Space, space everywhere, but not a spot to pee this worrying thought was at the centre of Pune based Jing Kieng Jri’s play O Womania. Through the play, the four actors, Ojas, Rekha, Harsha and Maitrei, try and define ‘woman’ to the audience and what is it like to be a woman looking for a place to pee.
The name Jing Kieng Jri or the living bridge, has its origins in Meghalaya. The meaning struck a chord with the director, Ojas, who thought it was symbolic of theatre as the art form also thrives on a living connection with the audience.
O Womania, even though based on woman’s issues, doesn’t really portray them as victims. Instead, the play tears through the entire gamut of emotions from happy to sad to indifference and even fear, to portray what women go through just so that they can pee in this country. Sometimes it is the lack of toilets, and sometimes it is the lack of empathy but what there is no lack of at anytime is fear. And, this is not just in rural areas. The story beautifully courses through rural, urban, young and adult women and shows how different their lives are yet riddled by the same struggles.
Throughout the play the actors keep jumping in and out of characters and keep transitioning into different backdrops. But, the way they channel the years of pent-up frustration of going through this ridiculous ordeal is palpable on stage. Every change of backdrop, every change of character and every change in the scene is so smooth and seamless that the audience sees it but never catches it.
The one thing that really hits home is the way women are put on a pedestal of cliches in India by revering them as goddesses, mothers and daughters. And, while they are on that pedestal, society takes off with the ladder that they need to come down in order to use the loo. According to Ojas, the play took form organically without a formal writing process. The four actors came together and shared their experiences, or rather horror stories, of peeing when not at home, and the play wrote itself. And, this was endorsed when two audience members Charu and Swar, along with several others, came to Ojas and said that they could totally relate to the incidents portrayed.
A surprising fact that came up through the play as that with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, though there are public toilets that have come up, many are just for men.
The play portrays the ordeal of women and reiterates the need to bring about change....