Saving the new born: A word of wisdom for men too!

August 4th, 2011 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

Guna (Madhya Pradesh), Aug 4 (IANS) On a rainy afternoon, a group of six youngsters, including a girl wearing dark red kurta and jeans, was waiting for the showers to stop in Tunk Parolia, one of the poorest and backward villages of Guna district.

As soon as the rain stopped, around 150 people gathered around them, many of them women covering their face with their sarees. A handful of village elders sat on homemade cots.

All eyes were on this group of young people, who took the centre stage on a mud platform and started performing a street play. For the village, which has no pucca houses and very few television sets, which remain switched off for the major part of the day due to absence of electricity, street plays hold more appeal than any Bollywood blockbuster.

The villagers’ eyes are glued to the mud platform, where the group is performing a 45-minute play titled “Baat Pate Ki” ( Words of wisdom).

The play is laced with messages of how important it is to take care of the health of infants and mothers, and as the actors deliver their crisp dialogues in local dialect, with a hilarious script thrown in, the action suddenly stops.

One of the actors turns towards a group of young and middle aged men sitting in the audience and fires the question: “When was the last time you asked your wife whether she got time to breastfeed the child, whether your child has been immunized and whether the mother has also been immunized?”

A stunned silence follows. The men seem embarrassed.

The actor adds: “Isn’t it true that you are only bothered about your child the day he or she is born and then only when they have to be married?”

The men nod their heads and honestly accept the fact. One can catch the glimpse of faint smiles on the almost covered faces of the women, many with kids on their laps.

At the end of the play, the actors make the men take a pledge that they will support their wives and other women of their families.

And, to begin with, they agree to ensure that their children are breastfed. In the backdrop of the mud platform, named ‘Mukhauta Kala Manch’, are a series of posters highlighting the importance of breastfeeding.

“We are highlighting the importance of healthcare for children, with major focus on breastfeeding,” says 23-year-old Shishupal, a resident of the same village. He has registered as a local volunteer with Unicef.

“I take out two to three hours every day after working in the fields and try to convince the villagers to change their approach on various issues. Breastfeeding is one of the most important issues,” he said.

He had arranged for this performance in this village, which is around 40 km from Guna city. The village is not easily accessible, especially during monsoons.

“The villagers cannot afford to go to doctors often and they hardly have any money for medicines. We are just telling them that it would be good if children are breastfed exclusively for first six months and for another one-and-a-half years. After that, they can be given semi-solid food along with mother’s milk. This increases their immunity and chances of survival,” he added.

Vishnu Jha, who heads the street theatre group, says: “We are highlighting the importance of the role men have to play in supporting women and children through this street play.”

Jha and his group will be performing in 21 villages over the next few days to tell villagers the importance of breastfeeding newborns.

Mukhauta Kala Manch artistes are a busy lot. It is almost dark and they have to prepare for another show in another remote village in the area. So the youngsters jump on to their rickety Maruti Van and humming songs from the street play, drive off, even as it starts drizzling again.

(Arun Anand can be contacted at

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