This all-women musical band from Bihar is breaking all stereotypes
A musical band formed by Dalit women is breaking social stereotypes in a tiny hamlet on the outskirts of Patna. "Sargam Band", which performs at weddings and other public functions, comprises ten women in their 30s - all from Dhibra village in Patna's Danapur sub-division. These women have been raking in moolah while carving out a "distinct identity" for themselves. Here's all about them.
NGO 'Nari Gunjan' helmed formation of Sargam Band
Nari Gunjan's owner, Sudha Varghese, said: "The idea struck me in 2016 when I was working with women of Ravidas community. I wanted to think of ways to bring about their social and economic emancipation." Kerala-born Varghese came to Bihar five decades ago to work as a school-teacher but the social and economic inequality there moved her immensely and she became a full-time social-worker.
Nobody had heard of an all-women musical band
"When I shared the idea (of forming a musical band) with the Dhibri women, their initial reaction was that of incredulity. The job that I was asking them to take up was hitherto considered an all-male vocation," Varghese said. The women were, however, courageous and willing to experiment, she said, adding, "It did not take much persuasion...to make them come out of their shells."
A Patna-based teacher trained the women
"We had to arrange for instruments and a teacher who could train these women, braving social derision. We found someone in Patna and the women began practicing with earnestness," Varghese said. Patna-based-teacher Aditya Gunjan Kumar likes to stay away from media glare, but Savita, who heads the troupe, was effusive in her praise for him. "Sudha and Aditya have transformed our lives," Savita said.
The journey has not been easy, says Savita
"Aditya worked hard on us...without charging any money and only accepting food prepared at our kitchens by way of Guru Dakshina," Savita said, adding the journey, however, wasn't easy. "We were mocked by our husbands, our male relatives, and neighbors. Even some women looked down on us as if we were doing something outrageous. We persevered...gradually, the disdain gave way to admiration," she added.
Finding clients for Sargam Band was not too difficult: Varghese
"(Sargam's) Charges were initially low - Rs. 250 per performance for each performer. The first (clients) to call these women to perform at functions were from Danapur. Soon, people became curious and the news...spread like wildfire. We started receiving bookings from Patna," she said.
Sargam Band traveled to Delhi for the first-time last year
Traveling to far-off places made the women initially nervous," Savita said, adding now they're used to it. "We have traveled to Delhi and far-off districts in Bihar a number of times. No male relative accompanies...we do not feel the need to be protected," she asserted. Sargam's success inspires Varghese to embark on a similar endeavor for women of "Mushahar" community in Punpun town.
Savita and colleagues bracing for a hectic wedding season
"Proud to see the women making a success out of this venture. Now each of them charges Rs. 1000 for every performance. Nowadays, clients get in touch with women directly instead of calling up Nari Gunjan," Varghese remarked. "We have been beating drums of various sizes and shaking jhunjhunas (rattles). We wish to learn to play new instruments, it would add variety," Savita said.