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Are women truly independent?

Are women truly independent?
Highlights

The play ‘Kaamiya’ was staged at Salarjung Museum on Sunday, which marked the conclusion of the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival.

The play ‘Kaamiya’ was staged at Salarjung Museum on Sunday, which marked the conclusion of the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival.

Kaamiya, the elder daughter of a middle-class Punjabi household, returns to her parents' home after ending her marriage with her husband. She is greeted by her anxious mother's questions about why she left her husband, and Kaamiya says that she fell out of love. She enquires her mother whether she loves her husband, to which her mother responds by iterating the number of years that they have been together and all the things she does to help him around the household. Kaamiya wonders if a couple's relationship accounted by the sheer passage of time as an expression of love.

Stills from the play ‘Kaamiya’

Kaamiya's soft-spoken but stern father welcomes her back home without demanding any answers. But as soon as he starts to learn of her new-found "unusual" ideas about having felt trapped in her supposedly functional marriage and desiring freedom even though she was given everything she thought she wanted, he makes it clear that if she is to live under his roof she must stop saying such things, risking his reputation in the community. As the man of the house, he has inherited the sense that he must protect the ever-endangered ghar ki izzat and that any exercise of truly autonomous thought and action by a woman is a direct threat to his god-given paternal authority.

The mysterious discomfort the parents feel at Kaamiya's questions uncovers an interesting layer in the play - the sense of a "more or less-ness" to the freedom the women enjoy, as all of them are allowed to be themselves and do what they want but only to the extent that it does not pose a challenge to the established order of the mould of the happy married life.

The play goes beyond the smokescreen of the vague idea of a woman's independence based on early conditioning and constant reaffirmation, which is in truth, a strictly defined pseudo-independence that can crumble at the slightest provocation. We also learn about Kamla, Kaamiya's sister, who ended up in an asylum after not paying heed to her father's warning that women who have lovers go to hell. Kaamiya often reminisces about Kamla and ponders over her urges and instincts going against what she had been conditioned to want from life.

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