’ and when you are dancing; you can’t control it, corporations can’t own it because it’s contagious and free.”
With angst and pain ridden voice that quivered, Ensler reads out an excerpt from her recent work; I am an emotional creature: The secret lives of girls around the world, which is currently being staged in New York. Her narration urges girls to accept and boys to respect the emotions that are an integral part of the creature that lies within.
It was followed by an 11 part dance and piano recital by Sarabhai and Elizabeth Sombart under the banner of Women with Broken Wings, a “virtual monument” to keep the memory of the women, who have lost their lives because of abuse.