SPARROW entered its Silver Jubilee year in December 2013. In order to celebrate this we have taken a few initiatives, one of which is to organise conversations with women from various walks of life.
We had begun the CONVERSATIONS programme to celebrate SPARROW completing 25 years in December 2013 from January 2014 onwards. The event was held on third or fourth saturday every month. For some conversations we collaborated with Research Centre for Women's Studies in organising the programme at the Mini Auditorium, SNDT University, Juhu Campus.
The VERY FIRST CONVERSATION was held with the well-known Hindi writer Sudha Arora on 25th January 2014 at Keertan Kendra, JVPD, Juhu. The conversation was informal, smooth, warm and very informative. Sudha Arora spoke about her life, her stories and her writing career. Sudha Arora's forte is short-story writing but at some point she had a terrible frozen shoulder and could not sit for a long time and write. That is when she took to writing poems. She read out a few of her poems which led the conversation to interesting aspects of the inner lives of women, old age, being single and violence. On this occasion Sudha Arora also released SPARROW's e-books A Random Harvest, a book of diary sketches, drawings, collages and watercolours of women painters and Making Faces, a book of painted film posters with introductory notes by V Jeevananthan and Theodore Baskaran.
The SECOND CONVERSATION was held with musician and LesBit activist Sumathi Murthy on 23rd February 2014 at All India Institute of Local Self Government was a heart-warming experience. Sumathi spoke effortlessly and with no holding back, just like her music, about her life and her musical experiences. She broke into songs whenever she felt the need to illustrate an experience. It was a musical evening that began with Raag Janjuti and ended with Raag Hussaini Todi. And between these two raagas we traversed the distance of Sumathi's life.
The THIRD CONVERSATION programme to celebrate the Silver Jubilee year of SPARROW was with a difference. This time we had well-known Tamil writer Salma talking about her life and work in the film Salma directed by Kim Longinotto. The film was screened on March 29, 2014 at All India Institute of Local Self Government. Salma was present to interact with the audience after the screening. A lively interaction followed where Salma spoke about her family in the village, her political life and about the making of the film.
Salma has come a long way from the village Thuvarangkurichi where like most young girls of the village she was also confined to her house and not allowed to actively pursue her studies or even write after she came of age. She has struggled to attain her current position but it must be stated that she must not be seen as some Malala Yousafzai, the educational activist from Pakistan. Women in Salma's family stood by her and after initial resistance and even threats, her husband also seemed to realise that he cannot stop her from doing what she wanted. Her writing career itself was encouraged by her cousin Manushyaputhiran and a senior writer Sundara Ramaswamy and his publishing house Kalachuvadu. Her political career was shaped by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Party and by its leader Kalaignyar Karunanidhi himself. Salma actively and tirelessly worked towards her goals but a cultural context existed where she could see her goals come to fruition.
The FOURTH CONVERSATION with Purvadhanashree, a Bharatanatyam and Vilasini Natyam exponent and Ranjana Dave, an Odissi dancerwas held on 26th April at All India Institute of Local Self Government. It turned out to be an interesting conversation. Both of them spoke about their gurus, their dance form and what it meant to them. They spoke about the sociological and traditional aspects of dance and mentioned the Maharis, the temple dancers of Orissa, the Kalavanthalus of Andhra Pradesh and the Devadasis of Tamil Nadu and spoke about their own interest in seeing tradition and contextualising it in order to understand it. Interspersed with demonstrations of their art form and its body movements the conversation was able to cover many areas of the different dance forms and the different ways of teaching and learning dance and the changing content of dance. Both of them felt that they were still exploring the many different possibilities of viewing their own styles of dancing creatively and being open to dialogues to collaborate, reflect and explore ideas that inform their creative practice in multi-disciplinary ways.
In the FIFTH CONVERSATION programme held on 31st May 2014 at SNDT, Seminar Hall, we decided to screen a film of conversation with five transgender women. In the film Degham which was screened that day, Revathi, Kalki,Aasha Bharathi, Priya Babu and Narthaki Nataraj spoke to C S Lakshmi about the transgender experience and the complexities of the body.
The SIXTH CONVERSATION held on 28th June 2014 at All India Institute of Local Self Government, was with the Renowned Odissi dance exponent Jhelum Paranjape, became a wonderful event of an artiste sharing her life and work. Jhelum Paranjape began with her being named after a river in Punjab and ended with her narrating the experience of dancing in an old chapel in Goa and her latest dance composition Maeri on motherhood in which she and her son Bunkim collaborated. The conversation lasted for two and a half hours but all of us felt it could go on the whole night like some of those music festivals and folk performances which last through the night. Jhelum Paranjape kept the audience enthralled with various anecdotes from her life, her learning experience with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and her performing experiences. And whenever Jhelum could not find a word to say something her beautiful eyes expressed it all. The conversation flowed smoothly like the flow of a river and all of us could immerse ourselves in it and come out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. No need to go looking for far away rivers to bathe in for Jhelum is close by!
The SEVENTH CONVERSATION programme was held on 26th July 2014 at Mini Auditorium, SNDT University, Juhu Campus. It was a much awaited one because it was a conversation with well-known Tamil and Sindhi Writers Puthiyamaadhavi and Vimmi Sadarangani. It was a conversation that brought out so many different aspects of life, identity and expression. Vimmi spoke about what it was to be a Sindhi writer and how she became one and how her mother supported her writing. She spoke movingly about her visit to Sindh and how she was received by the people there. She also spoke about her short-lived marriage when her mother came and took her away and told her she should not be with people who did not appreciate her writing. Puthiya Maadhavi spoke with passion about growing up with a father who was an ardent follower of Periyar and the Dravidian movement and how she herself was influenced by him and the books that she read which were in their house. She spoke about Dalit writing and her views on it and how she always retained the space for writing in her life for it meant everything to her. Asked how she managed to write with a job in a bank and marriage and family, she jocularly replied that actually she managed to work and keep her marriage only because she continued to write. It was writing that enabled her to do everything that she did.
The EIGHTH CONVERSATION programme was another screening event when we screened two films on Shah Jahan Aapa and Sathyarani Chaddha on 23rd August 2013 at Mini Auditorium, SNDT University, Juhu Campus. We felt that conversations with two women who fought against dowry needed to be known for they had passed away quietly after a lifetime of active work against dowry. There was a need to listen to them not only to cherish their life but also to continue our work and to give meaning to our work. Shah Jahan Aapa and Sathya Rani Chaddha fought against dowry and violence all their lives. Both of them lost their daughters to dowry demands. Their own experience and loss made them the kind of activists few of us can be. They founded Shakti Shalini, a women's organisation, in New Delhi.
The NINTH CONVERSATION programme held on 27th September 2014 at Mini Auditorium, SNDT University, Juhu Campus was an extremely lively one. It was a conversation with Kalyanee Mulay, a young actor from the National School of Drama. She has worked with and learnt from eminent theatre directors/performance makers from home and abroad such as Pt. Satyadev Dubey, Satish Alekar, Dr Anuradha Kapur, Robin Das, Tripurari Sharma, Annie Ruth, Sara Matchett and many others. She has done a course in Kutiyattam from the renowned guru G Venu. Kalyanee spoke about her search for something that would mean a lifelong commitment and the various roads she took to reach it. Whatever she did her heart told her she wanted something else. She got into television and got many awards and finally she went to NSD and realised that is what she wanted to do in life—be an actor and a performer. She told us about the work she did with various directors and what those performances meant to her and how she performed in the play Unseen, where she explored the female body and its various bindings and marks. She performed a short piece from an ongoing work which was again an exploration into the mysteries of the body. Asked if she would go back to television she said she did not know, for an actor also has to survive and added laughing that she had recently done an ad for Horlicks.
The TENTH CONVERSATION with Sunita Aralikar as a part of SPARROW Conversation Programme to celebrate SPARROW's Silver Jubilee was held on 18th October 2014 at Mini Auditorium, SNDT University, Juhu Campus. Sunita was born in the village Tupadi in the Nilanga taluk in Maharashtra on 26th August 1956. She was born into a family of cobblers and was abandoned fifteen days after her birth when her mother passed away. Her maternal grandfather, Kundalikrao Mane, brought her up and she studied up to 11th Standard. As a young girl of sixteen she came to Latur to work as a trainee nurse at Vivekananda Hospital. She met Dilip Aralikar who was a social worker, during her work in the hospital. She chose him as her life-partner in 1971 although he was from another caste. Since the last forty years she has been active in politics and social service in Latur. She has been active doing developmental work involving rights and literacy. She takes special interest in dealing with women's issues and actively supports inter-caste marriages and helps others to fight social injustices like dowry, eve-teasing and casteism. She has worked in the Janata Party, Janata Dal and Congress Party. She has been a member of Nagar Parishad two times and a member of the Zilla Parishad two times. She is presently the Director of Maharashtra Housing Finance Corporation. She is also the president of the Mahila Congress in Latur.
Her political work has taken her to jail twice; once during the drought of 1972 and later during the Emergency. With her autobiography Hirkanicha Birhad, for which she has been much acclaimed, she has entered the literary field. The title of the autobiography is inspired by Hirkani who was a simple, brave milk seller at the fort of Chhatrapati Shivaji and who gained fame when she scaled down the steep mountain slope of Raigad to return to her crying child in the village below. Sunita feels that her struggles and the challenges she faced have been akin to the brave effort of Hirkani to scale down the mountain to reach her child.
Her two sons have settled in the US as a software engineer and a doctor.
Aruna Burte held the conversation which held the audience captive with Sunita Aralikar talking about the course her life has taken. Aruna Burte's questions brought out in detail the life of an extraordinary woman.
The ELEVENTH CONVERSATION was the screening of two films produced by SPARROW, on 29th November 2014 at Mini Auditorium, SNDT University, Juhu Campus. The first one was Pramila directed by Asha Dutta which described the life and times of an actress, and producer, Esther Victoria Abraham aka Pramila. The second one was a film on Homai Vyarawalla, the first Indian press photo journalist, directed by Anik Ghosh.
The conversations can be viewed on the following link
Conversation with Kalyanee Mulay
Conversation with Vimmi Sadarangani & Puthiyamaadhavai
Conversation with Jhelum Paranjape
Conversation with Purvadhanashree & Ranjana Dave
Conversation with Sumathi Murthy
Conversation Sudha Arora
Silver Jubilee Celebration
27 December, 2014
27 December, 2014 was a day that took us on an emotional high. We recalled almost every moment of our journey of 25 years which we call “a journey, a struggle, a joy”. We told our story in images beginning with being in the bedroom of C S Lakshmi, being locked up in a garage for a year, shifting every two years and then finally reaching the Nest, in Dahisar. We spoke about everyone who is part of our journey and about those who are no more with us, but without whom we could not have undertaken this journey. The trustees and advisory committee members and friends of SPARROW were honoured with mementoes. The SPARROW team got surprise gifts too. The SPARROW team had its own surprise for the Director, C S Lakshmi. The Chief Guest of the event was Dr Geraldine Forbes who came with her husband Skip who has also been a friend of SPARROW all these years. Dr Geraldine Forbes spoke about how she has been part of this journey and enlivened the audience with stories of how C S Lakshmi made impossible demands in the early years in her letters for archival items! The occasion was made joyous with the Vilasini Natyam performance of Purvadhanashree and by the recitation of the ovis of Bahinabai by Anjali Purohit in her presentation Bahina’s World: An Exploration of the life and work of Bahinabai Choudhary. All those who had worked with SPARROW came for the event and some of them came with their daughters and sons, who we remember we used to call SPARROW kids when they were born. All these kids, we heard, urge their mothers and grandmothers to go back to SPARROW for they tell the kids such nice stories about working in SPARROW.
The evening came to an end and then it was taken to C S Lakshmi’s small flat where the award-winning writers, the performers and friends gathered for drink and dinner. Neela Bhagwat sang and later everyone took leave reluctantly for no one wanted the night to end!