It is strange, though always welcome, that many a times social good happens unexpectedly – with no prior intention. One such example is that of the rural Muslim women of Murshidabad. In course of their tryst to earn a living they have opened up avenues for spreading messages of social relevance and keep alive a traditional religious art form. All this in face of social restrictions that come with their gender.
Rasina and her all-woman troupe render ‘Jaari Gaan’ – elegiac poems that narrate Islamic religious stories of tragedy and martyrdom at religious gatherings, and get paid for it. To put it in context, this was a traditional male bastion.
Inspired by Rasina and her group, many more ‘Jaari Gaan’ troupes have emerged in the state, including those that comprise educated women from the upper-middle class. More than 10 to 15 women troupes from areas such as Lalbagh, Kandi, Hatpara and Jiagunj are now regulars at such ‘Jaari Gaan’ ‘majlis’ across Murshidabad and even elsewhere.
Interestingly, such is the social acceptance of these women that even government health agencies have begun to reach out to the Muslim communities through them. The female troupes deliver messages on social issues – such as maternal and child health, pulse polio campaign, HIV/AIDS and compulsory primary education – alongside their elegies of right over wrong.
In their effort to lead a better life, these women have given us a grasroots example of breaking the glass ceiling.