We, the Women

My stories are bold in theme, style and sensitive in treatment. I don't believe in mincing words when I write about women, their issues, problems and emotions,'' says UK-based Punjabi writer, Veena Verma as she talks about the five short stories which are being dramatised by the Roopak Kala and Welfare Society for a theatre festival that marks the International Women's Day. Originally from Bhatinda, the author, essentially a short story writer and a poet, writes mostly on the problems of women, especially those of the Asian community and picks up contemporary issues to bring to fore the trials, tribulations, strength and resilience of a woman. Verma has penned three anthologies of stories and one of poetry. Her writings stem from life, experiences and people around her.

"There are such heart-wrenching stories of young girls moving abroad after marriage and then being abandoned on the streets, the high rate of domestic violence, or the new craze of parents wanting to send their children abroad to study and not realising the exploitation and mental trauma they go through. In my latest story, Do Deviyan, I look at lesbian relationships with a sensitive eye,'' says Verma.

Sangeeta Gupta of Roopak Kala and the director of three plays in the festival, too, has played Verma's stories on stage and says that her stories are a challenge to stage as they are powerful, bold and portray women, who face the odds with both dignity and strength.

The first play of the festival, which will be staged today, is Firangian Di Nooh, the story of an illiterate woman, who moves to the UK to join an abusive husband. She walks out of the marriage with her three children, takes up a job as a cleaner in a hospital and settles her children with success. "She marries a fellow worker, an Englishman at the age of 60 and starts life afresh. It shows her grit and the fact that one has to be mentally strong to carry on with the business of life,'' says Gupta.

Chhoti Sardarni, which will be staged on March 5, portrays the inner conflicts of a woman who is in love, but never gets the status of a wife, except from a sweeper of the village, who understands her dilemma and gives her the name, Chhoti Sardarni. Subtly, she uncovers many layers of a woman's emotions, without preaching or sermonising. "The emotions are universal and the dialogues powerful,'' says Mandeep Kaur of Actors on Stage, a group based in Amritsar.

Khali Plot takes the audience through the journey of a young woman hoping and wishing to find an equal partner and love that goes beyond the physical and someone who would appreciate a human being and not just a body. Succhi Saanjh (March 7) is directed by Anita Devgan of The Theatre Persons from Amritsar and Sati is the story of a eunuch, who falls in love and how her love is celebrated long after she is gone.

The festival is on at The Punjab Kala Bhawan, Sector 16, from March 4 to March 8, at 6.30 pm.

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