We better start working now

The other day I was sitting outside our centre in one of the slums in Pune. Four girls were playing amongst themselves right outside the centre. When they saw me looking at them they decided to teach me the game they were playing. I joined in, keeping my things aside ready to sing and clap.
After the first few claps the content of the song left me speechless.

1. Chu-chu, chapa-chapa, Chu-chu, chapa-chapa, Hi baby, bye baby, Thappad mare sorry baby, Lath mare sorry baby, Sa sa sa, dhina dhin dha dha dha!
(Translation: Chu-chu, chapa-chapa, Chu-chu, chapa-chapa, Hi baby, bye baby, Slaps and then says sorry baby, Kicks and then says sorry baby, Sa sa sa, dhina dhin dha dha!)

2. Chaya- maya, pad majhya paya, Payakhali supari, tujhe lagna dupari, Dupari aale pavhne, te tujhe mehvne, Mehvnyane aanli taxi, ti tujhi maxi, Maxi madhye kala kutra te tujhe mangalsutra.
(Translation: Chaya-maya, touch my feet, Beetlenut under my feet, your wedding is in the afternoon, In-laws are here in the afternoon, he is your sister’s husband. He got a taxi, that’s your maxi (dress). There is black dog in the maxi and that’s your mangalsutra)

(This is completely lost in translation, but I don’t want to interpret it for anyone).

My immediate thoughts were how come these girls know this song? Where did this song come from? Obviously, the girls didn’t think there was anything wrong in what they were saying. I asked them where did you learn the song. “Our friends from school taught me this song”.

Doesn’t the first song say that is ok to slap a woman and then say sorry? Does it not say it is ok kick a woman and then say sorry and then expect them to forget about it? Isn’t this a song about gender based violence? Children in slums see these incidents around them all the time. (I don’t mean to generalise here but people from middle class are usually abusive behind closed doors and living conditions in slums have very little scope for privacy). So children don’t need songs like these to reinforce the thinking that it is normal for men to be abusive towards women. It is the duty of the woman to bear the aggression of the man, “after all he loves you.” If you don’t bear that, you would have to go home to your parents and that will be such disgrace to the family name!

With the second song, I don’t even know where to start. Let me have a go. To start with I know this is not only a problem of the girls in slums of India. Why are girls led to believe that all their life is about nothing else but getting married and “living happily ever after?” The way I understood the rest of the song, it talks about girls not having much of a say in their marriage, marrying within close family, not exactly knowing who they are marrying, disguised dowry and so on. Some bits of this song might not have much meaning but are there to rhyme. But the rhyme indicates a different meaning altogether.

(I might be overreacting. I hope I am. If anyone thinks that these songs actually mean something opposite, please let me know.)

One of the girls mother was watching this in action and seemed proud of her daughter’s ability to sing. How come we are so conditioned to this norm that the parents find nothing wrong with this? (What she was upset about later was “Chal ghari lavkar, papa yetil ani mala oradtil.” She was scared that her husband will scold her because she didn’t get her daughter home early enough. By the way, it was 6.30 and not very late. That’s a different story now.)

At ECF, through Action for Equality Programme we work with adolescent men to reduce violence and discrimination against women. Research demonstrates that the root cause of gender based violence and discrimination are men’s attitudes and patriarchal system they reinforce. When talking to the men on the programme, commons beliefs reflect the same emotions/attitudes expressed in the songs. Many of them grow up thinking that it is a sign of masculinity to hit a woman and it is absolutely normal. A girl can study and work but end of the day any decision about her money, children and life in general is taken by a man.

These songs reminded me about how deep-rooted are the rudiments of gender discrimination violence and it is going to take us a very long time to see any change. So, we better start working on it now!


– Rujuta Teredesai