A playlist for women

It’s hard to know how and why we must commemorate women. The ‘why’ of it is easy enough but the other is more complex. Whatever the impediments, the impulse to celebrate women can be both a rallying cry and an RSVP to a party where you weren’t even asked to be a plus one. This is a playlist that courageously attempts to be for women.

What is the worth of a worth of a woman’s endless work, Marathi Ovi

“How much can I work? No one cares for it in my parents’ home,” sings Kusum Sonawane, a 72-year-old farmer from Nandgaon village in Maharashtra. Kusumtai says men work in the fields but women farmers’ work is never ending. The constant undermining of her work and worth makes the narrator seethe with rage and hurt. The song is part of a project that People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) has undertaken to record grindmill songs sung by women in Maharashtra and Karnataka. 

Je Chhilo Amar Swapanocharini

If there’s one man in history who knew how to write women characters, it was Rabindranath Tagore; from ‘Chokher Bali’’s Binodini to the eponymous Charulata. However, in Pragati Sanhar or ‘Progress Slain’, Tagore wrote about a woman who sacrifices her feminist ideals and body for a ruthless womaniser. The woman is supposed to be Tagore’s protege Amita Sen whose bitterness could also be construed as a result of rejection from a mentor. This is her rendition of ‘Je Chhilo Amar Swapanocharini’. The lyrics tell us that the singer is tired of the endless doubts, she has understood only by the wanderer in her dreams.    

Evada Unna Petha

Remember the lovesick ‘soup’ boys in ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’? Evada Unna Petha spoofs the 2011 viral number and the ‘Beep Song’ with its misogynistic lyrics. The title says “Who gave birth to you, man?” The rest of the song describes the many ways in which women would get even when they get the chance.  

Parwah Ni Karidi

Women in Punjabi songs are largely eye candy, gold diggers, or objects. Take ‘Suicide’, the video of which features the manipulation of a girl through threats of self-harm. Alternatively, the song ‘Lehenga’ by Jass Manak shows a woman resentful and angry with her partner for not buying her an expensive lehenga. In such a milieu, Rupinder Handa looks back at how far she’s come in ‘Parwah Ni Karidi’. Haters gonna hate, she says, but you can’t let other people and situations bother you. 

Kesariya Balam

The folk song stands in stark contrast to the ‘laj’ and ‘sharm’ (modesty and embarrassment) that demure rural Rajasthani woman might have to observe. But when she sings, the orientalist will be surprised to learn that she is not voiceless or submissive but articulate, forthright and bold. Triumphantly then, a wife welcomes her husband back home. Listen to the rendition by Allah Jilai Bai who sang at the court of Maharaja Ganga Singh, before a British Viceroy and at London’s Albert Hall. 

Enundodi Ambili Chandam

Aren’t women’s desires often trivialised? A hard working farmer cannot stop smiling as she looks at her reflection in the shard of a mirror. The song’s protagonist Chandam is about to be married! The wind recommends putting on bangles while the birds cajole her to try on some kohl. She asks if she has the beauty of the moon, the lotus, the rainbow and the graceful rain. 

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